I may be the last standing human on this planet (or at the very least, in the privileged world of the West) who has never held a little gold plated gym membership card in her hot little hands. I’m 25 years old. This is prime time (apparently) to be sporting crop tops and butt revealing short shorts in an attempt to woo other muscle bulging, weight pumping junkies. Supposedly.
I’ve never been very good at following the expectations of society though, let alone participating in the sport of ‘wooing’.
While I’ll never turn down the opportunity to sneak a peak at some washboard abs, I by no means see these as being the pinnacle of health and wellness and something we should all be striving for as the purpose of life. Beyond the 6 pack, sometimes there’s little more than 6 empty beer cans.
Exercise is more than simply a series of repetitive motions. It’s not a form of physical or emotional torture either. Exercise should be an enjoyable experience and a means to practice movement that works towards building the body up for optimal wellness and a sustainable way of physicality that will prevent injury in the future. The aesthetics are a by product. Not the end goal.
Truthbomb alert. My natural inclination to stay clear of gyms didn’t stem from a place of environmental concern. I know right, SHOCK HORROR. I held this view even prior to my greenie ways and understanding the bigger picture. I’ve just never felt comfortable in gyms. It just feels so…. unnatural. Sure, on several occasions, I’ve been dragged through the doors wielding the power of a free courtesy pass at the insistence of a friend. On every occasion though, I’ve found myself more eager to get out of there than a kid with his mouth open on a Dentist chair. I’m sure many people have felt this uneasiness. Sometimes it’s like walking into an elite VIP club where members glare at you if you dare breach the exclusive rights to touch their equipment… of the gym kind of course. If you dare touch, don’t expect to walk out with all limbs in-tack.
The gym mentality seems to be more about bigger than better. I think some people take this too literal. At what point does pumping weights at the gym to the point where you can no longer function as a practical human being become something worth striving for? You tear half your wardrobe when you flex. The simple process of leaning over to pick something up actually brings about beads of sweat either because you fear that wretched tearing sound again, or you simply can’t quite reach because muscles-too-big-and-too-tight. You’re muscularly sore 90% of the week and find yourself with far more injuries now than prior to your gym junkie days but that’s ok because your ‘training.’ You forgo social interaction with people outside of your gym junkie circle because well, they choose not to socialize at the gym. Your priority for the week revolves around upping your reps, or lifting this and that heavier, (you can tell I don’t know the lingo). You’re constantly in training. But what the hell are you training for?
Is this actually the best way for you to achieve optimal health and wellness? Trapping yourself for hours indoors, breathing in the sweat of others under artificial lighting, practicing the same exercises and repetitions over and over for some unknown purpose, and contributing to a greater carbon footprint through the extensive consumption of energy required to power these facilities. Is this REALLY sustainable? Where you need to supplement the hours of energy burned at the gym with synthetic, factory made protein supplements? The cost of these are astronomical and I question the sustainability of the production process that goes into them. How much money do you spend on buying enough calories to supplement your workout regime? Calories that otherwise would not be required or could be utilized productively to, gees, I don’t know, help the world.
Who knew there were actually so many downsides to working out.
Do I hate on people who choose to exercise at the gym?
No, of course not. I don’t hate on anybody. Only the little magical Lepricorns who are to blame for cursing people with ignorance.
Am I anti-exercise?
Oh course not! I advocate a healthy, balanced lifestyle and exercise is part of that picture. If you’re even questioning me with this, maybe you need to reconsider how you define exercise. To me, it’s about movement. The gym is not the only way to explore this.
What’s Wrong With Gyms
Most gyms are large scale, inefficient, energy hungry machines. Especially the ones that are operating 24/7. Just think about it. Whether there’s 1 person or 100 people working out, the gym maintains the air conditioning cycle, powering the plasma TV screens and the countless exercise machines in standby mode that are still drawing power from the grid even if not in operation. When they are in operation, they’re using on average of 1500 watts (Source), at least that’s the case for the old favorite treadmill. They really are a backward concept. Burn calories but burn electricity in the process.
The manufacturing of these exercise machines are also a resource intensive process. Think about the steel, plastic and rubber. Then these machines need to be maintained and as they age, they’ll need to be replaced.
Need I really remind you of how much you’re paying for this exclusive right to drain the world of its natural resources? No, you probably don’t because you may be one of the 67% (Source) of us who pay for these services and never actually use them. It’s a $75 billion industry. This is BIG business.
The average gym membership runs at about $50-$60 a month (Source). You’re paying to consume energy.
It just doesn’t add up.
What else would we be better off spending that precious money on?
Healthier food so you don’t have to work so hard to punish yourself to burn off those calories?
Maybe funding more emotionally rewarding exercise experiences like outdoor hiking, walking your dog, yoga in the park, gardening to grow your own food or playing Frisbee with the kids? Oh wait, those don’t actually cost anything.
I think it’s high time we question what other form of productive exercise we can be doing that is both more sustainable and better for our physical and mental wellness. There’s a slight tingling in my belly that tells me we’re not akin to rats on an exercise wheel and maybe, just maybe, our bodies don’t respond so positively to this experience. Take treadmill running. Mentally, I find this the most abusive form of exercise out there.
What Are The Alternatives
There are so many alternatives that are both more environmentally friendly and accessible, it’s worth exploring if you have an open mind to saving yourself sanity and go figure, MONEY!
Think mountain hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and nature trails. What better way to exercise than under the beautiful rays of the sun where you get the chance to soak up some extra Vitamin D that will do your body a host of health wonders. Connecting with nature will nurture your spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing. You even get the opportunity to socialize in the process and explore a new corner of your surrounding natural landscapes you may have never known existed. Other than any equipment you may require which you can always buy second hand or borrow, these activities are all FREE!
Sure, I’m a little biased here because yoga has somewhat transformed my life. The gentle and yet stimulating exercise of yoga flows have amazing health benefits for the body and the soul. You can partake in yoga anywhere and everywhere. Sure, attend a few classes to get yourself oriented with the optimal postures and sequences. While some forms of yoga classes are adjoined to gyms, there are independent studios out there that simply practice with a roof over their heads or even in city parks. Otherwise, you can easily practice on your own at home or outdoors with friends.
While I’m not a Crossfit junkie myself, I do believe in the power of high intensity workouts as they relate more to the natural human experience and I appreciate the minimalist, no frills approach to these warehouse-like structures. The equipment is fairly straight forward and you won’t see any treadmills. Also, I love the fact that many attendees and workers embrace a wholesome and healthy lifestyle as part of the bigger picture. One that emphasizes the importance of eating organic food and sustainably raised, pasture raised meats. If these facilities really wanted to up the anti on eco-friendly, they could easily source a lot of the equipment they use second hand. Wooden boxes, weights, ropes, you name it. It’s lying around in some backyard, dump or tipster somewhere.
Oh yes. THIS has got to be my favorite recommendation of all. Seriously, shove a shovel in the hands of every gym junkie and get them outside digging some garden beds and we’ll all be better off. Expending all those calories at the gym could at least be used to doing something productive, like growing food or helping to build a new community center. Lift a few rocks and you’ll have killer abs in no time.
This is a no brainer really. Exercise without even trying. Having fun in the process. It really is a winning combination. Get outside and play with the kids. Go walk the dog. Round up the neighbors and have a friendly game of football down at the park. Fresh air, sunshine, socializing and movement. You can’t go wrong.
It would be unfair for me not to mention the good that it being done out there as some gyms are adopting alternative, conscience and innovative ways to lead more sustainable practices in our modern world. I get that some people live in Arctic like conditions and the comfort of exercising indoors saves risking a few toes outside in the blizzard. The particular gyms in mention are ones like The Green Microgym in Portland that actually utilizes exercise equipment to harness human power to generate energy. Nifty indeed, right?
I’d love to hear what’s your preferred form of exercise? Share below in the comments and feel free to spread the word.
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