Thursday, January 16, 2014

Weigh in on gyms

What's left of the Violin Memory building, and its neighbors...
On returning from Melbourne, I turned the corner near Hacker Dojo and there was a huge empty space. Daylight and lots of it. When I left that was a city block of one-story office building, circa 1985 construction. Totally gone. Heavy equipment and the street blocked off. Now a new compound is rising from the dirt.

Reinvention. It's not just for brain injury survivors...

This is basically a constant process in Silicon Valley. Recently, a bunch of new members and instructors and spin bikes have popped up at my gym. They're refugees from a gym near the Dojo that closed its doors. Dirt is just too valuable in the Land of Google and Facebook. Gym owners and landlords take the money and run. 

I lost 2 gyms before making some compromises and joining the current one, Overtime Fitness. It's small and inconveniently located and expensive and a pain in the neck, recently. (pun intended)

Today one of my spin colleagues and I debated the social value of gyms. I said that everyone's brain needs physical exercise, so everyone needs access to a gym. Working people often have only an hour to exercise. And there's evidence that perhaps one-third of people need group exercise to keep fit. 

She said, there are many ways to get exercise. She'd rather be hiking today, for example. (It was 78 degrees and sunny.) There are walking groups all over the country, even places where the weather is terrible most of the time. People get together and walk around indoor malls. We've only had gyms for a few decades; before that, people found a way to exercise.

What do you think? Is it a public health issue, the ability to work out indoors? Or just another option in life's buffet of many options? If no gym were available, would you find another way to get and stay fit?


  1. Hi, Elaine. I ran into your blog thanks to Google Plus. I, too, am a traumatic brain injury survivor. On April 3 of next year, I will have survived 20 years past my second-degree car vs. bicycle accident. I look forward to reading your blog and hopefully getting to know you. :)

  2. Hi Elaine, I think all humans need to exercise for general health, fitness, and psychological vigor. Especially in locations where exercising out of doors is impractical (Arctic weather, Arizona heat), gyms are particularly appealing. Also, gyms usually have weight machines that would be impractical for individuals to own, so those recovering from physical illnesses and injuries need a place to rehabilitate themselves. Out-of-doors exercise is fabulous for walking, running, or cycling, if weather permits, but yoga classes, swimming sessions, or ad hoc personal training are more likely at a gym, so I think gyms provide a necessary complement to what one can manage in the open air. As we age, having multiple exercising options can provide us with opportunities for "the right exercise at the right time."

  3. Hi Stephanie! Glad you found Route 66...and hope you enjoy reading the posts. Feedback is always welcome.

    Twenty years, amazing! What are things like now for you?

  4. Thanks Mary...yeah I don't normally think too much about the gym. It's counterproductive ;-) But they might have at least 4 functions: providing shelter when the weather is not friendly, providing structure (for example, a class schedule), providing social support, and sharing special equipment that's not practical or possible for an individual to own.

    I know I need a gym!

  5. The article on group exercise makes the appeal of group rides make more sense, suddenly! :) Not all group rides, admittedly. Finding that right niche matters.
    Though on rainy days, sometimes I do think wistfully of that long-ago gym membership...

  6. Work is ... sticky... about allowing me to a) log in to Google, or b) post comments on things. I wasn't sure if this comment would work! :) But yep, I kept wondering how you were and where you were biking.