Because of my legitimate fear of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I am trying to counteract the numbness in my left shoulder, wrist, and hand by working those muscles on a daily basis.
Therefore, last week I started a daily habit of stopping by the playground near my office to do pull-ups.
I imagine it’s quite a random sight at 1:15 every afternoon in Aspen Grove Park to see some random guy wheel in on his mountain bike, set down his book bag and helmet, do several pull-ups on the playground, then speed off into the distance.
Predictably, there are always a few moms with their young kids already there when I arrive.
My most awkward encounter so far happened about a week ago.
There was a grandmother with her daughter- a mom who was about my age, accompanied by her own daughter who was about your age.
In the non-creepiest way I knew how, I approached the 7 foot high monkey bars. Immediately, the three of them all looked up at me, seemingly concerned.
I felt the need to explain:
“Hi, I work in one of the offices nearby. I come here everyday now to do my pull-ups because I type all day on a computer, and this helps me.”
The grandmother responded:
“Well, thank you for explaining that…”. The tone and look on her face was completely serious. She meant what she was saying.
From that point, she began rationalizing out loud, trying to convince herself as well as her grown daughter, that I was there basically to “blow off steam” from the stress of working in an office.
That wasn’t the case at all. My job doesn’t stress me out at all. I love my job.
However, I felt it to be in my best interest to leave immediately, without trying to further justify my existence. So I did.
I’m too cheap to pay for a gym membership; not to mention, I’d rather be outside anyway, breathing fresh air and feeling the sunlight on my skin. So the combination of mountain biking and doing pull-ups on the playground is like a free gym membership to me.
Sure, it looks weird to onlookers, but the only rule I saw on the park sign was against people smoking there- not against adults showing up without a child.
I’m just a harmless dad of a 2 and a half year-old son who is using the city park for a minute or two as part of his daily exercise routine. But that’s not how it looks to everybody. To some, I am the childless creepy guy in the park.
Back in August, in the midst of a Facebook message conversation, a friend I have known since Kindergarten described her perception of my wife and me:
“I think of you both as health conscious people….but I can’t picture either of you working out in a gym. I picture you as people who hike on the weekends or bike to dinner.”
Little did she know that I was already mapping out this post, explaining why I passionately oppose going to the gym, yet passionately promote daily exercise in other ways. It’s true, the last time I went to a gym, they had just discovered the hatch on Lost.
My friend was right. I am a biker; mountain biker, that is. At all times, my bike is stored in my Honda Element with me. Every day during my lunch break, I bike to Starbucks to read a book, or to the bank to deposit some cash, or to Whole Foods to pick up some Christmas presents for people.
I pretend that I live in a Mediterranean village in the year 1533, where I would literally have to travel miles at a time in order to get everything done that day. If I want to read a chapter in the current book I’m reading, I have to earn it by biking a mile and a half to get to a place to read it.
If it rains or is too cold, I have a heavy raincoat and “outside workout” clothes to change into. Even when it snows, I’ll still at least walk a few miles outside.
The point is to find someway to get daily exercise (at least 25 minutes) without having to depend on paying someone to use their facility. It doesn’t have to include a mountain bike, but it’s a matter of finding a creative way to get out of the office; even it’s just walking with a friend during designated breaks during work.
I say fresh air (even when it’s cold and wet) is still better than stagnant air inside an office. So let me go ahead and get into it, here are 6 reasons I don’t go to the gym:
1. Joining a gym often promotes an “all or nothing” mentality in which one’s diet follows. ”I was just too stressed to go to the gym for the past two days” often means a backslide into fast food lunches and potato chips as snacks.
2. Gyms promote a perfectly sculpted body as the goal, instead of a realistic, healthy one. We’re not movie stars; we don’t need six pack abs. The focus should be on being healthy, not losing weight. Weight loss is a side effect of active habits, not a target itself.
3. Gyms cost money. I’m not going to pay for what I can get for free.
4. There is a pressure to commit to a gym. Remember that episode of Friends where Chandler tries to quit the gym, recruiting Ross to help him, but then Ross gets suckered in to joining the gym too?
5. Working out puts too much focus on calories. For me, it’s about the the right food choices to begin with. I bet my daily calorie intake is slightly high, because I eat plenty of whole fruits (which are already naturally loaded with sugar) as well as avocados, nuts, and whole milk (full of good fats), but I weigh 20-something pounds less now than I did in these featured pictures of me from 2008 on my honeymoon in New England, before I had made my lifestyle changes- like biking and cutting out processed foods.
6. People size you up at a gym. Plus, it’s easier to do the same to other people; focusing too much on bodybuilders who basically live there.
So I say, liberate yourself from the gym. Despite all the rage, you don’t have to be a rat in a cage.