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Test driving a new gym

A few weeks back--before the holiday chaos and illnesses--we had taken a tour of a new fitness center we're considering. It's not as nearby as our old gym that is literally 4 blocks up the street...but it's almost certainly cheaper, less crowded, and so far seems to have less gym-head mentality where overly fit people go to get more overly fit. This one, ironically, is at the hospital where we delivered Leda and she lived for a month in the NICU. (See, no bad feelings!)

The director who gave us the tour gave us each a guest pass to come back and try out the facility so last night I went to take it for a test drive. And I really enjoyed myself. Though I was left with some perplexing questions...like why people use the treadmill still when there is an indoor running track. Something about running in circles, Kelly says. I think people just want to watch tv.

The place is clean and bright and user-friendly for the most part. Despite there strangely being only one water fountain on the 2nd floor...where the track, the machines, and at least one group classroom is. It's an odd use of space, too, with basketball courts and the weights occupying the 1st floor with the locker rooms and pools. Then they decided to put in an oddly meandering running track on the balcony space with little grottoes of bikes and ellipticals, etc..

Who knows, our former gym was in a multi-story downtown building where the locker rooms were on the 3rd floor and you had to go downstairs to get to the treadmills. No clue why the designers went that way. The new place, the locker rooms have huge shower stalls and you can key in any combination you come up with in that moment to store your stuff. No putting your membership card into a slot then having to drag around a locker key.

I started off with a few laps on the track to get a look at the facility. Despite being after work on the day after New Years it wasn't that crowded. Less than an average day at our old place. And it got more empty as the evening went along.

My body still remembers the motions. But my fitness has obviously suffered a bit since marathon day. That's what 3 months off will do. It didn't feel difficult...more like sluggish. Plus, I hate the stationary bike. It's nothing like the real thing. No rock, no adjusting to the road conditions, not the same level of tension on the pedals as my real bike. No keeping your mind busy with scenery, braking, shifting. I managed about 10 minutes before I decided to hit the pool.

And contrary to what my mother probably expected, I did not immediately sink to the bottom needing fitness center staff to throw me lifesaving devices. I did manage to do 10 laps or so before getting tired arms, cramps in my foot, and just generally out of stamina. Swimming is a whole different beast and I clearly have a lot of work before June...my 20 laps needs to be more like 70 laps.

I learned a few things. Like that I can leave my glasses in my locker. My goggles work just fine to see. And that I need to work on my body roll and my "breathing in the pocket." Because, quite honestly, my arms and kick can take me to the other side of pool but there's the tiny matter of needing air at some point. I need to learn to exhale as I go so I don't have to do it when I should be taking a breath. It's so tempting to sidestroke, but from what I understand that's actually not far off. Your head shouldn't really have to move much to breath if you're rotating your body properly. I, clearly, am not.

It takes me back to 2009 though when I first took up running again and could barely get around the block. Ok, that's not true. But I definitely feel differently about rolling off an 8 mile run today than I did then. Finding the pace, the form, those constant aches that no longer appear. I remember how sore I was that first marathon season and it's kind of fun to start over in the pool with that basic level. Even getting on the bike this summer, I remember those first few rides wondering how anybody gets used to that saddle, my hands not being used to grabbing the grips.

I know many of you are starting some similar journey to health or weightloss goals this month. My advice to you--as a surprise endurance athlete--is that it isn't about the goal. Easy for me to say coming off a marathon PR, I know. But the cliche really is true about this being a lifestyle. Workouts aren't something you just get through to achieve your vision. How you feel about that use of time is just as important. It's not just a workout, it's a smoothie and snack, it's promising yourself to stay hydrated the rest of the day. It's an endless cause and effect of changing your mind and body to not be "athletic" per se. It's about teaching yourself that physical activity is your desired state not only for health, but for fun and seeing what your body is capable of.

Best of luck to all of you starting new fitness goals in 2013...I'm right there with you.

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