I like to start an article off with a bang!

I read an article online a couple of days ago entitled,  “The Four Germiest Places at the Gym,” and it made me a little ill.  You can read it for yourself (I recommend this), but in a nutshell, you want to avoid public yoga mats, dumbbells, bike seats, and shower floors and walls.

Now I don’t know about you, but I actually touch dumbbells when I go to the gym.  Not only that, but I always have to adjust the exercise bike seat height!  Now, I can definitely avoid yoga mats (I bring my own), and I rarely (by rarely, I mean never) use a locker room shower anymore.  Still, the article got me thinking about the good and bad points of public gyms for someone with CF.  So, here’s my take.

THE PROS

1)  The first that come to mind is obvious, and the video above is a perfect example:  PEOPLE WATCHING!  Let’s face it, treadmill running, or elliptical training, or stationary cycling, or (fill-in-the-blank) for 30 minutes at 70% of your estimated maximum heart rate can be BORING.  Watching those around you, especially when they are doing unusual things, can be very entertaining.

2)  Variety of equipment:  My gym is a great example of this.  I could be there all day, and not have enough time to try every machine.  It’s mind blowing.  For an exercise nerd like me, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop!  Chest day, you say?  Well, let’s see…I can use dumbbells, or barbells, or cables, or stack machines, or take a group weight lifting class.  The possibilities are endless.

3) Vicarious experience:  If you are short on inspiration or motivation, the gym can be a perfect remedy.  All you need to do is look around.  There are always people there who can provide inspiration.  You can see yourself in others, and aspire to push yourself a little harder.  When I see a woman who can do 10 pull ups, I am both impressed and motivated to work harder, because, darn it, if she can do it, so can I!

4)  Variety:  Let’s say you get sick of your “usual” aerobic or lifting routines.  Check out the group classes!  Again, if your gym is like mine, you can choose from anything from “Zumba” (I don’t know what that is…it sounds like a soup to me) to kickboxing to group “body bar” classes to yoge to (fill-in-the-blank again).  Never even THINK of a boring exercise session again!

5)  Social connection:  Working out alone, either jogging or lifting weights in your living room, is kind of lonely, isn’t it?  A gym is a much more social experience, even if you don’t know anyone around.  There are people there!  You can talk with them, or not, but you are not alone.  You might even make friends with people there.  Some people have hooked up romantically after gazing from afar for months at the gym…

6)  Guidance:  Let’s say you have no clue what you are doing, for instance.  At a gym, you can a) watch what others are doing on the machine in question, or b) ask for help.  There are people who get paid to answer your questions.  And there are people who aren’t getting paid for it who will answer your questions.  And, of course, there are people who want to answer all of what they perceive to be your unspoken questions (but they go in the other column).  Last, if you have the cash, there are people you can hire (personal trainers) to teach to what to do and set up a program designed specifically for you.

THE CONS

1)  This one is easy.  I alluded to it earlier.  GERMS!!!  Gyms are germ havens.  Ask around, I bet you can’t find any self-respecting microbiologist at your gym.  They know better.  Now, this freaks out many “normal” people (i.e. CFTR-able).  Imagine how it might affect those with CF!  If you have a transplant, forget about it…there’s no way you should go into a gym.  So this is serious business.  I go back and forth on this, and I am addicted to my gym!  The best I can say is if you are like me, and can’t stay away from your  gym, wash your hands…wash your hands…wash your hands!!!  And until you can wash your hand after touching the machines or weights, keep your hands AWAY FROM YOUR FACE.

And avoid the locker rooms…and the yoga mats.

2)  Inconvenience:  Getting dressed, packing your bag and water, finding your keys, driving down the block, returning home because you forgot your membership card, and driving to the gym take time.  For some, this series of events take longer than the entire workout.  This is not efficient use of time, nor is it good for the environment.  The worst part is that often this series of events presents an insurmountable obstacle to the exercise itself.

3)  Being “Noticed:” This one is only sometimes the case for people with observable health issues:  When I look or sound sick (you know…”the cough”) it can be embarrassing to exercise in public.  Once I was at the end of a course of IV antibiotics, and I went to the gym with my PICC, infusing Tobramycin.  I was on the treadmill, jogging I think, and this guy came up and asked what was wrong with my arm.  “Nothing,” I responded, “I’m just getting antibiotics for a lung infection.”  I wish I had words for the look on his face.  He truly thought I was a nutcase that should perhaps be carted off in a straitjacket.

At least I wasn’t dancing.

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