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The Perks of Tourist Season in the Gym [My happy accident...that only partially involved head injuries!]

Posted Jan 08 2013 12:07am


All the cars parked up on snowbanks should have been my first clue that something was amiss at the gym this morning. But I was fortunate to have a parking spot open up right in front of me and so I paid no attention to the fact that my spot was the only open one in the entire, gigantic parking lot. As I raced inside with Jelly Bean tucked like a missile under one arm (as we’re basically always late she’s gotten very good at making herself aerodynamic, a skill she can thank me for later if she she ever decides to become a luge runner or human cannonball), I was irritated to discover a long line at the check-in desk. I tried not to show my irritation at the number of people stymied by a simple card swipe by smiling brightly and not thinking about my yoga class that was starting in 5 minutes – although in retrospect all the teeth I was showing probably said more “cannibal” than “calm.”

Once I got to the childcare, the line was even longer and my heart beat that much faster. Four minutes. Three minutes. Two minutes. By the time I got Jelly Bean safely herded into the cattle chute, class was starting. But! I told myself, there’s always a few extra spots open next to the wall or facing the large pillar. Okay so I wouldn’t be able to see the teacher but whatever. I raced into the studio, shedding shoes, coat and sweatshirt as I ran – only to pull up short at the doorway. Every last inch of space was taken. My yoga teacher simply shook his head at me and returned to his single-nostril breathing. Closing the door quietly I did a very un-zen-like thing: I burst into tears.

Who were these people in my class? Don’t they know I can’t drop my older kids off at school any sooner than fifteen to and then I have to race to the gym, unload Jelly Bean, check her in and so I always need a spot one minute after class starts? (And why don’t I have any friends who like hot yoga who would save me a spot?) Don’t they know that I needed, nay, craved, hot yoga on this cold morning? And don’t they know that my needs always trump their Monday-after-New-Year’s wants? Gym tourists I grouched. It will tell you how upset I was that I actually considered just going down, grabbing Jelly Bean and going home, my only workout being the sprint up the stairs.

And then, through no fault of my own, reason prevailed. Maybe it was the eucalyptus scent seeping under the doorway. Maybe it was just that I was finally alone in a quiet place. But it slowly dawned on me that missing my class was fine. I’ve been doing yoga for years, and while I enjoy my teacher and the scented towels and the tinkley music (okay I really don’t enjoy the tinkley music – I once had a yoga teacher play Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and Joshua Radin in class and I was in heaven), I know that the only thing you really need for a good yoga practice is a spot of floor – preferably one where everyone isn’t staring as you “shine” your “heart center” but I wasn’t going to be picky. As I rolled out my mat in a corner of an unused studio occupied only by an older man jumping rope (holla!) and a pregnant woman lifting weights (you go, girl!), it occurred to me that not only was this fine but it was awesome. I could do whatever yoga I wanted. I could try new things! I could do a whole hour of inversions! By golly I could fall on my head with impunity! And I did. (I also listened to The Decemberists instead of waterfalls that always make me need to pee.) It was a beautiful workout, I enjoyed every second and I got to breathe out of BOTH nostrils!

As I thought about my “happy accident” two things occurred to me:

1. We’re all gym tourists, er, newbies at some point. And I don’t just mean the first time you walk into a gym. For instance, when I tried the kettlebells in the pool* class on New Year’s Eve day I was both surprised and entertained when a couple of old men grouched at us for invading “their” pool space. Stupidnewpeoplerazzlefrazzleharrumph. Me? I’m not new here! But then I realized they were right. They swam every day. I was in the pool (making a lot of noise and laughing with a large group of girls) for a one-time class. I was on their turf. Er, surf. And they deserved to be respected. We were messing up their routine and I out of anyone understand the importance of routine. I’m sorry old dudes! But it reminded me of how awkward it can feel to be new and how important it is for the rest of us to reach out. As we all well know, there are a thousand reasons to keep someone from working out and I don’t want to be one of them.

2. There are many reasons tourist season is great. One word: Freebies! I signed up for a free 30-minute lesson on the Pilates reformer, got a handful of free protein bars (one for each kid!), bought some supplements on a New Year’s sale at the gym store, signed up for a contest to win free personal training and – best part – ran into a whole bunch of people I haven’t seen in months. So what if my “spot” was taken (along with all the treadmills, core boards and 15-pound dumbbells)? It pushed me out of my zone and not only did I try some new things but I also got a bunch of free stuff out of it too.

I’m a brittle girl trapped in a flexible body and so sometimes I need to be reminded about why the letting go is so much more important than  the having ever was.

Anyone else have a happy accident lately? Are you pretty flexible or kinda brittle like me? What do you do if your workout plan gets derailed? Anyone else find tinkling cymbals and running water noises to be less than relaxing?

*Some of you asked to hear more about kettlebells in the pool. Yes, you can  use the same KBs you normally would. Ours were rubber but they weren’t especially made for water use. We basically did the same things in the water as we would do on land with them: swings, cleans, presses, squats,  lunges etc. The difference is that the water provides more support for your body and more resistance on the KB. Honestly though, I didn’t see much of a difference in workout level. If you love pools and are looking for alternative water workouts to swimming laps then this would be great for you.


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