The gym that I went to last year, the downtown YMCA, is set up so that the treadmills are all at the very back of the main workout area. It's a gigantic room; upon entering, you walk past a slew of weight machines and elliptical machines and bicycles and other such contraptions to at last reach the back row where the treadmills are situated. (Sidenote: I really like that set-up. I've always found weight machines to be kind of intimidating, so walking past them every time I went running I was able to sneak a look at them to try and figure out how they worked. When I finally mustered up the courage to try them out, I was much more confident and it was also easy to discreetly slide into them and take a peek at the instructions panel).
I currently go to the University of Winnipeg gym, primarily because not only is it convenient to workout between classes, but it's also free for students. It must be a natural inclination that comes with being a student in that you take advantage of anything being promoted as free. Anyways, the treadmills are upstairs, above the main weight room. It's interesting to note that it's rare to see any women working out in the weight room- we're all above, working on the cardio. But I have noticed that there's a fair number of guys running and cycling upstairs alongside us, so in that way the gym isn't completely clear-cut between genders.
The school gym has a very narrow area for the cardio machines, with only 2 rows of them. Off to the side are some other weight machines (the type that target abs and such- the ones that you're more likely to see women using). Instead of running at the back of the room and watching everyone else like I used to, now I'm at the front, staring out the window and trying to avoid looking myself in the eye (I don't much like seeing my reflection when I'm running simply because I look so tired and psychologically it makes me believe that I must have hit my limit and it's time to stop for a break).
It's interesting what a difference the set-up of a gym can make. When everything was in one large square-ish area, I felt much more comfortable stopping by at the weight machines and trying them out, or hopping on another type of machine and testing it. But the way that my gym is set up now, with the weight room off to one side and only 2 rows of cardio machines, I'm a little shy about wandering over to the weights and attempting to figure out how they work. Even among the cardio machines, I'm hesitant to try some of the more complex pieces of machinery because the space is more intimate and I know that the people all around will be able to clearly see me having difficulties operating it. Of course, these insecurities are unfounded and obviously everyone who attends a gym is going to have some confusions as to how various machines work, but the set-up of the gym still allows for these insecurities to remain.
Because I've been trying to train for that half-marathon, my runs are always between 30-60 minutes long. When you're on a treadmill and don't have music to listen to, your mind really starts to wander. Besides considering the set-up of the gym and the effect that has on who works out on which machines and which ones gets the most use, one of the things that I often think about is the whole concept of regularly attending a gym.
It's pretty amusing, really. A whole host of people packed into a few rooms, sweat running down our faces as we work our asses off. There's been more than a few times when I've felt a bit like a lab rat. This was especially the case at my old gym, when I'd walk past all of those people and then spend the next half hour watching them as I ran (I don't like treadmills that have tv's attached to them as they're just distracting, so staring straight ahead you can't help but observe the general population around you). When you stop and think about it, the idea is rather silly. Running, running, running, and you're still staying in the same spot. I've ran seven miles straight on a treadmill and still I haven't actually gone anywhere. Regardless, I still feel great no matter how far or long I've ran for. When you're at the gym, the point isn't to get anywhere geographically. Rather, it's a good way to measure your speed and distance.
Don't get me wrong, I love the gym. It's a super invention. But I can't help but sometimes be amused at the whole basic concept of it. And if letting myself be amused by it takes my mind off of my feet pounding that treadmill for a few minutes, I'm sure not complaining! Even so, I look forward to when all of this snow is melted and I can take my running outdoors (yes, when it comes to running outside, I'm definitely a fair weather girl). I have a feeling that the sense of accomplishment will be that much more when I'm not only tracking how fast I'm going and how far I can go for, but also to be able to say "I can run from point A to point B!" and push myself by running from one landmark to another. It'll feel a little bit more natural to enjoy the great outdoors on my run... and that'll help my whole soul to be healthier.