Not even sure where to start with this one, but it basically goes something like this. I went away to college and spent a few months not doing much in the way of exercise, other than walking all over the beautiful Notre Dame campus going to classes and such.
At some point not quite halfway through freshman year, I discovered the beautiful (and FREE) fitness center, where I spent significant time over the next 3.5 years (especially after I got a job there). I enjoyed nice balanced workouts with cardio (I was the elliptical queen) and weight lifting. Thanks to good weight training instruction in high school, I was not intimidated by the machines, free weights, or disproportionate number of males on the weights side of the fitness room.
Grad school also brought “free gym” perks and a small, but adequate, fitness facility right in the basement of the public health building. After I graduated, I even ponied up for a staff membership, since I continued to work in the same building. I think it came out to around $20/month, which I didn’t quite appreciate for the bargain it was.
By the time I moved on from the school of public health, I was biking a bit over 6 miles a day round trip to work, soon to be upped to 12 miles a day. In the time that most other people spend sitting in their cars, I was getting in 50 minutes of physical activity (PA) five days a week, no gym required (which was good, because the free or cheap and easily accessible gym days were gone).
In terms of sheer minutes of PA, I was doing great, but it was almost all biking, and I really missed the weight lifting, so I experimented with a YMCA membership during the winter months of 2009. The $46/month (i.e., almost $50/month = $600/year) membership fee was really hard to swallow. I felt like I had to go at least 3 times a week to get my money’s worth, which took some of the fun out of it. I lasted about three months, which got me through the winter weather when my biking was somewhat reduced, and then canceled my membership.
All was well until, well, almost a year ago now, when I traded my beautiful bike commute for a car commute 😦 Since then, my PA has been spotty at best: quite pathetic during the winter months and a bit better during the nicer weather. I still make most of my non-work trips by bike, but that doesn’t always amount to much, especially during the work week.
In addition to the negative health effects (physical AND mental) of being less active, I feel somewhat hypocritical promoting physical activity, while not doing much on the home front. With the winter months quickly approaching again, I’m considering that YMCA membership. Long term (for me, and really, for the large majority of our population that struggles with inactivity and related health issues), the answer lies in active transportation — using my body, and not a motor vehicle, to get from point A to point B on a daily basis — along with other ways of making our daily lives less sedentary and more active, because, while some people will invest the time and money to be dedicated gym rats, most will not, not over the long haul.