I, too, used to go to a gym. How many hours did I spend, alone, treading wearily upon an unforgiving treadmill? Rowing frantically on a rowing machine that never actually moved? I try to block out memories of the stepper, the cross-trainer, the resistance machines.
Sometimes they come back to me as I sleep, and I am once again a frazzled hamster on a never-ending wheel.
It has been several years now since I crossed the threshold of such a place. Instead, I took my decent running shoes and ventured out into the great unknown – the world of outdoor fitness. At first, exercising outside was almost as daunting. The bystanders were there in their droves, unsuspecting office workers doing the daily trudge through the park, Mums and toddlers feeding listless ducks. Watch out! I would want to call as I hurtled towards them in my running leggings and oversized t-shirt. They could not understand why I would choose to exercise in public, in broad daylight.
My friends too were skeptical of my plans to jog and work out in the parks and surrounding woodlands where we lived. ‘But what about people laughing at you? Making comments? Schoolboys jeering?’ I cared not about such trifling matters. Compared with the whitewashed walls of the gym, the outdoors seemed to bring only freedom and a real sense of purpose to my running or walking.
There were times when I had my doubts. It is true that you do not always look your best when you are exercising and at first I was not happy to be seen out in public without perfect hair and makeup. However, within a few days I was so high off the endorphins my body produced in response to such invigorating sport that I no longer cared. Once I found an exercise partner to go for jogs with, I looked forward to the twenty minutes a day when I could leave my work and worries at home and simply hit the trail. Eventually, I was even able to hold a conversation whilst running – no mean feat!
Then, earlier on this year, I found out about outdoor boot camps. These are places where people looking to improve their fitness levels meet and exercise together, under the supervision of an instructor. Classes are sectioned off into ability groups, so you can work on realistic goals and gradually improve your fitness. After a few sessions, I was equally as hooked on outdoor boot camps as I was on my running. The camaraderie and the fun aspect of the sessions made a nice change from doing the same circuit every time I exercised.
Now, I do a mixture of boot camps and running. It works well for me, as I still get that sense of freedom from exercising in the outdoors, but I have an added social boost in the form of my friends at the camps. All in all, outdoor exercise is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone!
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