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The paradox of taking the great outdoors inside.

13 February 2013, 10:00

Whenever I happen to walk past a health club, I can’t stop myself from looking through the unavoidable big windows and stare in wonder at what goes on inside. The apparatuses look impressive, sleek and industrial. The same can be said of some the people. But the main thing I  notice, is that hardly anyone is actually looking out of those big windows into the real world. And when I do catch people facing the window, their body language often tells me it’s only being used as a mirror.

I do grasp and appreciate the basic idea and the practicality of a health club. As an individual you get to mingle with like minded people, you can choose from a variety of activities and everything you could need is close at hand. It’s a convenient one stop sweat shop, where you can get your daily or weekly dose of endorphins and adrenaline. I am aware of the fact that some people simply don’t have the time / money / motivation / whatever to go out and do the real thing. I guess doing something somewhere is better than doing nothing nowhere….

But…To me, it’s like scuba diving in an indoor swimming pool; you get to understand the basics, but not the point. Any activity worth pursuing should be  a complete experience. Not something where you just ‘exercise for the sake of exercising’. I think indoor ‘health’ factories are a poor substitute for the real thing, an attempt to recreate the great outdoors, indoors!

I must admit though, that some activities do belong in a health club and should not be attempted in the great outdoors without supervision or without sound proof walls. Things like aerobics or step classes.

And some apparatuses and its users, found in health clubs all over, make me shake my head and snigger. Great examples are the treadmill, stationary bike and the rowing machine. The whole point of walking, cycling and rowing (or its cousin with forward momentum, paddling) is being a means of going from A to Z, with detours via the rest of the alphabet. The idea of doing something like this, without the benefits of changing scenery, fresh air and potential adventure for example, seems ludicrous to me. It’s pointless, you’re going nowhere and when you’re there, you’ve experienced nothing more than the ergo-meter in front of you, breathing recycled air and mind numbing monotony.

Some may argue about the benefits of indoor training sessions, saying it allows them to hone their skills for when they find the time/money/etc to go and do the real thing outside. I reluctantly tend to agree, only because even-though I don’t particularly agree with how and where they do it, at least they do something, which is a hundred times better than doing nothing.

But as a self proclaimed outdoor activist I can’t help but say that some things are just a lot better when they’re done in the great outdoors; if you want to do something, do it properly! And last but not least: Outdoor activities? It’s for free!

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