One of my long-time hobbies is visiting gyms and yoga studios, coupons or free passes in hand. This combines two of my favorite things: fitness and a bargain.
My hobby started long ago, in San Francisco, when I launched a campaign to see how long I could regularly go to gyms on free passes. There were lots of gyms and lots of free passes, so I made it a few months before I fell in love with a gym (great yoga teacher, almost deserted swimming pool) and became a member for the duration of my time in San Francisco.
And now, many years later, the gods of cheapness have created Groupon and similar deals. These are perfect for a gym tourist like me, who likes to visit but isn’t planning to join. I’m already a member at my beloved West Coast Health and Fitness, where I teach yoga, but I love to see what everybody else around town is doing.
Last Friday I just completed my one-month, $20 Living Social membership at Fulcrum Fitness. This gym revolves around boot camp classes and personal training. I’d been to a couple of boot camp classes before, but not many, as they usually involve reporting for fitness duty at ungodly hours of the morning. One of the great things about Fulcrum, and a keen advantage over military programs of the same name, is you can attend boot camp at noon! Or 4:30, 5:30 or 6:30 PM. Morning people can also go to 5:30 AM boot camps, but I cannot personally report on any of those classes.
Fulcrum is not a gym full of machines. They use equipment like kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, pull-up bars, ropes, barbarian clubs, and other things that you move entirely with your own power. A typical class starts with a group warm-up, then you follow a menu of activities written on a dry-erase board. The instructor demonstrates the exercises for those who don’t know them. Then you’re turned loose to move through the stated number of repetitions of each exercise, aiming to complete the circuit three to five times. Usually there are two separate circuits, sometimes divided into strength and conditioning. You might spend 30 minutes on the first circuit, then regroup to see a demonstration of the activities in circuit two. Running around the block a couple of times, or up and down the many flights of stairs in the Fulcrum building, usually figures into the activity menu.
The exercises were more intense than what I was used to. At times, I had a love/hate relationship with the program. I enjoyed learning different exercises, and the teachers were very helpful about coaching on form. But sometimes I worked so hard I felt nauseous, or like my heart was going too fast. I also had to wrestle with a few inner demons.
Now I must mention I was an artistic child. In my formative years, I had nary an athletic bone in my body. Even though I’ve been an active, fitness-oriented adult for quite a while, it turns out that the child who dreaded recess activities and P.E. class is still buried inside. She came out in two ways: one, feeling inadequate and two, wanting to cheat on the exercises. In junior high, every time the coach turned his back, I’d run down the middle of the field to try to cut the lap in half. My first week at Fulcrum, I constantly had to resist the urge to take shortcuts when we ran around the block. I had to remind myself that I was an adult who was running around the block through my own free will. I also had to mediate between the part of me that wanted to do fewer repetitions of exercises just to get out of doing something hard, and the part of me that wanted to do every rep even when my body clearly told me it had had enough. My inner dialog was always, am I just being a lazy shirker? Or am I trying too hard to keep up with the jocks in here and I’m going to tear an important muscle? My usual aerobic activities are Spinning, Zumba, and slow lone jog/walks or bike rides. In those pursuits, there’s never any sense of who finishes first. But when the whole group runs around the block together, there’s no question of who’s sucking the hind tit (a farming metaphor my mother likes to use).
So it was an interesting time for me in that it brought up lots of feelings. None of which had to do directly with the quality of Fulcrum’s instructors, or the gym itself, which were both excellent. In fact, one day I got a mental block about an exercise and the teacher, Jon, was completely kind and compassionate. The exercise was jumping from the ground to the top of a one-and-a-half foot wooden box, feet together. Every time I’d bend my knees to spring, I couldn’t make myself do it. I thought I was going to catch my toe on the edge, go over the side and fall on my face, probably chipping my front teeth in a hideously disfiguring and expensive to fix dental accident. I confessed my fear to Jon, who calmly held my hand as I jumped, until I realized I could do it fine on my own.
I was a little sad to leave after my last day, but also relieved to have all my teeth and the rest of me still intact. I talked to lots of students there over the month, new and old, and everybody finds it a tough workout. It’s a great gym for people who like a rigorous, guided exercise program. I was a bit worried about a few of the people, who went from sedentary to all-out Fulcrum workouts. Hopefully they’ll temper their inner demons, and not hurt themselves trying to keep up with the seriously buff students who have been exercising there for a year or more.