Let me back up. First, you should know that I hate gyms. Like, hate them. Or, rather, I hate the routine of Going To The Gym. I’m supposed to sign away a year of my life to one organization for a butt-load of money and just…go to that one place? Like, several times a week? Indefinitely? Eff that.
When I decided to get serious about weight loss for the Pound By Pound Pledge Drive, I knew that variety was the name of the game. Exercise you’re never going to do is useless, and I know myself well enough to know that I will never exercise if I’m doing the same thing for weeks. And so, I’ve decided to seek out different exercise options all over L.A! Not just exercise classes and gyms, but stuff like dancing, hiking, biking, and stuff that’s a little off the beaten path!
Now, I’m a writer – which is pretty much a synonym for “broke” unless you’re Neil Gaiman. So, I’m definitely seeking out affordable ways to work out. I started my journey at the YMCA of Greater Los Angeles, as they offer a free 7-Day pass on their website so that you can check out their facilities to see if they’re a good fit for you. It’s good for 7 consecutive days, and you can use it at any YMCA location!
I used mine at the Hollywood-Wilshire YMCA, and it’s a really great place! The staff was really sweet and helpful, everything – from the women’s locker room, to the pool area, to the gym – was really clean, and there’s a variety of stuff to do, so even on a free pass you can swim one day and use the gym equipment or play a game of racquetball the next. Sadly, the classes they offer, as well as the personal training sessions and the massage services (yup!) are reserved for members. But yearly membership is comparable (and in many cases, cheaper) to most gyms if you want to take advantage of that, and you get the added bonus of taking part in an organization that’s a community hub. Exercising while supporting a positive force in your neighborhood? Awesome.
This isn’t to say that it’s all fabulous. There was the time that I was in the hot tub and there was a dude in there lounging. I noticed that he was checking out the pretty female lifeguard by the pool. Suddenly, I realized that one of his hands was under the bubbles… I don’t know what was actually happening. But needless to say, I didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
The weird experiences can also be pretty hilarious. One night, when I was leaving the Y, there was an elderly black man sitting in the lobby and he asked me as I passed, “You see the pink elephant?” “What?” I asked, confused as hell. “You saw the pink elephant, right? There’s a pink elephant in there! I know you saw it!” He was totally harmless, so I replied, “Oh yeah! Totally! Not only did I see him, but I named him. We hung out. He’s a cool dude.” The elderly man laughed and said, “I knew it! All these other people pretend like they can’t see him, but I knew you wouldn’t lie to me!” Was he joking around (the staff at the front desk were laughing and shaking their heads)? Was he actually seeing pink elephants? I don’t know. But if you see Winston the Pink Elephant, tell him his buddy is waiting for him in the lobby of the Hollywood-Wilshire Y.
As for the actual working-out, I ended up being able to get to the Y for 3 of my 7 days. Two of those days found me doing laps in the pool. I felt a bit out of place amongst all the really fast swimmers in their swimming caps and goggles and butterfly strokes, but I got over it. After all, I wasn’t there to be Michael Phelps. I was there to exercise the best I could. The first day, I did about 6 laps, which is pretty awesome considering what that entails. Here are the figures so you can do the math:
The second time I swam was after a day when I didn’t exercise at all, and I felt like my heart was gonna explode! I realized that I’d been exercising pretty consistently up until then, to the point that when I took a day off, I felt sluggish and it was that much harder to get back into it. The moral of that story? Do SOMETHING with your body every day. Light calisthenics in the morning, or take the stairs everywhere you go, or do more walking. Something to keep your body moving. As long as you’re at least a little active every day, it won’t take such a huge effort to get going again on your bigger workout days.
The other day of my pass that I used, I spent amongst the exercise equipment. I started with the 30-minute “Fat Burner” workout on an exercise bike. Check out my ending stats!
I then proceeded to work on three different weight machines, 30 pounds each – except for the ab machine, where I had to lift 50 pounds before feeling a workout – to work my arms/shoulders and my stomach. I would’ve worked my legs, too, but I feel like with all the walking and hiking I already do, they’re pretty strong. I want my arms and abdominals to catch up!
In addition to the working out, the Y actually provided a way for me to gain greater peace with my body. I hadn’t been in a locker room since high school, and the second I had to change into my swimsuit to use the pool, I regressed to junior high when I was afraid to get dressed around the other girls, because I didn’t want to be the fat girl in a room full of naked “normal-sized” girls. Having done a lot of theater in my former life as an actor, I’ve mastered the art of changing clothes without taking much off in a room full of people, so I started to do that here. However, I noticed that no one else – not just the skinnies, but the fatties, too – was taking that kind of care. Everyone, no matter what they looked like, were strutting around naked, the only towels around their heads, drying their hair.
Because that’s what grown women do.
That’s the other great thing about the Y. There’s a more diverse clientele, which also means more diverse bodies. You’re not trying to impress gym bunnies, or anyone else. Eventually, I realized that trying to cling to my clothing while trying to get a bathing suit on was stupid, so I just let everything fall to the ground around me and let myself be naked for a minute. And you know who cared that my fat ass was naked? Absolutely no one. Not one single person cared. No weird looks. No judgment. And I can’t begin to tell you how amazing that felt.
I felt so confident that night, that after my swim I decided to use the sauna. When I entered, there were already four women in there, and every single one of them was birthday suited up. I sat on my towel in the corner of the sauna and just relaxed…and listened in on the most amusing conversation about dating and wishing that there were mail-order grooms the way there are mail-order brides I’ve ever heard. I wanted to chime in, but it seemed that the women all knew each other, and I was having too much fun hearing what they said. But I laughed when they did, and they looked at me, smiling.
I’d highly recommend checking out your local Y to see what it has to offer you. It definitely gets points for variety and inclusiveness. And pink elephants.