Working out in a gym sucks. Working out outside sucks marginally less. You know this. I know this. But science is trying to figure out why it sucks less to exercise outside.
Studies haven’t yet established why, physiologically, exercising outside might improve dispositions or inspire greater commitment to an exercise program.
Hey science. Let me tell you about my gym workout tonight.
After pulling into the gym parking lot, I tried to find an open space. Some jerk had parked horizontally across four spaces. FOUR. How his or her car hadn’t had all its paint keyed off is a mystery. If it weren’t for that pesky being raised to respect other people’s property thing, I’d have given it a swipe.
After checking in, I grabbed a year-old magazine for the sole purpose of covering the display on the treadmill. Why don’t they allow a runner to turn off the countdown clock and distance display? Just having a clock on the wall in front of me is torture enough while I’m plodding along on the treadmill. Once I had the machine programmed with the time and program I want, I start fiddling with Spotify. I love Spotify because I can make new playlists frequently, but I didn’t make a new one before hitting the gym tonight and I’m burnt out on the few lists I’ve made. So it took me a good five minutes to find a playlist that was peppy enough to power me through my run.
With the music settled and the phone out of my hand, I speed up the treadmill. I feel good. Then the sweat starts. Rivers of sweat without a breath of fresh air to provide even a moment of relief. Ceiling fans spin in the rafters. Why can’t I feel the air move? Why doesn’t someone open a damn window? I pat my face every few minutes with the towel I brought from home. The sweat continues. What felt like a fun challenge a few minutes ago now feels like torture.
A guy two treadmills down has started moaning periodically during his run. This is unusual. Sure, guys in the weight room huff and puff when they lift. I’m sniffling like crazy because I’ve still got residual congestion from last week’s cold. But I’m not doing it so loudly someone several feet away and pumping Madonna songs can hear it.
I’m momentarily transported back to my outdoor runs during warmer and brighter weather. Typically, I’m by a body of water. I set RunKeeper on my phone, then tuck it away in a pocket or waist belt. Since I’m by water, I listen to the water lap against the land instead of music. I don’t know how long I’ve been running or how fast I’m going. I take in the scenery. Skin is exposed to sunlight and fresh air. I’m sweating, but the breeze in my face takes care of it. My thoughts wander. I still get bored towards the end of my run, but I can see the physical finish line I’ve set for myself. Then I stop the RunKeeper GPS and see how I’ve done. Usually, it’s a stronger performance than on the treadmill.
Finally, tonight’s workout was over. I stopped my treadmill and went to get a disinfectant-soaked paper towel to wipe it down. I walked past a girl who smelled like salami. The moaner got off his treadmill, reunited with his bro friends who’d been sprinkled on various cardio equipment, and high-fived them.
So yes, science, I’ll be back outside once Daylight Saving Time is back and I feel safe enough to be out there. Beats the hell out of the gym.