The Perks of Tourist Season in the Gym [My happy accident...that only partially involved head injuries!]

by Charlotte on January 7, 2013 · 55 comments


All the cars parked up on snowbanks should have been my first clue that something was amiss at the gym this morning. But I was fortunate to have a parking spot open up right in front of me and so I paid no attention to the fact that my spot was the only open one in the entire, gigantic parking lot. As I raced inside with Jelly Bean tucked like a missile under one arm (as we’re basically always late she’s gotten very good at making herself aerodynamic, a skill she can thank me for later if she she ever decides to become a luge runner or human cannonball), I was irritated to discover a long line at the check-in desk. I tried not to show my irritation at the number of people stymied by a simple card swipe by smiling brightly and not thinking about my yoga class that was starting in 5 minutes – although in retrospect all the teeth I was showing probably said more “cannibal” than “calm.”

Once I got to the childcare, the line was even longer and my heart beat that much faster. Four minutes. Three minutes. Two minutes. By the time I got Jelly Bean safely herded into the cattle chute, class was starting. But! I told myself, there’s always a few extra spots open next to the wall or facing the large pillar. Okay so I wouldn’t be able to see the teacher but whatever. I raced into the studio, shedding shoes, coat and sweatshirt as I ran – only to pull up short at the doorway. Every last inch of space was taken. My yoga teacher simply shook his head at me and returned to his single-nostril breathing. Closing the door quietly I did a very un-zen-like thing: I burst into tears.

Who were these people in my class? Don’t they know I can’t drop my older kids off at school any sooner than fifteen to and then I have to race to the gym, unload Jelly Bean, check her in and so I always need a spot one minute after class starts? (And why don’t I have any friends who like hot yoga who would save me a spot??) Don’t they know that I needed, nay, craved, hot yoga on this cold morning? And don’t they know that my needs always trump their Monday-after-New-Year’s wants?? Gym tourists I grouched. It will tell you how upset I was that I actually considered just going down, grabbing Jelly Bean and going home, my only workout being the sprint up the stairs.

And then, through no fault of my own, reason prevailed. Maybe it was the eucalyptus scent seeping under the doorway. Maybe it was just that I was finally alone in a quiet place. But it slowly dawned on me that missing my class was fine. I’ve been doing yoga for years, and while I enjoy my teacher and the scented towels and the tinkley music (okay I really don’t enjoy the tinkley music – I once had a yoga teacher play Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor and Joshua Radin in class and I was in heaven), I know that the only thing you really need for a good yoga practice is a spot of floor – preferably one where everyone isn’t staring as you “shine” your “heart center” but I wasn’t going to be picky. As I rolled out my mat in a corner of an unused studio occupied only by an older man jumping rope (holla!) and a pregnant woman lifting weights (you go, girl!), it occurred to me that not only was this fine but it was awesome. I could do whatever yoga I wanted. I could try new things! I could do a whole hour of inversions! By golly I could fall on my head with impunity! And I did. (I also listened to The Decemberists instead of waterfalls that always make me need to pee.) It was a beautiful workout, I enjoyed every second and I got to breathe out of BOTH nostrils!

As I thought about my “happy accident” two things occurred to me:

1. We’re all gym tourists, er, newbies at some point. And I don’t just mean the first time you walk into a gym. For instance, when I tried the kettlebells in the pool* class on New Year’s Eve day I was both surprised and entertained when a couple of old men grouched at us for invading “their” pool space. Stupidnewpeoplerazzlefrazzleharrumph. Me? I’m not new here! But then I realized they were right. They swam every day. I was in the pool (making a lot of noise and laughing with a large group of girls) for a one-time class. I was on their turf. Er, surf. And they deserved to be respected. We were messing up their routine and I out of anyone understand the importance of routine. I’m sorry old dudes! But it reminded me of how awkward it can feel to be new and how important it is for the rest of us to reach out. As we all well know, there are a thousand reasons to keep someone from working out and I don’t want to be one of them.

2. There are many reasons tourist season is great. One word: Freebies! I signed up for a free 30-minute lesson on the Pilates reformer, got a handful of free protein bars (one for each kid!), bought some supplements on a New Year’s sale at the gym store, signed up for a contest to win free personal training and – best part – ran into a whole bunch of people I haven’t seen in months. So what if my “spot” was taken (along with all the treadmills, core boards and 15-pound dumbbells)? It pushed me out of my zone and not only did I try some new things but I also got a bunch of free stuff out of it too.

I’m a brittle girl trapped in a flexible body and so sometimes I need to be reminded about why the letting go is so much more important than  the having ever was.

Anyone else have a happy accident lately? Are you pretty flexible or kinda brittle like me? What do you do if your workout plan gets derailed? Anyone else find tinkling cymbals and running water noises to be less than relaxing??

*Some of you asked to hear more about kettlebells in the pool. Yes, you can  use the same KBs you normally would. Ours were rubber but they weren’t especially made for water use. We basically did the same things in the water as we would do on land with them: swings, cleans, presses, squats,  lunges etc. The difference is that the water provides more support for your body and more resistance on the KB. Honestly though, I didn’t see much of a difference in workout level. If you love pools and are looking for alternative water workouts to swimming laps then this would be great for you.


{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyssa (azusmom) January 7, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Good for you!!!!!!
One of the things I DON’T miss about teaching Pilates is the scramble for parking spaces between January and March. Especially since, as a staff member, I already had to park As Far Away As Humanly Possible. During the first quarter of every new year, that usually meant a mile or so away.
Today I tried a yoga class with a different teacher. It was incredibly challenging, and obviously geared toward the 2 young women (in their 20′s) who are, ahem, PROFESSIONAL GYMNASTS!!!!!!!! Honestly, how is a tubby 43 year-old mom to keep up?
So I didn’t. If there was a pose I couldn’t do, I didn’t do it. I did as best I could, tried to stay in alignment, and did the class. And felt pretty darn proud of myself!
I’m not sure if I’ll take another class with that (30 year-old, childless) teacher, but I learned a good lesson today. I came, I saw, I did, I got a big cup of coffee afterward, and patted myself on the back for sticking with it. (At least I’m flexible enough to do that!)
And went home and signed up for a 2-hour Vinyasa workshop on Sunday.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

This: “I came, I saw, I did, I got a big cup of coffee afterward, and patted myself on the back for sticking with it. (At least I’m flexible enough to do that!)” is an excellent motto! You need this on a bumper sticker!


Susan Helene Gottfried January 8, 2013 at 5:45 am

I might have gone home, too — IF I couldn’t find an open piece of cardio equipment. And if my iPod was charged. Gotta have my tunes.

Which means that yes, tinkly music and waterfalls… babe, Metallica lulled me to sleep last night. Need I say more?


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hey nothing a little Enter Sandman can’t help! You are awesome.


Katie January 8, 2013 at 6:05 am

I love gym season. As a regular, and quite fit and slim, if I do say sinus elf, it gives me a tremendous amount of smugness and satisfaction to see the newbies huffing and puffing away. What can I say, I enjoy the suffering of others. Bwahaha.


Jasmine January 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm

“Sinus elf” – please tell me that was an autocorrect, I’m dying of laughter here. I too enjoy when the newbies join me at something I’m good at and have been doing for a while, I get a kick out of helping them learn. The schadenfreude is just a bonus XD


Katie January 9, 2013 at 12:32 am

Sigh. Yes. That’s what I get for replying on my iPod in bed when I should be sleeping.

“If I do say so myself” is what I meant to say, obviously…


Smac-a-roo January 9, 2013 at 10:18 am

oh, I just got that, I was wondering… now I can’t stop giggling alone in my office like a crazy person!


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

I can’t even form a coherent reply I’m laughing so hard! Oh I love me a good autocorrect and this one is awesome. Especially because I could kinda maybe see someone calling themselves a Sinus Elf? I must find a way to work this into a post.


R January 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

Ugh. I hate January-February, cuz of course, everything in my routine has to be changed up for a bunch of “motivated” people who are REALLY REALLY COMMITTED TO THEIR GOALS THIS YEAR, YA’LL!**

Sorry. Anger issues. I guess what irritates me is that without fail, at least 99% of them will disappear in a few weeks, and the fact that they are using all the machines (in my tiny apartment complex’s gym) means that I either work out at really weird hours or try to avoid going to the gym at all, because I don’t want to deal with waiting for a line. The most annoying part is that the gym is usually completely empty (I’ve only seen maybe 2 other people there ever at the times I work out), so from going to empty to overflowing is really bad for my groove.

Last night, my body craved boring, mind-numbing machine cardio (I don’t even like cardio? Who is this person????) but I knew that it was peak time (based on my normal gym-goings) so I ended up doing yoga and some stretches instead. Which felt good, but were so wholly unsatisfying :(

**Bah, I would love if these motivated people would really do it! Cuz exercise is good for you! And then, maybe people would just make bigger gyms (my apt gym is great, but it’s half the size of the gym in my old apt complex, and there’s triple the number of the people.) But we all know that they’re all gonna disappear in a few months. Le sigh.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yeah, it’s the tug-of-war between wanting to encourage them and wanting them to just get out of your darn way already. Love your bigger gym solution! I vote for that!


Jody January 8, 2013 at 7:35 am

Ah the Resolutionists are out. My local Y wasn’t too bad last week, a few more people but the Y is doing a much better job of monitoring the gym floor so it is a lot less chaotic than it was last year. Last year was nuts but the Y opened the week before New Years so I expected it. I also take classes at the fitness center at work and last year to get a spot in Turbo meant leaving my desk t least an extra 10 minutes early to get a number, this year I decided I’m not doing that. I’m taking January off of Turbo and will either attend the class after Turbo which is usually a less popular option or I’ll do my own workout, no big deal. I’ll head back to Turbo once the crowd starts to thin back out.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:19 am

“The resolutionists”!! Buwhahah. Sounds like a movie. Glad that your schedule isn’t too upended!


Kristen January 8, 2013 at 7:59 am

We are creatures of habit aren’t we? Sometimes we need something to drive us towards change and realize that working out in solitude is a blessing. For me, it’s time to reflect, brainstorm and march the beat of my own drum.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:20 am

True. I probably need more solitude than I get.


Kim January 8, 2013 at 8:13 am

Now just think – if all of those people stick with it!!! A revolution of fitness!! Too bad that most of the newbies will only make a few months! Maybe new fitness resolutions should be made in the spring when the weather is nice enough to be outside!!! (just a thought!)


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:21 am

Good point about the timing! Spring really is a much nicer time to start -and stick with – a fitness program!


Geosomin January 8, 2013 at 8:31 am

The gym I go to is a campus one, so depending on what team is practicing, or what fitness class is on or if the moon is full (or if it’s january…) I sometimes can’t get into the AM workout classes. They let you sign up for 10 spots per class and the other 10 are sign up that day first come first served, so sometimes, being a bus taker, I miss out, as I don’t always get to the door before it opens so I miss out on sign up and sign up for the next day too (grr). I used to pout and mumble (more), but I’ve got about 20 solid ZWOWs and bodyrock workouts in my iphone now, and I come in to the gym always with my phone for music and interval timer, so if I don’t get into class I can bang out an HIIT workout and then hop on whatever treadmill, elliptical or bike is free and giver until I’m feeling done. Variety is a good thing. I can make it work. If I’m gonna crawl out of bed at 515 to workout, I’m working out! :)
My only real peeve is that there is just ONE set of 8 and 10 Lb dumbells in the whole dang gym (outside the fitness class room). The January newbies tend to hog the gear and it takes them a while to learn the whole sharing and “work in a rep” thing…but usually by february the kinks get worked out and we all are happy again. I don’t want to put someone off starting to workout by me being pouty about things…I have come to see that 1 day of alternate workouts will not derail my entire fitness plan :)


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

Ah you’re making me remember why I’m glad I’m not in college anymore;) I love ZWOW! And I love this: “Variety is a good thing. I can make it work. If I’m gonna crawl out of bed at 515 to workout, I’m working out!” Although the DB situation is a real bummer – who does that?


Sylvie @ StruggleswithaFatA January 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

Hmm, you’re making hot yoga sound pretty nice. I’ve never really understood yoga, since my muscles are under many layers of fat, I don’t see much benefit to me in particular. I’ve also thought doing yoga in a hot room sounds awful. You make it sound so pleasant! Maaaaaaybe I’ll try it sometime.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:25 am

Zomgoodness hot yoga is SO nice! If you ever want to try it, let me know and I’ll go with you!


Deanna - Coach Calorie January 8, 2013 at 9:29 am

That is a very admirable attitude. “Tourists” are why I started working out at home :) I’m a grumpy old lady now!


Aine January 8, 2013 at 10:13 am

I call them the “Resolutionaries” and I, too, have had my frustrating moments.
Last Wednesday, I arrived with ten minutes spare time before the one and only spin class I can take during the week, saw the spinning sign-up sheet still have a handful of openings at the bottom (they only have 20 bikes), scrawled my name, and rushed to change. I had no sneakers, only my clunky bike shoes. I marched upstairs with five minutes to spare and the entire class was full. Every bike was taken. I walked to the front an politely asked if there was someone who was on a bike who hadn’t signed up. Damnit, I wanted my spinning fix! Everyone stared blankly at me. The instructor threatened “Don’t make me do this people!” before finally getting off the bike and going down to the front desk to collect the sign-up sheet, making everyone on a bike point out their name.
To my sheer and utter mortification, I wasn’t on it. The gym had forgotten to take down the sign-up sheet for an earlier class and I’d signed up on that one instead. But they’d taken down the one for the new class, so how was I supposed to know? I was embarrased and pissed off at the same time. I ended up clunking along angrily on an arc trainer for 40 minutes in my spin shoes before stomping on out and going home. What made me even angrier was the lady who left the class halfway through. I wanted to shout at her, “What, but I could have been on that bike the whole time, and you’re leaving?!”
Call me a bitch or whatever, but don’t get in the way of my workout. I honestly hate getting thrown out of my routine. Of course I find other things to do, but I’m never happy about it.


Cindy Fatchick January 8, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Ah yes the sign in and no-show and the early exits when you couldn’t sign up because you came too late for spin class.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

Oy! I would have been so embarrassed and ticked off too! Esp. since it really wasn’t your fault. Good for you for getting your workout in anyhow though!


Abby January 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

You’re a much nicer person than I am. I’m already dreading tomorrow, the first day of classes for the new semester at my campus gym. It’s extra bad. All the undergrads who put on weight the first semester will be there and no one will have any schoolwork yet to keep them out of the gym plus all the normal “tourist” problems. Ugh! My plan is to just get there extra early and have my evil eye ready. I’m the one who will still be standing at the end of the semester!


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

” I’m the one who will still be standing at the end of the semester!” Buwhahah! I believe that!


Happier Heather January 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

I am definitely one to get irritated when my plans change unexpectedly. It frazzles me, but I’m starting to learn what you learned; than more often than not, the change in routine brings us something awesome. I need to remember that more often, so thanks for the reminder!


Alice January 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

If I went to a gym, I think I’d have to skip going for a couple of months until everyone fell off the wagon.

Myself, today was my first day back as a gym tourist in my own house. Day one on the treadmill is not fun. If I can force myself through two weeks of it, I should be fine.


Matt January 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

It’s funny how us rough and tough hardcore fitness folks turn into whinny little kids when someone takes away our toys.

I used to be the biggest baby when Someone else was using the power cage. But then I got into calisthenics. Now the whole world is my gym.

Now if I could just get it to stop raining at the local playground. :)


Katie January 9, 2013 at 6:07 am

Oh gosh I am guilty of this. I have my favorite cardio machines and I will pout and glare like you wouldn’t believe if it is occupied. Not that I’m terribly threatening at all 5’4 and 100, but one can try.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:40 am

This: “It’s funny how us rough and tough hardcore fitness folks turn into whinny little kids when someone takes away our toys.” made me laugh so hard. Point made:) And now I want to know what your calisthenics routine is! You have a link??


Meghan@themeghamix January 8, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Brittle all the way! I often prefer working out alone because then I don’t have to share and be flexible! Personal growth needed.


April January 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Just this morning my routine was derailed….but not b/c of the newbies. the lifeguard didn’t show up. tuesdays i always swim 3000 yards, then do TRX. i was forced out of the pool. with TOO MUCH TIME. didn’t want to run, b/c it needed to be an off day. instead i did time on the octaine, then rowed, then walked at a super steep incline :) and i can feel it. it was nice to do something different.

in general, not flexible mentally or physically :) i’m trying to be more workout-zen though!!!


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

I have to admit there’s a certain irony in forcing out a person who can swim 3000 yards out of the pool because there is no lifeguard. You could probably outswim the lifeguard…


Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy January 8, 2013 at 4:03 pm

My gym isn’t actually any busy with all the resolution gym goers. I am quite pleased with that :_


Naomi/Dragonmamma January 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I work at the Y. The week before the new year started, I warned the regulars that we were about to be invaded and that they’d better start thinking of alternative workouts in case THEIR spots and favorite classes were taken. I took some of them down to the basketball court and showed them stuff to do with medicine balls. A couple of them loved it, and they were doing it today even though THEIR equipment wasn’t being used.


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

Aw I love you!!! You are the best gym helper ever! Now I want you to teach me some stuff to do with medicine balls…


Quix January 8, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Our gym has some “resolutionaries” but not too many. It’s nice! While it was a bit of a challenge to navigate the weights, we got spots in the pool just fine. The classes (which I don’t do much of) fill up a lot faster though.

I tend to run outside in most any weather and bike at home on my trainer or outside, so luckily I only am at the gym a few times per week for swimming/weights.


tamber January 8, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I’m too ridged! It’s frustrating knowing that most of the “temporary newbies” will never follow through on their resolutions and here I am…in it for long haul and no spot…I would cry too!


Lauren January 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I read this line 4 times:
“I’m a brittle girl trapped in a flexible body and so sometimes I need to be reminded about why the letting go is so much more important than the having ever was”

Nice writing, Charlotte!


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thank you Lauren:) This compliment totally made me smile!


Matt January 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm

posts like this remind me why I set up a back up home gym. Sometimes I like the gym, other times not so much.

Being a calisthenics buff though has it’s advantages. There is always floor and wall space even in the most crowded gym and the pull up bar is always free :)


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:49 am

So funny – in our gym the pull-up bar always has a line. Although that might be because it’s in the middle of the cable tower… ;)


Nancy Guillery January 8, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Great change of perspective! All our experiences are the result of how we choose to see them.


Bek @ Crave January 9, 2013 at 4:51 am

Aww I feel ya- how dare they we are ‘regulars’, practically VIP haha :P I’m glad you eventually saw the positive side to it and still had a great workout. Also a fantastic point you made about not wanting to ruin anyone’s gym experience- we WANT people to work out, it’s a fantastic thing they’re doing.


Gaye January 9, 2013 at 8:50 am

I’m like Susan, If I don’t have music for some reason and I FORCE myself to exercise in spite of it, I fully expect a news crew to meet me at the end to interview me about my accomplishment. So I guess I’m a little brittle. :)


Charlotte January 10, 2013 at 11:50 am

” I fully expect a news crew to meet me at the end to interview me about my accomplishment.” ROFL. I love you Gaye!!


Gaye January 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Wait? You thought I was kidding?
:) Gaye


'Drea January 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

One hand space apart – that’s when the class is officially full according to one my yoga teachers. Of course, I still get there 15 minutes early. Otherwise, it’s tears at the door until I compose myself and realize that it’s not the end of the world and other exercise options await.


delia January 9, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I would be a little annoyed too if I wasn’t able to do my workout because all the “tourists” though I do applaud anyone who makes an effort to be more active. I was one of those January gym enrollers a few years ago when I was living in the DC metro area without a gym attached to my residence. I joined the community gym and continued to go daily until I had to move away. I think I was always able to get a machine in the AM, but I think their rush was more after 5pm.


Jody - Fit at 55 January 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

You are always so much fun to read! :) Why I love my 24 hour gym & the crazy hours I work out – not as many newbies… :) In the past years, some of have actually hit come February so we shall see….


Erin D. January 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Good job at being flexible and switching gears. There are some new faces that I see in the Zumba classes that I teach. At the beginning of each class I usually give a little shpleel about “The rules are…There are no rules! Yeeeaaahhh! Just go at your own pace, yada yada yada”. unlee of course I recognize everyone as regulars. A few years ago, when I first started teaching I would ask at the beginning of class if anyone was new. Newcomers would sheepishly raise their hands. I would give them words of welcome and encouragement. But while attending some workshop the topic of doing just that was brought up. It occurred to me that I was placing new participants in an awkward position, and perhaps setting up the wrong tone for their first time. In retrospect, I kinda felt like a boob for doing so. Now, I just give the blanket speech and make hollow promises to come up with better jokes.


Kristen January 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

I love your story, Charlotte! I’ve so been there–resentful of all the newbies when they are taking up my space at the gym. Or resentful of whatever else is interfering with my plans. I’m a new mom, so it seems something is always interfering with my, wonderful, grand plans these days! Good thing she’s so cute. Like you, I just need to take a deep breath (perhaps drink some coffee!) and find the good in what is before me. Thanks for the reminder! :)


Amy January 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

Thank you for talking me off the ledge. I have been muttering about ‘stupid resolvers’ the past few weeks. And I recognize the hypocrisy because I have been a gym person for only about 15 months and have much progress yet to make-still looking pretty round. I will relax and be cool about having to use the stupid recumbent bike when I wanted the regular bike with the soft seat. I will be cool and try new machines and be happy for the resolvers and might find something new.


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