No? OK well I’m mentioning it now. I hate the gym… and I’m not afraid to say it. In fact, if there were a gym haters anonymous, I would be the first to free myself of my anonymity and say proudly, “Hello, my name is Katie Elizabeth Brown, and I’m a gym hater.”

Now before you go drawing certain couch potato-esque assumptions, let me be clear, this does not also mean that I’m an exercise hater. To the contrary, I love exercise, however, as stated above, I hate the gym…. and here’s why:

I joined a gym a year ago exactly and for 4-5 months I made use of my membership on a regular basis. I went to the new member orientation, I let them set up my little routine for getting a better body in 2009, and I promptly became bored out of my mind.  Same routine, same people, same orangy brown walls, same equipment, same frustration for uber-seriously sweaty guy who leaves a gross puddle under his still bike that he refuses to clean up.

Evidence of the wall color (no offense to the Gym People)

I’ll state it again, I love exercise and I’ve tried all types. And considering how much I hate the cold, and how cold I get even in our fake cold here in Texas, I feel like I gave the gym a fair shot. I thought that having it as a resource for when I worked late or when it was too cold would make exercising more convenient. But for me, the only thing it did was turn activity that I love into activities that I dreaded.

I enjoy exercises that allow me to use my body, while letting my mind unwind and relax, or maybe even sort through the things I’ve been going through. Walking, for instance, is one of my favorite exercises. Not only is it tremendously beneficial to the body (specifically the female body), but it somehow has this magic with the mind as well. I’ve done some of my most productive thinking while I was walking. I’ve sorted through things, I’ve talked to God, on some occasions I’ve even bawled (it’s a good thing that I live in a highly wooded area that doesn’t get much traffic, otherwise I might be nick-named “the crazy walking lady who talks to herself and sometimes cries”) and been able to release tension that trapped in there some where.

Being outside is key for me with a lot of exercises… Even if I’m walking the same path every day, there are new things to see, things change, the sky, the scenery and there’s something extra satisfying about being in the air and the sun.

Exercising outside gives me the opportunity to see things like this little guy

I feel like it’s so much better for me than being inside simulating an activity that I could be out doing. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling of being outside, being active, using my body and experiencing the wind and sky and the land and creatures around me. It’s amazing and cleansing in a way. It’s a level of “exercise” that I don’t know for sure that you can get being closed inside the walls of a gym.  I feel like what I experience outside is a kind of focused rest for my mind, if that makes sense. Usually when I’m thinking through something, I feel like I’m trying to force a solution out of my mind. But when I’m out walking, or doing Pilates, and the sun is on my face and the breeze is cooling my skin, the thinking flows evenly and naturally, and solutions present themselves. Being outside for physical activities has also afforded me precious individual time with my family. This is probably even more dear to me than the alone/thinking time. My dad and I are very much alike in some ways, and I owe him my love of being outdoors because I learned it from him. He always notices things that most people would over-look, and walking with him over the years has been one adventure after another. He doesn’t just see a wood, he sees worlds in side worlds. My dad and I He can tell you about the different kinds of trees, and plants, and waters, and animals that live in those trees, plants and waters. Walking with him has let to so many conversations and experiences that I will carry with me my entire life. I would not trade those times for a 5,000 extra calories burned on a treadmill in the gym. I’ve had moments like these with other parts of my family as well. I wish I had pictures to show for the adventure to Enchanted Rock that I took with my sisters, Kristin and Kaylan, and my brother in-law Chris. Kristin broke out into hives climbing, and as we scooted down the wrong side of the huge rock at an incline that could very easily have cost us our lives, Kaylan cried up to the heavens, “God, why did this have to happen to me? I’m too young to die!” It’s a miracle that Kristin and I survived without rolling down the rock due to our laughter.

kaylan and kristin... don't ask.

After a particularly devastating break-up I shared some of the best sea-side outdoors time I’ve ever had with Kari. In my state of distress, Kristin and my dear friend Brooke, packed me up and sent me to Corpus Christi for a week. I can honestly admit that it was a very dark time in my life. Things that I’d been completely sure of fell to pieces overnight. These closest female friends of mine, instead of letting me mope around, instead of buying me ice cream and sappy movies to watch, gave me what I didn’t even realize at the time I needed. They gave me space, from the pain, from the familiar, from all of the falling apart. There couldn’t have been anyone better for me to spend that time with. And I realize now that I’ve never really thanked Kari for keeping me busy during a time that was more painful than I knew how to cope with.

Kari and I on our way to the "Shrimparee"

Being on the beach is a different kind of outside, the air is different, the wind is different. All together it’s an experience set apart from all others… It’s the ocean. There’s something really mysterious and awesome about the ocean that I don’t quite know how to explain. It both makes me afraid and gives me great comfort at the same time. I spent the majority of this trip outside with Kari. We went to a big shrimp festival, we went fishing, we went to the beach. I walked in the sand and down streets that had palm trees instead of cedar trees.

I believe this is a beach on Port Aransas

It was a special time that I will never forget and that I’m extremely thankful for, not only because it gave me the chance to step away from a situation that could have wounded me much more deeply had I done things differently, but also because it was valuable time I got to spend being vulnerable with my younger sister.

Last but certainly not least, I have many good outdoors experiences with my one and only brother, Kevin, but the one that stands out the most just happens to be the scariest hike I’ve ever been on in my life. Late one afternoon in the Fall of 2008, Kevin and I decided that we could manage to finish a something like

The beginning of the fateful hike...11 mile hike before it got too dark. We were wrong, very, very, very wrong.  We were prepared for it getting dark(we were armed with flash lights, bottled water, and trail mix), but had somehow convinced ourselves that it would be towards the end of the hike, and not just as we were getting into the thick of it. This is a night I will never forget. In retrospect (without the weight of near panic weighing on mind as it was at the time) we did get to see some pretty amazing things. Lake Georgetown and the surround landscape can be quite beautiful when it wants to be. The particular trail we were on features some stunning views! There are also some really mysterious places… places that in broad daylight would be lots of fun to explore. Places that in evening twilight start to seem even more mysterious, but by nightfall are downright terrifying. As the sun was in its last stages of setting we came up on the ruins of some sort of house and wooden animal pins… like for goats or something of that sort. I’m not at all sure what all of it could have been really, but that’s what it looked like. It was all strange and exciting and we took a little longer than we should have to explore the area and take pictures.

This is part of a fence around the "house"

The darker it got, the less interesting and more unsettling the area became, so we moved on.  Just as the sun disappeared we came into a huge open field, you couldn’t see any telephone poles, there were no tall trees, it was all field and then amazing open sky. It was the most brilliant shade of purple and the stars literally sparkled in it. I wish now that I’d have had a camera that could have captured it. None of the pictures I took did that sky justice. I looked as though you could have reached up and plucked one of those stars right out of the heavens. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced… and then things got a bit fuzzy.  The deep purple sky turned to a dark black sky, and though the moon and stars were still bright, the very, very, tall trees blocked them out… and then we came upon what I like to lovingly refer to as the bridge of doom.

The bridge of doom

I don’t know about you guys, but this was not exactly the type of thing I wanted to come across in the dark. It took me a good 10 minutes of inner dialog to convince myself that I was not suddenly finding myself in a horror film and just cross the little bridge. yes the planks were wobbly, yes there were some missing. But unless bridge trolls really existed, there was almost zero possibility that something was going to reach up out of the missing planks and pull me under.

I made it across without succumbing to a full-on panic attack, but the next 2 hours did their best to try to convince me that all of my worst nightmares were about to come true. The path ended up completely disappearing and we had to pick our way through tall grasses and just hope that we were moving in the right direction. By this time it was absolutely freezing, but neither of us could really tell because in our fear we were moving so fast, it would have been really difficult to get cold. We walked for what seemed like an eternity and just as I was ready to call for help and had visions of a helicopter rescue, we saw lights ahead. We’d made it to Tejas Park. I’ve never been so happy to see park bathrooms in my entire life, let me tell you.

As it turned out, being lost in the woods after dark was not the scariest thing we’d have to face that night… Kristin had to get out of bed to come and pick our stupid butts up from Tejas and she was non to thrilled when she got there, we’ll just leave it at that.

These are just a few of the reasons I like to exercise outside and why I’m letting my gym membership expire. Hopefully there will be more experiences like these to come.

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