Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Distraction and injuries

Yesterday i visited a newly opened, upmarket fitness centre in Hong Kong.
They had offered me a free pass for a week, so i was eager to find out what i had been missing in all these years of home practice and outdoor activities.

I also wanted to know if this kind of fitness centre was suitable for menopausal women, as i often get asked by students which gym i would recommend for cardio and weight training. 
Many of them are under the impression that yoga is not enough to satisfy all their fitness needs, that yoga alone will not lead to weight loss or muscle toning.

Yes, i insist that a balanced, vegetarian diet, small portions and avoidance of sugar is more effective than cardio in shedding unwanted kilos. Yes, i stress that a personalised sequence of  strong yoga poses helps toning muscles without the mind-numbing effect of weight training. But i still get the occasional question 'which gym would you recommend?'

As Hong Kong gyms are notoriously mobbed at lunch time and in the evening, i decided to go in the morning.  A loud, pounding music that i could have tolerated at 1 am in a club 10 years ago was the first annoying surprise.  I managed to stretch and warm up but doing it at home while listening to the chirping of birds would have been far more pleasant.  

10 minutes later i decided to try out the intimidatingly high-tech treadmill. One could watch dozens of tv channels, tv series, films, surf the net, listen to the radio...the toy was designed to  distract one from the main activity, running. One is bombarded with external stimuli all day long, certainly running would be a welcome chance to be alone, examine our thoughts, No, apparently nobody wants to think. Constant distraction is preferable. I ran for 20 minutes, looking at the uninspiring curtain wall outside the window. Again, jogging in the forest, or along the waterfront would have been far more pleasant

Then i moved to the weight training area, where men dominated the scene. My menopausal self felt completely out of place here. One could almost feel testosterone in the air:  grunting, sweaty men who either checked their smartphones between  reps or the few girls who walked past them.
I gave up even before trying and moved to an area normally reserved for spin classes. The bikes had been temporarily moved against the wall, so i though i could have that space to myself and do some yoga. After a couple of poses i heard a loud sound and the semi darkness of the room was broken by a projection on all walls: i was in the middle of a 3-D immersive theater. A trainer walked in and explained to me that the spin class would start in a few minutes. Again, a pretty boring activity that needed to be rescued by violent sensory stimulation to make any sense. I am an avid cyclist, but stationary bikes never appealed to me. Bikes are my favourite means of transportation, i explore cities and the countryside on the saddle of my bike, the last thing on my mind is pushing on pedals without getting anywhere.

I left the room and headed straight to the sauna. There, at last, i found some peace.

This experience left a bitter after taste. I don't think i will go back and most certainly will not recommend this chain of fitness centres to my students.

If the body is our temple, why do we need to be taken out of it when we exercise?

Maybe i am terribly old-fashioned, but i want to focus on my body, observe its alignment, my breathing, my heart rate. I want to be present and mindful when i exercise.

One can only imagine how many injuries occur when people are distracted. 

Mind-less exercise is just that, mindless.

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