I should start by sharing my biases. First of all I don’t particularly love gyms. Odd, I know, since we own a handful of Anytime Fitness Centers. And I’m a trainer, completely birthed out of the gym environment. It’s just that I’m a die hard outdoorsman except woman (outdoorswoman should totally be a word). I love working out in the fresh air, be that 10 below zero or a balmy 80 degrees. Something about the fresh air and terrain speaks to me. So I only use a gym when the weather forbids my outdoor connection or I need something that a park bench, tree limb, or stair set can’t provide. While on vacation, however, I go with the flow and do whatever it is that everyone else is doing. I think it’s my FOMO that has me following my friends and relatives into their local gyms. My latest trip I made some pretty profound discoveries about myself and gyms.
Over the past 15 years I’ve visited, trained at, or participated at gyms of all sorts. From college fitness centers, to corporate fitness centers, to large box gyms, to small mom and pop shops. I feel like I’ve had a decent amount of experience, but it wasn’t until my spring break adventure that I was able to see something clearly. It all came together after a trip to Whole Foods.
I love Whole Foods. It has so much stuff I love, stuff I need, stuff I don’t, stuff I’ve never even heard of. I wander the isles delighted by 1000’s of choices and always spend more time then I should and more money, way more money. The deli area looks as if Jesus himself prepared the food. It’s spectacular. When I check out though, I wonder what they’re thinking of me. Like, are they wondering if my cotton shirt is organic, or if my tinted chapstick is GMO free, and also, do they shake their head when I jump into my non-eco friendly jeep? I’m intimidated by their level of granolaness. I must admit, I find myself feeling a little self-conscious. I leave there assessing my two bags of groceries, my much slimmer wallet, and my tree hugger envy, feeling deflated. Adding insult to injury, I can’t find my car (I swear I paid attention when I parked – I blame the organic haze for blotting my memory clear of this detail).
That same feeling returned to me after visiting a particular fitness center on my vacation. I walked in the doors and everything was spectacular. It was all so perfectly polished and my choices of what to do were endless. I could swim, dance, lift, climb, steam, hot tub, or hoop it up. And the staff, they were all so beautiful and fit – wow, just wow. First I just had to figure out how to check in my kids, find the locker room, and walk through 10 minutes of stuff to find the stuff I hoped would be just the right stuff for me. I passed the live DJ spinning hard and heavy and continued to wander around trying to feel less awkward and spectacle-like. Two hours later I left, it was a lovely time, so much to offer, but I had that same “whole foods” feeling. Perhaps it’s because of the $400 a month price tag, or the two hours it took to get my 30 minute workout, or all the perfect people, but it just didn’t fit.
When I got back home from my vacation it was back to the grind. Besides unpacking and recovering from my vacation, my girls were participating in a 3on3 weekend tournament. To save some time, I went to the nearest grocery store, Aldi. It’s smaller, and everything is cheaper, and it feels that way. There is no warmth there, but you’ll find great prices on organic goods and also…blankets?!? The cashier checked me out like she was racing some other invisible clerk, she threw my stuff into a heap as I mourned the loss of my perfect bananas. I left there feeling great about the bargains, but had no desire to return. She bruised my bananas! It was cold, and non-personal, the kind of shop you leave and think, “you get what you pay for.” It’s a familiar feeling. Similar to what I’ve felt visiting two other gyms, prices were great, they had what I needed, but the atmosphere was cold, and empty. Have you ever got what you needed, but not necessarily what you wanted?
Finally, alas, the following weekend I fell into my typical routine and visited my very favorite grocery store in the whole wide world. Trader Joe’s. Oh, how I love thee. You greet me with colorful flowers, smiling employees, and great value. I feel like the place was created for me. Small enough that I park close, I know the isles, heck, I even know the staff. They chat me up, give me recipes, and let me try things I’m curious about. It’s warm, it’s personal, it’s exactly what I need. Some may be annoyed by their relentless cheer, but personally…I love it. Trader Joe’s is my Anytime Fitness. I know you know I’m biased, but I’ve walked into plenty of Anytime’s to know they have a similar vibe. When I walk in I feel welcome, there’s a warmth there. It seems like TJ’s and AF got together and figured out a way to provide convenience with the value I need, and all the feels I want.