Humans are creatures of habit, and nowhere is this more evident than at the health club.
Oh, come on: you know what I mean. Arrival time? Departure time? Favorite machines? Corner shower stall? Check, check, check and check. I'm guilty, too.
But once a year, my health club goes into its weeklong summer shutdown, so that staff members can do spruce-ups, upgrades and more. And generally, that causes much moaning and groaning. But over the years, I've seen different members handle it different ways.
Some people look at it as a break. One woman told me she pretends it's a vacation, eats junk food and doesn't exercise at all. Others find a way to stick to the regular routine - proof of the whole creature-of-habit rule. The boot camp people form their own boot camp. Three times a week, they meet at the club - even though it's closed - at 6 a.m. They stretch, run, do calisthenics and then disperse. The racquetball and tennis players move to an affiliated facility for the week. Same thing for the people who love cardio equipment.
As I was cleaning out my locker this year, a woman I see periodically told me she uses the annual shutdown as a chance to try something new. One year, it was cycling; she had her bike tuned up at the local sporting goods store and spent a week exploring our community's pathways and trails. One year, it was jogging, and she wound up participating in a fun run/walk at the end of the week. This year, she bought an inflatable kayak, and she's planning to take it out on the lake in the park every day.
It made me stop and think. While the rest of us were grousing about having to lug our shampoo, racquets, shoes and whatnot out of the club, she was jazzed because she got to try something new. For us, it was a pain. For her, it was an opportunity.
Instead of just posting notices announcing the dates for the annual closure, clubs ought to encourage people to stay active and to broaden their horizons during that time. Try posting a list of some of the local facilities that are open and free - parks, municipal basketball and tennis courts, athletic fields, walking trails and more. High schools and college wellness centers should do this, too - after all, who doesn't want students to stay active during breaks?
Maybe some are hesitant to try this, worrying that members, seeing the free facilities available, might let their memberships lapse. But what actually happens is the reverse - they don't become unmotivated because they haven't been inactive during downtime. Consequently, they keep coming back.
The next time your club goes dark, remember that it could be a great opportunity for enlightenment.