From Street Athlete to Gym Rat: Learning Confidence and How to Cross Train like a Pro!

July 2, 2018   /   byrunningwhilevegan  / Categories :  Running, yoga

I have had gym memberships on and off for my entire adult life. I played on sports teams growing up and was on the swim team in high school – I thought PE was fun, except volleyball, I hated volleyball. I actually worked at the local gym in high school, starting with the Kid’s Club and moving up to front desk. Working at a gym was my first job! My dad and I would work out there together on weekends and he taught me how to use all the machines.

After high school, I never really got back into the gym scene. I’m make a few appearances at the college fitness center and go hiking; eventually in my mid-20s I picked up running outside, Tae-bo and pilates. Then I moved to Chicago and joined Bally’s Total Fitness. I wasn’t committed enough to a workout plan to see results and my calorie intake far outweighed forty-five minutes here and there on the treadmill and eliptical. I was always very uncomfortable with the personal trainers lurking about, trying to pick up new clientele from the customer base. I get it, that’s how they get business, but I felt like as soon as I got on a machine that wasn’t cardio, I’d be swooped upon. A gym membership was a luxury in and of itself; purchasing a personal training package was always far outside my budget, and I mostly I wanted the gym time to be my alone time between work and roommates.

On the night of my 35th birthday, BlacklistLA had a run. What better way to celebrate a new year than with a run, and then drinks with runners? #StreetAthleteThings

I moved to San Francisco in my late 20s, and picked up running again. I joined a gym close to my work, and would put in 3-5 miles on the treadmill most afternoons. I took my complimentary personal training session, and really enjoyed it, but unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the package. It was kind of uncomfortable to see her around the gym, as I’d give impish smiles trying to hide my guilt of being more interested in spending my money elsewhere. I ran my first 5k, in Oakland, and my mom bought me a pair of Asics for the race. I had always utilized Payless Brand shoes, so it was a big deal to have such a fancy pair! Until I had a pair of fitted running shoes, my logic was that “shoes are shoes!”. Of course with the exercising I had been doing up signing up for my first race, it was unnecessary to go for fancier shoes. Now of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way! The thing though, that was still happening even though I was putting in all this time at the gym, I wasn’t seeing results.

My mom bought me my first pair of fancy running shoes! I wanted a neutral color, like black or gray, but these not only fit the best, they were also vegan! I’ve stuck to colorful running shoes ever since! These are Asics, and even though I wore them way out, I still haven’t been able to part with them.

After that, when I moved to Los Angeles, I thought I was done with gym culture. I looked into a few to join, but never made the commitment. I started doing workout videos in my apartment, which is how I found Tone It Up and Yoga With Adriene. I started running outside, lacing up the pair of hardly used Asics in my closet. I signed up for a 5k in Hollywood. I was running regularly and seeing results. My sister asked me if I wanted to run a half marathon with her, which I did! I did want to! It was a scary challenge I was willing to take on. I had never run over 5 miles before, so the training runs leading up to, and then running the half marathon, were a pretty big deal.

One of my fave home workouts “Yoga With Indie”. Sadly, she has since passed, and it take awhile for me to get back on my mat. But now I do “Yoga with Zooey”, who is Mike and mine’s doggie, so the universe does have ways of healing your broken heart and giving you exactly what you need.

So why was I seeing results with my home workouts and not my gym workouts? Easy – I called it in at the gym. I’d watch TV on my phone, and I didn’t really know how to push myself. My posture was a mess and I wasn’t stretching or doing any cross-training whatsoever — the weight and strength machines intimidated me without my dad.

After my half marathon, I joined a run club in LA, called BlacklistLA and heard the term “street athlete” for the first time. I loved it, and identified with it completely. Not having a gym membership was a relief on my bank account, and now I had a group of people to go running with up to three times a week, all over the streets of LA! I kept up with my home workouts, and was completely stoked on this new lifestyle. From Wikipedia’s Street Workout page, ” Some of the main benefits of street workout activities are: It is completely free. It can be performed anywhere outdoor or indoor. No training or gym equipment is required. It promotes healthy living and a desirable physique can be attained with it. It is a social event”.

Mike on the last leg of his first triathlon! It was the International Distance at the Malibu Nautica Tri, and he has about three miles left of his 6k. Photo by Carlos Desroses.

Time went on, and my goals changed. I ran my first marathon, and I wanted more. I cheered Mike on at his first triathlon; I wondered if I could compete too. My body plateaued, even with high mileage weeks, and I wasn’t having as much fun anymore – I still loved running, but the spark was going out. I knew I needed to add new exercises, but I felt lost and wasn’t sure how to go about that. In the spring of 2018, a few different events set everything in motion! First of all, CicLaVia came to the Inland Empire, right down the street from where Mike and I live. I had to get on a bike because a.) I’d promised Mike we would participate and b.) I was going to have to start cycling to work…at my new job…at a gym!  This was something I’d been wanting for a long time. I let myself talk myself out of it, because in my mid-30s did I really want the same job I’d had at 17? Finally I just did it. There are days I feel older than everyone and over-qualified, but when I get off my high horse, I have a lot of fun and am open to receiving the options that starting over provide.

It never ceases to amaze how far running has taken me – not just in terms of mileage or even places I’ve run, but the confidence boost finishing new distances brings. Here I am a week after I completed my first marathon, with BlacklistLA’s training, which all took place in the neighborhoods, streets and bike paths of LA.

I got hired at Planet Fitness, which was my first job not working in the restaurant industry for over a decade. The actual gym wasn’t open, so we were working in an office space, selling discounted memberships to people, getting ready for the big opening. I did that for about six weeks. I was ready to start going to the gym, and since Mike had a membership at Gold’s, I decided to get one too. They have a pool, and I wanted to start swimming again. Of course once Plant Fitness opened, I’d have a free membership there. I could see how that may seem ridiculous, I mean, why not just wait to reap the benefits of a free membership? It’s because both gyms offer very different things. Planet Fitness is great for first time gym goers, or those looking to work on general fitness without the intimidation factor. They are spacious, air-conditioned, and offer free fitness training. I’ve definitely taken advantage of working with the fitness trainer, and learned some excited new strengthening moves! I definitely prefer to do my strengthening at PF. Gold’s Gym has a pool, steam room, hot tub, slightly more advanced equipment, yoga, spinning, boxing, and personal trainers. I’m also not employed there, so it’s an escape from work. Even though I know how to use the weight machines and free weights, more confidently than ever, I do feel intimidated at Gold’s. I don’t think I would be able to advance in my cross-training without the guidance and chill environment at PF, but I want to swim, and Gold’s has that advantage. Plus, I like the classes they provide, the opportunity to work with a personal trainer if I want to, and the more high-tech treadmills. So, now I have two memberships! I totally had a day where I ran three miles on the treadmill at PF, rode my bike to Gold’s and swam laps for 30 minutes! It was my own personal (reverse) triathlon!

Trying to get back where I was, with that focus! Here I am training for a 5k PR with BlacklistLA, summer of ’16. I nailed it, ran 3.1 in 25 minutes and have not been able to beat it since. Photo by Dells G.

I’m really enjoying my time at the gym(s). Since Mike commutes, I don’t see him too often during the week, and have been spending more and more time at the gym. I’ve learned new moves with the battle cables, kettle bells, medicine balls and pulleys. My body is changing and I’m getting stronger. It’s a completely different experience than it was when I used to have memberships, mostly because I’m not calling it in, I don’t have the attitude that I “have to go for that beach body”, I’m genuinely doing it because I’m having fun getting strong. I don’t think I ever would have discovered that attitude if not for the couple of years of being a dedicated “street athlete” with my fellow run club enthusiasts! The best days are still the opt outside days with outdoor runs! Try as I might, getting 5 miles in on a treadmill is tough; I’d rather do 10 miles outside! Another fantastic thing about a gym — when the weather is too hot or too cold, you can still get those miles in! Now as a more focused, goal-oriented athlete, the gym provides me with exciting new workouts to build strength and confidence. It took awhile to get here, and quite a few tries, but it’s a good place to be.

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