Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Treadmills vs Pools and barriers to exercise.

I thought I'd written a blog about this previously, but maybe it was just a rant on Facebook.

Let me start at the beginning. 

A couple of years ago I decided that speed training on a treadmill was a good idea, the only thing stopping me from doing this was the fact that we lacked a treadmill on which to run. Minor issue.
So I did what any intelligent person would do and went to the local (council) gym to use a treadmill. I didn't want to do anything else, just come in, once a week or so, blast away on a treadmill for 20-30 mins and then head home.

I went to the gym and was informed that I would need to take out a membership, costing £20 a month and that I'd also need to wait for an induction to use the gym, and that would cost as well.

Hang on a sec, I'm a runner, I'm fairly competent and I know how to use a treadmill. I don't want to do anything else in the gym and I'm not about to go falling off the treadmill. Well, not a lot.
Make me faster!
Nope. No budging.

I was livid. As you might expect and my brain was going round and round in circles... how could I get onto a treadmill in order to do these sessions? Shouting at people wasn't going to make any difference, but maybe I could appeal to logic. But what logic would be, uh well, logical.

The logical argument

Thinking about it, I came up with the argument I was going to use.
Swimming pools. Council run. You can turn up any time and pay £4 and use the pool to your hearts content. You don't need to prove you can swim. You don't need to prove competence. No-one offers you an induction, they just take your money and you're free to fall into the deep end and effectively drown yourself.
No tie ins. No induction. Nothing.

Yes, there is a lifeguard to stop you from drowning, but there is also always a member of staff on duty in a gym to make sure you don't do anything too stupid (or to sell you personal training sessions)- so not a huge difference in terms of supervision- or at least, not enough to make a 40 minute induction more necessary than an induction to a pool.

Hang on. That's not a pool.
So why can't I just go to my council run gym, pay some cash and jump on a treadmill like I can in a pool?

I put this to someone on a phone, and eventually, they relented. I went to the gym, went to the receptionist, who looked doubtful, asked my name, called some people and then eventually they let me use the treadmill. I did this on a fairly regular basis over the next few months. Then, when I told someone else about it, they tried to do the same thing and got the same response as I previously got.


So we ended up buying a treadmill.

The long and short of this is the question as to why isn't it a thing that you can just walk in to a council run gym in this day and age and just ask to use the gym without having to enter into some crazy contract? Yes money, yes to all those things, but if you can do it in the swimming pool that is owned by the same company it just seems mental that you can't "pay and play" like you can "pay and swim".

Most people have the ability to use a gym intelligently- maybe I should rephrase that: there are as many people that can use a gym intelligently as there are people who can use a swimming pool intelligently.
It really annoys me that it is a challenge to actually use a gym without tie-ins etc, and with expensive "inductions" that most of us really don't need. We should be reducing barriers to fitness- the swimming pool model seems to be a good one- why can't our gyms be like that as well?