The Blessed Bean…


The time has come to discuss a very important matter, one dear to my very existence. I speak, of course, of the dear fruit of the coffee plant. Yes, dear readers, I shall now sing the song of my people. I love coffee!!!

A lot of people like coffee. They may even find it a necessity of being a functioning human. Many do. However, I just love everything there is about coffee: The fragrance, the bold flavor, the somewhat bitter taste that gets your attention but is still comforting. There is just something absolutely fabulous about the beverage.

My love affair started at a tender age. I think I was all of maybe 3 or 4 years old. I couldn’t help but notice that the adults at the table had a cup of inky fluid that I was never offered. This sparked my curiosity. My questions and requests to have some were not to be subdued with attempts to deceive my young mind. I was not to be fooled by my juice, milk, or other innocuous beverage being put into a similar vessel. I knew that what my father (grandfathers and grandmothers) had was not what was being offered to me. My mother did not partake of the same drink as she has only in recent years developed any ability to stand the taste of coffee. She adores tea (in the British sense with either milk or lemon depending on the type), but she never liked the taste of coffee. Even now, as she has attempted to cultivate a tolerance, the resulting concoction can hardly be recognized for the magnificent brew by the time she is done putting all the other stuff in there.

Back to the past, I begged to be allowed to have some of the coffee that everyone else drank. As the deceptive tactics did not work, scare tactics were tried. I was told it would stunt my growth and that it would turn my neck black. I was not deterred. Eventually, my father allowed me to take a sip of his coffee. It was black, unsweetened, and hotter than the surface of the sun. I truly believe that I was allowed that first sip because it was believed that the harshness would cause me to run screaming from the room to never attempt drinking it again. I am not certain if it was some unconscious knowledge that this was the motive coupled with my natural orneriness that foiled their plans, but the result was exactly contrary to their wishes. I was hooked. I did burn my tongue a bit, and that was a tad unpleasant, but the taste was amazing. I was still not allowed to have my own coffee regularly, but it was too late.

So… I am a coffee drinker. I drink it generally from the time I get up in the morning until sometimes late in the evening. I do not participate in the world upon waking without it. That’s not so much that I can’t function before coffee, but I prefer not to interact with the world… mostly the other humans in it before I’ve had my moment of communion with the decoction of the blessed bean. It’s more of a spiritual experience than a chemical one. I have had people ask me whether I sleep. I do. In fact, when I do not drink my coffee in the regular doses, I actionally have trouble sleeping. Well… more trouble than usual with my odd patterns and dreamscapes, but that is a whole other post. I have been known to drink coffee and go straight to sleep. I apparently inherited this particular trick from my father. I have never really experienced the “jitters” or nervousness that caffeine imparts upon some people. It seems my system likes sufficient stimulant in my bloodstream to keep things running smoothly and focused. It is possible that I have been self-medicating for some attention deficit all these years.

Let’s talk types of coffee. I’m not really one of those gourmet, fancy types. I will occasionally get a flavored coffee or sometimes one of those froofy desert-type things that contain whisky or liqueur and have a lot of whipped cream on them. That’s not what I prefer, though. That isn’t coffee. That is a coffee-flavored liquid desert. I choose plain ol’ café Americano, black, no sweetener… the stronger the better. I also like espresso (that’s “ES-Press-o” not “expresso”). I have been known to drink a cappuccino, which adds milk against my nature, but as long as it isn’t flavored with large amounts of some sweetening agent, it is okay. Growing up in the Middle East, I developed a love for traditional Arabic coffee made in the old fashioned dallahs over a fire. I also really like Turkish coffee which has strong flavors of cardamom and almost seems like a good rich dark chocolate (without sugar). I like dark roasts and bold roasts and there are even some flavored coffee beans that I enjoy (hazelnut, and some of the seasonal specialties). I have never developed a taste for chicory. I do not understand the purpose of adding this to coffee. Suffice to say, just leave it out of mine, thanks. My favorite coffee of all times is actually called Deathwish. Aside from having a badass label and accessories with skulls on them, they really have the strongest, most caffeinated, and smoothest brew I have ever tasted. They have their original and Valhalla Java (Odinforce Blend). The company also produces k-cups of both lines for the times when you just gotta have it and don’t have time for a whole pot of brew. You can check it out at But I digress… I just really love my coffee.

We can discuss for a while the various types, brands, species… of beans. For instance, I understand that Jamaica Blue Mountain is supposed to be one of the best coffees. The Kona from Hawaii is also highly prized. Kopi Luwak… um… yeah. So, apparently, the most expensive coffee in the world, also called civet coffee, costs roughly $60 an ounce ($2.50 per gram… for those on metric). Why is it so dear? Well, apparently it has to do with the rarity and difficulty of the process of obtaining the beans. I also truly believe the price is jacked up because there are crazy people willing to pay nearly $900 for a kilo of the stuff. This particular type of coffee is obtained through a digestive process; specifically, the digestive process of an Asian palm civet. This creature is, I believe, related to a cat or raccoon or possibly a ferret, but looks like a cross between a rat and a possum to me, and truly could have been used as a model for The Princess Bride ROUSes. They are about the size of a housecat. They apparently like to eat the coffee cherries. For those who don’t know, coffee beans are not beans or legumes at all. They are, in fact, the pit or stone of a small red fruit that looks like… well, a cherry. So, the coffee cherries, which taste nothing like the fruit we normally eat on top of chocolate fudge cake or sundaes, are eaten by these little creatures. Since their digestive systems do nothing to the hard central seed of the fruit, it does what all indigestible material does… it passes right on through. And… you guessed it, the civet defecates the remainders, and people collect it and rinse (we hope) to collect the coffee beans from the rest of the undigested material. The beans are then taken through the rest of the process like other coffee beans and sold for large amounts of cash to people with, in my opinion, more money than sense. I really have to wonder if it isn’t some sort of novelty joke. “Here, dear. You’ve always said my coffee tastes like crap…”

I have to wonder. Who actually was wandering around Asia and saw this little weasel thing take a dump and said, “Hey, I think I’m gonna dig around in the poop and see what’s in there!” Subsequently finding coffee beans… they decided to grind up and make a potion out of it?!? Really? I am consistently wondering about the human race and how we came to eat and drink some of the things we did. This one, however, takes the cake… or the bean… or the cup of coffee.

So, Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world is crap. Quite literally, it is. However, some people say that the process makes it smoother and less acidic. I would have zero clue about this since I cannot afford $23 cup of coffee… Maybe when I win the lottery, I’ll give it a try. In the meantime, I will continue to drink my coffee without running it through a small mammal. Coffeewitch needs her coffee.

The Girl Scouts are coming… The Girl Scouts are coming…


It seems that every time I turn around, I see emails, messages, social media, and broadcasts of impending doom. I’m talking about Girl Scout Cookie season.

While this may seem like an overly dramatic description of the phenomenon, for someone who is trying their best to maintain a healthy lifestyle and make good, healthy food choices it is the proverbial quicksand… that slide into the dreadful abyss that finds me hiding in a dark corner surrounded by crumbs whispering “My precious…” to an empty box. It can be quite devastating. For all that I have will of steel most of the time, these tiny malicious purveyors of sugary sin cut through like kryptonite knife applied to Superman. It’s horrible, that I can be reduced to such weakness by the mere sight of a Trefoil.

Oh the humanity!

As a friend describes the struggle, “It’s when I find myself in emotionally fragile moments actively seeking out Girl Scouts…” Yes… it can be like that. More frequently, though, I find that I can’t escape the young green-clad forces. If I have fair warning, I tend to become a hermit, steering clear of grocery stores, hiding inside my house, and putting my head between my knees until it passes. Sometimes, you just can’t hide. Occasionally the little blighters will get a jumpstart before I’ve had fair warning.

I found that the Girl Scout official site has a little script running that allows you to put in your zip code to see when the cookie season starts in your vicinity. They even have an app for that, like a tiny little locator tool on your phone for finding those little food-crack distributors. The problem is that living in certain areas, when one troop ends their season, another begins. It is a constant barrage of the sugar, fat, and flavors.

I’ve had so many kind friends try to help me. They say, “Buy them and stick them in the freezer…” Ok, and then what, send the freezer to a foreign country, because honestly I still know where my freezer is and it is not safe from my vampire-like blood-lust for the cookies (perhaps the ingredients in these morsels are not so wholesome as we thought, but more about that later). Sure, those boxes will keep fresh in the cool environment… they will also be easily retrieved in the middle of the night while I devour a whole box of Tagalongs. “Oh,” they say with great sagely nodding, “but you can just limit yourself to a couple of cookies and put the rest away. Portion them out.” Bwahahahahahaha!!! They say it with a straight face, too. I’ve had this same discussion with myself for quite a number of decades now, and I will tell you that if I eat a Thin Mint (any of you ever try to eat just ONE Thin Mint?!?)… I will eat a whole sleeve, if not the entire box. I mean, really. They cannot mean for you not to do so. The cellophane wrapped around those little crisp minty-chocolate wonders meant to keep out air and moisture and maintain freshness… has all the resealability (I totally made that word up) of a Kleenex. It practically dissolves when I look at it, and to my knowledge, I have not yet developed laser eyes. It’s not like you can put them back.

When I was finally diagnosed with intolerance for wheat, I thought that I might be safe. Seriously, the glutard in me was going to be my savior from the cookies. But nooooooo. They came up with gluten free offering (Toffee-tastic, who comes up with these names?!?) that won’t hurt my delicate digestive system… while utterly destroying my willpower and mangling my dietary choices.

So, I’ve never had a particularly demanding sweet tooth. I never begged for candy or cookies or sweets of any kind as a child. BUT… Girl Scout cookies are different. I cannot resist the pull. If they are out of site, they are out of mind, but as soon as I hear the siren call of “My daughter is selling Girl Scout cookies…” I can’t help myself. I am a ravening beast. I must have the cookies. I turn into a…a… dare I say it… a Cookie Monster. It’s crazy. So, I started thinking to myself. Self, says I… what is it about the Girl Scout cookies. Is there some secret ingredient, addictive chemical that makes me putty in the green-clad hands?


So… that prompted a considering discussion. Perhaps, as Wednesday Addams says they are made with real, authentic Girl Scouts. Packed with vitamins and protein? Would that be organic, or would that entirely depend upon the diet of the contributing scout? How can we make sure that we are getting the best quality? Could there be a merit award system (their badges) that might lead to failure to meet their sales quota and so those failing to meet must contribute in other ways? Would that make the quality of the cookie better or worse? In my head, suddenly was imagined the most horrid and twisted version that has ever been considered by the Bros. Grimm. I could hear the discussion among my most deviant chums. “Can I get the nutritional information on these Do-si-dos? I do not think the Girl Scout contributing was fed organic produce.” All in all, I suppose I should be somewhat distressed by my ghoulish turn of mind. I could imagine tracking and hunting of Girl Scouts could take on a whole new meaning.

All that being said… the truth is, those small green bedecked creatures with their collections of colorful badges displayed on the sashes across their chests still cause me to avoid eye contact and scurry past the tables laden with boxes for fear that I will ultimately lose control and find myself weary, sated, glutinous heap, and incarcerated from eating 24 boxes of Samoas and blocking the entrance to the Kroger… surrounded by the judgmental stares of the vicious little sales women, their troop leaders, and disgusted passersby.

Last night, as I had one of the aforementioned emotionally fragile, nay… unstable moments that led to a horrible (and thankfully rare) instance of vaguebooking on my part, I considered to myself that there may be cookies out there, and used the application on their website only to find that the season has started and there are no table events planned. Salvation, because I’m pretty sure I would have devoured multiple boxes and depleted my bank account to try the new additions to the lineup that I’ve never tried (and would be disastrous for my digestive system): Cranberry Citrus Crisps, Lemonades, Savannah Smiles, Thanks-a-lot, and Trios… I’ll be honest. They can keep the Rah-Rah Raisins. Ew. Since none of the species were in evidence, I was saved from sugar-gluten-chocolaty shame and self-loathing (more so than I was already feeling). It’s a cookie season miracle! God bless us every one! Sorry, that slipped out.

Well… that about does it. I’ve poured out my heart concerning the trials and tribulations of the strange craving caused by those devious boxes of confection. Gird your loins and prepare to do battle with your hunger pangs… you will start to see them soon. You have been warned.

Girl Scout Cookies and where to find them –

This crazy fact about Girl Scout cookies is shocking fans everywhere –

Physical Fit: Mind the Gap

This is not so much a rant as a rambling, trip around my thoughts regarding appropriate gym etiquette. I’ve discussed some of my issues before about crowding and personal space. Lately, it has beset my thoughts with ruminations of “Why?” And so… here we go…

I recently posted about what I like to call “Gym-crowding” month. This is always a bit of a difficult time for me as I am not a fan of the press of human flesh. So, with the turn of the year bringing colder months and the recognition of “Oh, hell what all did I eat during the holidays?!?” it makes it all the more difficult to return to the gym and get back on track for my fitness and health routine. I just really dislike having to fight for my right to elliptical or experiencing the awkwardness of jostling to get to a machine or weights with another patron as we race to see who can get there first. It just doesn’t work for me. In truth, had I been lucky enough to choose the right numbers in a recent lottery; I would probably invest in my own home gym and be done with it. However, I didn’t win any large amounts of cash, and I still believe it is probably in my best interests to get out of my house to workout.

As it happens, my gym recognizes those of us who are decidedly introverted, and in an attempt to cater to our dislike of our own kind and possibly good business sense of spreading their business through the day, the management of Planet Fitness provide information about gym population based on time of day. It’s fairly accurate (while experiencing some off tally fluctuations throughout the year). I can look at their numbers and see that there are times when I would encounter fewer rivals for the tricep machine. Most of this information is rather intuitive. You know that there are going to be more people right after work. You can pretty well guess that the middle of the night is less populated (my gym is 24-hour). There are a few surprising things, though. For instance, lunch is a little bit of a rush. There are a good many people that like to take their lunch break at the gym, I suppose. Additionally, there is some sort of strange mid-afternoon spike. So, the data provided by the management, is appreciated. I find that my favorite times are early morning before I go to work or sometime before the actual lunch rush. I take an early lunch to hit it before the crowd does. I avoid the place after work. My absolute favorite is my weekend workouts. I can usually rely on Saturday and Sunday mornings being a ghost town with only a few of us rattling around in the big place like dried peas in a tin can. It’s heaven. I can also take as much time as I like without having to rush back to work or get out of someone else’s way. But… I digress. I told you this might get a little rambling.

I suppose, if I veer back towards topic, I would have to say that I noticed an odd phenomenon starting about 5 or 6 months ago. It was subtle and random at first. I was fairly certain it was merely coincidental. However, after some generally consistent repetitive occurrence of the incidents, I can say that there appears to be a pattern.

I am a striking person by appearance. I am tall. I am by no means delicate or fragile in appearance. I am Amazonian rather than willowy. I believe that I have discussed this before in a previous post. I do not precisely fade into the background, but I am not winning any beauty pageants. I’m totally ok with this. However, recently it seems that if I take on the appearance of a soaking wet rag and smell like an overheated horse, I can’t beat people off with a stick. I have started to wonder if by chance I have some sort of powerful pheromones that can knock people out of any common sense they might possess. However, for those of you who may even remember biology class when we discussed various biological and chemical processes of the mating behaviors of fauna, you would remember that pheromones generally have the impact of attracting the opposite gender and, to put no fine point upon it, totally pissing off members of the same sex.

Something is very, very wrong with my chemistry. I have come to this conclusion after months of observation and frustration. Picture it: I schedule my gym time to give me a mid-morning break from job stress and hopefully give me the best shot at a less crowded gym. Sure enough, walking in, I perceive that there are a mere handful of individuals scattered through the facility. It was great. I figured I would be completely in my groove sans molestation by the talkers, walkers, and generally intrusive members of my species. I was sadly mistaken, and I was approached by no less than three… yes, three men that all used as their initiating salvo “How you doin’?” or something equally ridiculous. Seriously, this happened. So, this was my first inkling that something had gone wonky in my universe. The pattern continued, and as time wore on, it wasn’t just the men. Nope. Women joined in and wanted to talk to me about everything from workouts to soap opera characters (of whom I had literally zero knowledge nor did I wish to have).

Over time, it happened more and more frequently. I switched up my routine and started getting in my workout earlier in the day. I figured people don’t want to talk to you at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning. For the most part I was correct. Then, the sad day arrived… it seems my sweat has powers to rival the most powerful of attraction tonics. The gym was all but empty. There were no less than 15 empty elliptical machines, not to mention a plethora of other cardiovascular exercise equipment. I chose one on the end so that I was safe from incursion on at least one side. It didn’t save me. Two ladies entered and while one stood on the empty side of me looking around and talking to her friend loudly, the other took up her progress on the other side using the elliptical immediately adjacent to mine. I resisted the urge to stop and in my best tour director impersonation identify and direct them to the now 14 other options for elliptical that would not require them being right next to me.

I focused my attention on my own progress, listened to my headphones, and tried to ignore the intrusion to my personal bubble. I figured that they would probably do their own thing and as I had not made eye contact nor acknowledged them in any way. I was… mistaken. Oh heavens, I was!

They had started by talking over around and through me, but then, each of them attempted to draw me into conversation with little comments, questions, remarks… Any of you try to hold a conversation while running on an elliptical? Well… maybe folks reading this are more adept with their physical coordination and maybe have more stamina and breath. I do not have that capability, honestly. If I split my attention from what is coming through my headphones, the display screens in front of me, and the physical movements of arms and legs, I am very likely to be catapulted into the treadmills immediately behind and cause quite a commotion if not some nasty injuries to myself. Additionally, I do not speak English before coffee. I don’t speak human before coffee, and most people are lucky if I do not sink fangs in response to any attempts to communicate pre-caffeine. These women had very obviously not gotten the memo. However, after their 10 minutes of talk and elliptical, they departed to allow me peace in which to finish my own 40 minute “run.”

The whole experience and that of the previous months has caused me to wonder what prompts people to invade the space. A friend called it the “gym equivalent of the guy that doesn’t respect the urinal gap.”

I cannot decide if it is just the overtly friendly nature of extroversion, or if it is generally some lack of social perception that would prompt people to push into another human’s personal bubble. Like I mentioned, I briefly considered the pheromone prospect, but I don’t know if that is a viable thesis. It remains to be seen and I suspect testing that might be a more disgusting journey than I am willing to embark upon.

So, for the time being, if you, dear reader, happen to be out there in the world of the workout, be respectful of the personal bubble. You may feel compelled to speak to that person lifting weights or sweating on the cardio machine. You might assume that they, as part of the human race share your desire for social interaction. You can think about it… but don’t do it. Seriously, take a moment to consider that the person is there concentrating and working towards their goals with purpose. If you truly wish to converse with a stranger at the gym… do so in the lobby or at the water fountain or for the love of all that is holy in that little area where people sit to consult with the trainers, but let the person enjoying their gym have some peace in which to do so. Additionally… always mind the gap.

Confessions of a Designing Woman

I wanted to be Julia Sugarbaker. For any of you old enough to have watched a little show called Designing Women, you will recall it was about a design firm in Atlanta, Georgia founded, owned, and operated by two Sugarbaker sisters played by Dixie Carter and Delta Burke. It also included Annie Potts as a designer and Jean Smart as the bookkeeper. Other cast members came and went through the run of the show, but those were the four that I watched the most, and in my opinion, it was when the show was the best. There was, of course Meshach Taylor who played Anthony, and Alice Ghostley who provided substance to the pride the south has in our crazy relatives. And let’s not forget the intro with Ray Charles singing Georgia On My Mind. All of the characters were loveable and moreover, for those of us who live, have lived, or have relatives in the southern United States will attest, the situations and personalities were recognizable and identifiable. It saddens me to think how many of that cast are no longer with us.

I know, and I’ve always known that these were skilled actors playing roles that were written rather than real people that were merely walking around in Atlanta being filmed (this was when television was for entertainment rather than reality), but I always felt that Julia Sugarbaker was a lot of Dixie Carter, and Dixie was a whole lot of who Julie Sugarbaker was. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to look like her, and heaven forbid I ever have to wear 1980’s era shoulder pads again… and let’s not get started about the hair styles. I have no secret desire to be an interior decorator, and anyone who has been to my house can testify to the fact that I have no talent in that arena. It wasn’t even so much that I held the same beliefs or political leanings or opinions on every issue. It was that no matter how passionate, incensed, outraged, or emotionally touched she was, she always managed to express herself in a way that sounded intelligent, well-read, and witty. I am sad to say that for me, that skill is absent. I find more and more as I get older, my passions and emotions seem to deprive me of the ability to speak English or any other language. I get tongue-tied, flabbergasted, and gobsmacked with alarming frequency; occasionally resulting in embarrassing leakage from the ocular region. Thankfully the leaks have not become system wide.

Julia Sugarbaker never resorted to cursing (or cussing as they say in the South). Vulgarity was never a substitute for wit. She managed to convey everything she needed to in erudite verbiage that likely made the target feel even smaller than if she had laid upon him/her with a barrage of F-bombs.

Now, I won’t say that an occasionally utilized swear word placed appropriately and not too frequently can’t carry some powerful emotions. I cannot say that my own language is as squeaky clean as my mum would prefer. Indeed, I cuss too much, and I’m working on it. However, I have to admit that when I stub a toe on an offending piece of furniture, it does seem to hurt less with a generous helping of abuse seasoned with @#$% and a couple of &%#$@*%#$&. It’s not that I don’t know better words. Test scores going all the way back into my primary school have shown that my verbal acumen is actually not too bad. I can pull out the five-dollar words with the best of them, and yet… when I get into a situation where my physical or emotional feelings are imperiled, I end up falling back upon @#$%.

It’s a shame really, and as I said, I’m working on it. I’m even thinking of having one of those jars that I have to put money in every time I use a swear word. On the other hand, that would require me actually having the cash on hand all the time given my propensity to stub a toe (I am also blessed with a considerable lack of physical grace). So, I will endeavor to improve my communication skills by limiting my forays into the land of the loose language, and I suspect the other secret to being more like Julia/Dixie is to listen more than speak. We’ll see how well that goes.


Physical Fit: ‘Tis the season…


And all the people said… “She’s lost her mind… or her calendar because we just finished all that nonsense.”

No, friends, I do not actually mean the holiday season. I mean the Oh-dear-lord-I-ate-everything-my-resolution-is-to-get-fit-by-swimsuit season. This is the time when former couch tubers, or even gym frequenters who let things get a little on the slidy side (yeah, I made it up)… during the holiday gatherings, parties, and all out gorge fests that started sometime around Halloween… start to head in droves, pushed by self-loathing for their slackness, the fear of cellulite, or New Year’s resolutions, to the temples of physical fitness. Yes, it is gym-crowding month.

I say “month,” but it can sometimes last all the way into March. It’s a well-known phenomenon. Several of my friends who go to the gym discuss the frustrations. It isn’t that any of us begrudge the people for wanting to make a positive change. However, while we applaud their desire, there is generally a lack of follow through, and in the meantime… we’re tripping over them. It just seems that the gym-crowders think that merely showing up is going to transform them overnight. It’s probably similar to my own feelings about skiing the first time.

I was excited to go. I had several friends that love to snow ski. So, off I went. I rented the skis and boots and all that. We went out and had a few trips down the “bunny” slope. I was told that I’m a natural… awesome. This will be fun. I rode up on the lift. Got off and was the only one who did not fall doing so. And… that’s pretty much the end of the fun. Going down the ”not-bunny” slope I was not a natural. I finally figured out that my best way of stopping was to just fall over. I got to the bottom. I was damp, cold, and had zero feeling in my toes because the boots cut off all circulation. While I knew that I couldn’t expect to become an Olympic skier in a day, I also figured out pretty quickly that the après-ski was probably more my thing that the actual ski.

In truth, there are a lot of people like that with the gym. They are excited to get started. They make the preparations (membership, shoes, yoga pants). They have every intention of making that change, going to the gym at least 3 times per week, becoming a healthier, happier, leaner self. And that is where it stops. They get there and figure out in a hurry that this sweating thing is not their thing. Or perhaps they realize that exercising in a public place isn’t their thing… or driving to a gym and fighting for the elliptical is not their thing. The list goes on and on, but for whatever reason, they start tapering off. One by one they go, until the gym population stabilizes usually sometime in the summer, with minor fluctuations for people panicking before trips to tropical places where clothing is more revealing. Eventually, the population starts declining again in autumn, but sometimes that’s hard to really judge in a college town due to student gym members adding to the “usual crowd.” By November, the decrease is more noticeable until the end of December brings a ghost-town-like feel to the place… and we’ve cycled back around. It is familiar. Those of us going through a few years of the cycle have come to expect it. New to the scene regulars have a momentary panic followed by intense frustration with the newbies wandering around aimlessly hoping for insight about how to use the contraptions.

This is really only my second year of observation. I was a newbie myself not that long ago. So, I feel for these folks who want to make good choices and live healthier lives (and look better in their clothing). I’ve been there. I’ve done this, and I watch with sad eyes, trying to pick out the folks who will have the stick-with-it to hold out past the first quarter.

What I have found, purely through my observations, is that there are common threads to the people who actually make the gym a new, healthy habit instead of a short lived fad in their lives.

Buddy System vs. Going Solo. There is a lot to be said for an “accountability partner.” A lot of people who start going to the gym to support someone else find themselves getting healthier, and there is a sense of, “I need to go to support John (or Sylvia or Bruce).” The problem with this? If that person stops going, that impetus of supporting them and going often stops, too. Accountability should be to oneself. There is nothing wrong with peer encouragement to get the ball rolling, but for true sustainability, internalize some of that encouragement to have it with you even when your friend can’t be. Another problem with what I will call the partner system is that sometimes one or the other partner outstrips the progress in the working out process. If that social part of the gym-going is all that is keeping it going, that will eventually be a problem because one will be holding the other back, or the other will feel left out and stop. In the meantime, may I say, that the social-goers and clique brigades also can cause some problems for the regular gym population by stopping in the middle and tying up machines just to have a conversation, sometimes in large clumps. There is nothing wrong with a little conversation and social support to make gym time a fun time, but when clusters of people block the flow in a crowded gym while spewing negative gossip (I’ve actually been subjected to this and heard well more about people than I ever wanted to know; headphones were not able to prevent their loud conversation from penetrating)… it can really detract from the experience for all.

Ignorance vs. Instruction. Literally, I mean ignorance. I don’t mean it as a derogatory term. I mean that people have no knowledge of fitness, physical exercise, or more importantly how that thingie works. So, when they fumble around and misuse equipment (misuse their own bodies), occasionally, there is injury. That puts a kibosh on the whole gym-tendance (I made that up, too).

Embarrassment vs. Intimidation. This relates to the topic above and then bleeds over to other areas. I am lucky enough to belong to Planet Fitness. I say lucky because of a topic I will address in a moment. However, one of the great things about the organization is their “no gymtimidation” thing. They mean it. There are still going to be some people who see people working out at varying degrees of expertise and, in a panic, run for the door, but for the most part, that atmosphere of the beefcake club is not present at my gym. People seem genuinely welcoming. Most people will leave you the hell alone (I said most). There is less of the designer workout gear and perfectly toned physiques displayed. People tend to wear comfortable, sometimes ratty athletic wear and they sweat and look sometimes pretty flaming atrocious (at least I usually do). The people there look like they are there to work out and not judge. So, it is a comfortable environment for people who are new to gym membership and may be a little more self-conscious about their appearance during exercise. Embarrassment and discomfort are a major reasons for drop-out.

Not-asking-for-help (see Ignorance). Playing into the embarrassment factor is the not-asking-for-help thing. All those contraptions! Most people are familiar with the stationery bikes and the treadmills. Additionally, anyone with a television has probably seen ellipticals in varying forms (I can actually attest that using one is not intuitive… it takes a minute to get the hang of it, and there is coordination involved… it nearly did me in the first time). However, there are a lot of machines that people have never seen, certainly never used, and moreover are disinclined to go find someone and ask. So, they pay for gym membership, go a few times, can’t figure out how to work the thingie-with-the-whatnot-that-does-something, and eventually stop going because it is “Just a waste of time and money. I can do most of that stuff at home” or they get hurt because of not using the machine… or their body correctly. The point being, that there is usually someone working at the gym that would be more than pleased to help anyone learn how to properly use the equipment. Often there is a trainer there who not only will help a member learn how to use the thingie-with-the-whatnot-that-does-something, but they will actually help design a specific program to achieve the goals desired. There should be no embarrassment in letting the people do their job.

Proximity. This is a big one, bigger than you realize. Everyone gets excited after making their New Year’s promises to themselves and heading out to purchase a gym membership. However, if you have to drive more than 20 minutes, it is unlikely that you will continue that pattern of behavior. In fact, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is a negative correlation between distance of the gym from your home and the amount of time you go (meaning that you are less likely to continue going to the gym the further away it is from your house). For my experience, I will admit that the reason I am in my second year of post-holiday-pocalypse-gym-invasion is because I am literally 5 minutes away. This is the lucky thing that I was talking about earlier. My home Planet Fitness location is nice, clean, and 5 minutes from my house. It’s perfect for me. Seriously. When I travel, now, I have a membership which will allow me to go to other locations for the franchise (bless that black card membership). Occasionally, I have driven as far as 20 minutes to get to the closest gym. However, I know good and well that I would not have done this had my routine and gym habits not already been established. If my gym home was further away or I had to drive well out of my way to go, chances are that work, home, fatigue, and general lassitude would have intervened eventually, and I would have dropped out and gone back to my tuber-like ways. Choosing a facility that is convenient is so important to the longevity of the gym-going. If your workplace has a gym, excellent! Use it. You will be more likely to continue because it is right there. If your apartment complex, condo, home owners association neighborhood has a central recreation center with a workout facility, awesome! If none of these scenarios are available, and if you work outside the home, try to find a gym that is on your route. If you have to pass by it on the way to work or the way home from work, you have a better chance of actually going. If you have the dollars and space to dedicate to a home gym… it’s better than driving over 20 minutes, but you may be less inclined to stick with a workout routine because “I can do that later… or sometime… or *zzzzzz*.” So, with the proximity, there is also the idea that if you go with a purpose and schedule the time to actually go, you may be more likely to make it a continual thing.

Where was I going with all of this? I think I started in one direction and ended up meandering all over and winding up somewhere else entirely. And that’s just fine, because even if my gym feels a little crowded at the moment, and I may growl a bit when I’m having my personal space bubble decreased, I do truly want people to make healthier choices for themselves. So… Merry Gym-Crowding!