WARNING, PEOPLE: The following is an exercise testimonial.
A year and a half ago I was chatting with my sister in law about starting to exercise again. And by “again,” I mean I don’t think I had worked out regularly in more than 15 years.
As I was hurtling toward 40 I knew I needed to adopt some better habits, and a regular exercise routine could potentially help give me additional strength and energy to keep up with my children. More than anything, I just wanted to feel better.
“You should try a boot camp,” she told me.
Okay, sure! I googled boot camp + Lake Merritt.
During most of my adult years I had viewed exercise as drudgery. I did a bit of running in college, and I loved it. I used to be kind of fast, even! But when you stop exercising, running feels like the worst activity one could ever imagine doing voluntarily. Your body just does not want to move.
I had already tried to get a gym routine going a few years ago. The company I worked for offered a free gym membership and occasional personal trainer sessions to all employees. I would go to the personal trainer once a week, but then I never made time for the gym beyond that. So every week I’d show up, the trainer would chastise me for not doing anything since I last saw him (“bruh, you’re killing me”), and then we’d repeat the process until my free trial ended and by then it was way too expensive to continue the charade.
Over the years, I’d occasionally try to go to the gym by myself, but I’d lose steam after about 20 minutes. I had no self-motivation to push myself, and I’d bounce around different machines, not really having any clue what I was doing.
Around this same time, all these CrossFit people started invading my Facebook feed. Some of my best friends were now getting tagged in photos where they were setting new “PRs” and throwing weights around and talking about their “box” or whatever. Oh god, what is happening to my friends! They’ve joined a deadlifting cult!
Anyway, while googling boot camps I stumbled onto Urban Fitness Oakland, which is a gym not far from Jack London Square. Every new member goes through a personal assessment before they join, and the entire model is built on classes — no machines, no 24-hour gym access. Just team training and personal sessions throughout the day, primarily on weekdays.
I had my initial assessment with a trainer named Alexei, who does jiu jitsu when he’s not teaching classes. The first session was brutal — or at least it felt like it. I nearly vomited after a set of double rope slams. I excused myself to the bathroom, shaking, and then got my composure, returned, and thanked him for his time.
I kept going the rest of that week, met more trainers who were also fantastic, and met a community of people with varied backgrounds — some were athletes, but many were also like me, perhaps just getting back at it. Weeks turned into months, then months turned into a year of going to Urban Fitness 4-5 times a week. It’s a routine I’ve now kept for over a year, and I started to supplement those classes with running on the weekends. Running feels good again, too!
It turns out I needed the class structure, I needed the group accountability, and I needed the instructors to push me and help me. A lot of the exercises are not unlike what my CrossFit friends were doing in their own classes — though probably less emphasis on big weight benchmarks. But I finally understood why they were obsessed.
So this is my heartfelt thank you to everyone at Urban Fitness Oakland. I am grateful for your teaching and encouragement. If you’re in the East Bay you should definitely check them out.