I have been thinking about the consequences of working out (exercising) indoors ever since our campus opened up a state-of-the-art recreation center almost 5 years ago. Two indoor pools, a hot tub, at least 6 basketball courts, an elevated track, a climbing wall, rooms upon rooms of lifting equipment, free weights, exercise machines, step-aerobic class rooms, spinning bikes, treadmills, stationary bikes, and a variety of elliptical machines. It is wonderful to have all of these resources dedicated to helping our community members stay physically fit. Personally, I use the Olympic swimming pool, the free weights, and the elliptical machines the most. I can workout when the weather is cold, icy, and uninviting. I can bring a book and watch TV while using the cardio machines. Working out has never been so comfortable. There is however, an incredible irony with this set up.
By using first person Action Research, self-reflective inquiry practices, and critical autoethnography I am able to examine my everyday actions in light of the values I espouse (i.e. environmentalist, Earth centered ethics, social justice, etc). Judi Marshall (2001) talks about “inquiry as life process,” where thoughts and actions become research, with inquiry is at the core of our being (p. 341). Simply put, it is important to be aware and reflective about how our daily actions affect the earth.
When I use the recreation facility, I consume energy (especially on the exercise machines) by working out inside when an outdoor run or bike could have served the same purpose without using electricity. Here I am, trying to maintain a healthy body, achieve a good balance between the other important aspects of my life (intellectually, spiritually, dietary, interpersonal relationships, etc), when I am actually harming the planet. This is contradictory. I should not use fossil fuel energy in the quest for personal health. When we ride bikes, run, walk, or engage in cardiovascular exercise outside, we do not generate negative externalities in that specific process. We should strive to better our health, but not at the expense of the biosphere.
Marshall, Judi. 2001. “Self-reflective Inquiry Practices.” Handbook of Action Research. Peter Reason and Hillary Bradbury-Huang (Eds). 2008. pp 335 – 342. Los Angles: Sage Publishing.