I used to think the only reason to go to a gym was if you were in prison – for fitness and so the guy on the top bunk wouldn’t try to make you his girlfriend.

Then I went to a gym in Europe, and I realized gyms were, at least for women, a place where we could wear entire hot pink outfits with matching shoes sponsored by Adidas. It wasn’t even necessary to work out, so long as your outfit was tight and you occasionally walked to the water fountain.

Health and fitness is achieved for many of us in the great outdoors. Unfortunately, the great outdoors here in the Northwest, between blizzards, ice storms, and perpetual grey, can force us indoors more often than not. Our options are to either take up competitive knitting, or drag our resistant rear ends to a gym.

In my case, my gym training this year started early because I apparently need a boulder-accident-free zone until some broken bones heal. With much reluctance, I found myself crutching into a controlled atmosphere earlier than scheduled.

I put on my brightest Puma track suit and prepared to throw around some of those five pounds girl weights and drink from the water fountain. Or I’d just stand around and heckle the squash players.

Much to my surprise, people at the gym were actually sweating. It turns out, gyms are not just places to socialize in wicking fabric, but they indeed have equipment and resources we may use to develop or maintain fitness.

For many of us who like to play outside, it can be a hard sell to come indoors and run on a treadmill. However, there can be many benefits to gym training, not to mention types of gyms that will suit your own health needs. As for me, I prefer a gym with lots of shirtless men, an espresso machine, and a stereo system that drowns out my struggling groans after the third pushup.

If you’re thinking about getting a gym membership to get you through the fall and winter, consider these pros and cons of a few common options:

The neighborhood gym has all kinds of standard equipment from free weights to treadmills, rowing machines to swimming pools. Pros: Regardless of your sport, they probably have some machine that emulates its movement. If you’re into that sort of thing or branching out, they probably have a class where you can break a sweat dancing to Ricky Martin. There are approximately three per square block in urban areas. Cons: You may be exposed to a few people with a tanning bed habit that is nothing less than concerning. No one will be impressed by your race t-shirts.

The neighborhood gym has all types of standard equipment from free weights to treadmills. Photo: Mike Fleming, licensed.

The neighborhood gym has all types of standard equipment from free weights to treadmills. Photo: Mike Fleming, licensed.

The rock gym is like a faux crag that serves as a climber’s alternative to real granite, minus the spiders and snakes. Spokane has Wild Walls, Sandpoint has the Sandpoint Rock Gym, Coeur d’Alene’s Kroc Center has some climbing walls too. Pros: It can double as a date location if you’re a hipster. They are a great place to safely learn how to climb. Cons: They typically have no other equipment with the exception of boards nailed to the wall in what appears to be some sort of inquisition torturing system for your fingers (although Wild Walls does offer several yoga classes a week, and they have some free weights and exercise equipment upstairs).

A CrossFit Box, which is really just a gym with an intense approach to fitness that uses industrial decoration, cultish terminology (I’m pretty sure they name workouts after legendary stripper moves), and a dubstep soundtrack to motivate you through your eight-hundredth pull-up. Pros: It’s socially appropriate for fine human specimens to train in minimalist clothing, which distracts you from the likelihood that you may vomit after your workout. It’s an effective way to cross train during the off season regardless of your sport. Cons: Your friends may roll their eyes when you talk about your training. If you eat bread, you must keep it a secret.

If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you can sneak in some extra winter fitness by experimenting with some indoor sports at a gym. You might just find that a little break from your usual routine brings you some new muscles, some new friends, and come spring, a foundation of strength to build upon. You’ll also be that much more excited about getting back outdoors. //