I first joined a gym in graduate school round 1, over 10 years ago.
At the time, I had gotten a little pudgy (according to me). We had a gym at Seminary, but I was finding all sorts of excuses to not work out, or to do lazy workouts. As a Senior seminarian, I was under a ton of stress to pass all the exams and to find a job, and everyone I knew was all about all the church. My head was in a bad place. I had to have a break. I'm a priest, but I often say I am A Terrible Priest... I get spiritually overfed and I need a BREAK from the Episco-bubble and the praying and the Eucharist stuff.
(Yes. Sorry, Bishops of the Episcopal Church. But if I get too much Eucharist and no Morning Prayer or Compline or nothing time, I get sad and grumpy and bored with doing the same service all the time. End confession.)
So I joined Bally's Gym. I made a little group of friends and all we ever talked about what how we were doing on our fitness goals or the races people were prepping for. It was mentally relaxing. (And I dropped the pudge within a few months. Bonus!)
And since I was paying for the gym, I was very highly motivated to actually go. See, it pays off to be a cheapskate! If I pay for it, I am going to get my money's worth, dammit!
I have, since then, always had either a gym or a tri club that I worked out with- someone else to whom I pay money and then become friends with who keeps me on task. Bonus, no one at the gym or the tri club really knew too much about my work except that I can't join things on Sunday mornings. It's INCREDIBLY relaxing to have people outside the Episco-fold.
So I guess the gym is both physical and mental for me. I need the mental break of normal happy people. I always think of Legally Blonde, when Reese Witherspoon's character explains, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people don't kill their husbands... they just don't!"
Let's hope there's actual science to back that up. But I can confirm that when I am working out, I feel zero to very few homicidal rages.
When we first moved back here, for many reasons, I did not immediately join a new gym. I spent the last year wigging out. Now that things are settling down... I've been doing some work on my anxiety issues. A huge part of my issue is my ability to project into the future: I can plan 9 months out, and rewind a project to figure out what needs to happen when to make a project GO. That is a great work skill.
It's a little nerve racking for a human being just trying to live. I do not do "living in the moment" well.
So I have re-joined a gym, this one near my apartment. It's tough, with classes that are more focused on "work hard" than on "look pretty". That was one element I really liked about this gym. One of the instructors is a guy I have nicknamed "Andrew Giant Muscles" who teaches Boot Class. Man, I was so sore after that workout!
The gym also has a steam room. There's a sauna as well, but I am finding that the steam room might be my winter spirit animal. In a steam room, you sit on a bench while a pipe shoots steam into the room, and you are basically cuddled into a fluffy warm cloud of steamy hot warming warmth. If you tend to have super dry, sensitive skin, or if you don't really sweat a lot, or if you tend to feel supercold all winter, the steam room might just feel like heaven on earth. Time just flies as I sit in the totally silent room (I don't wear my cochlear so I don't have to bother wrapping it up) and finally, finally get warm to my core. I find I am supercharged after a hard workout and the steam room. In fact, if I massage a sore muscle in the steam room, I find it usually dissolves the sore knot in a fraction of the time.
The gym seems to be having a very positive effect on my happiness and anxiety levels. Basically, happiness seems to be up. Anxiety seems to be down. I am spending less time lolling on the couch aimlessly scrolling Netflix and more time lolling on a steam room bench.
Let's see, in three months, if I experience the previous gym effect and get super strong for the summer!