How Do You Find Gyms While Traveling?

I don’t always get the luxury of having a hotel gym at the ready when traveling. At home, I work at a boutique gym and have a membership at a big box gym with a very strong west coast presence (read: Tough to find anywhere except California, Oregon and Washington). I lucked out when spending a week in Pennsylvania with a chain near the conference—but with a trip to Nashville and Manhattan coming up, my luck has run out.

I don’t have a problem paying a daily pass for a gym. In fact, I’d love to! I like to see what other gyms have to offer, what their vibe is, and maybe even check out some new equipment. When I travel, I usually like to take my cardio outside and explore the parks and trails. However, there’s only so much you can do when it comes to strength training and building muscle with no equipment. I need those weights, and going a week (or more!) without them won’t just lead to muscle loss. It’ll mean serious soreness when I get back to my normal routine, and that’s a handicap I just can’t take as a lifting instructor.

The Gym Struggle

While preparing for my Nashville trip, I started looking at gyms within a few miles of my Air BnB. Then I looked farther. There are, miraculously, no big box gyms anywhere nearby. I reached out to all of the boutique gyms and was turned down in succession. Nobody wants to offer a daily pass to an out of state visitor, even when I told them I’d pay anything to get in a quick session. (I was, however, routinely pressured into buying memberships, personal training sessions, and group classes even though I repeatedly told them I was only in town for a few days).

The same happened again when I reached out to gyms in New York. I won’t name names, but one particular chain (with an already suffering reputation) featured a phone rep that stuck so closely to the script it was like talking to a robot. Ultimately, though, the answer was no. They wouldn’t let me have day passes, but were happy to try and pair me with a personal trainer and membership. When I told them that I am a personal trainer, I was told “We don’t cater to fitness fanatics.”


I get it. I know gyms make a lot of money by banking on members that sign up, pay, and never show up. Offering a day pass, even at a premium rate, ensures that the visitor will be using that pass. And they don’t know what kind of resources you’ll be draining. Hogging equipment, spending hours in the hot tub, taking lengthy showers? It’s all possible. It doesn’t matter that all I really want is 45 minutes with three sets of free weights.

I was, however, able to find a very reasonable solution in both states. In Nashville, the local YMCA offered a day pass along with very generous hours (starting at 5 a.m.!). In New York, I connected with the Young Men & Young Women Hebrew Association (which, by the way, doesn’t care what a visitor’s background entails when signing you up!). The YMCA’s rates are semi-high at $15 per day, but at the Young Men & Young Women Hebrew Association, I’m being charged just $10 total with unlimited access for the week I’m there.

More than the access to these facilities and, in New York’s case, the very affordable rates, I also linked up with some very kind and understanding managers. There were no sales, no hoop-jumping, and no wasted time. It took looking outside what we consider “traditional gyms” to find a solution that worked for me.

Where and how do you get gym access when traveling and hotel fitness rooms aren’t an option?

Where Are All The Brown People?

And the men? And the ones with natural hair, softer waists, who retired decades ago and the differently abled yogis? I’m not just talking about in traditional studios, but in “yoga photos,” too. Have you taken a look at stock photos for yoga recently? Probably not unless you’re in a certain field, but trust me when I say they all look the same.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking—especially if you’ve seen my photos. I know because I’ve been told the same thing to my face. “What does this white, very average yoga-looking woman have to say about ‘diversity’ in yoga?” (Besides the fact that I have very mixed feeling about the term “diverse”?).

When I first started my practice, I certainly didn’t think I belonged in the average Portland yoga studio. Many times, I still don’t. As a “whitewashed” Native American/Cherokee woman, my own journey of feeling half in one world and half in another, while never really belonging or being accepted in either, definitely trickled over into my yoga practice. In fact, my first priority when founding Get it Ohm! was to offer karmic classes to the Native American community. But that’s an entirely different story.

Then there was the issue of weight. When I first started yoga practice, I was at my heaviest. I gained over 100 pounds during my freshman year of college and hovered around 250 at just under five-foot-seven. I did not belong with those svelte, stretchy, seemingly white girls in those bamboo-floored studios. And some of them, by way of very deliberately ignoring me, made sure I knew it.

Starting your yoga practice is very scary, especially in a group setting. Or at least it can be. There are clear markers of what makes a stereotypical yoga studio, and for those of us who didn’t come from that kind of background and grooming, all these signs feel like they’re telling us to get out. I had the wrong clothes, the wrong yoga mat, and didn’t know how long to let my complimentary tea steep before removing the bag. My thighs touched, a lot, and it seemed like nobody else’s did. I wanted to run out of there and it took every bit of willpower (okay, and knowing how embarrassed I’d be) to stay.

And I was one of the stubborn ones. What about the ones who aren’t stubborn enough to go and stay? Those are the ones we’re losing. And we’re missing out on their lack of presence just as much as they are.

What’s a Yogi to You?

If you think about the clichéd yogi, you’ll probably find them in most traditional yoga studios. Let’s face it—the crowd is pretty homogeneous. To make things worse, everyone starts to dress the same, too. Yes, this is because you figure out which clothes and mats are the most comfortable and (surprise!) thanks to word of mouth, the majority agree on certain brands. That might make for a comfortable practice, but it certainly doesn’t help with the idea that a “real yogi” looks a certain way.

Unfortunately, it’s largely up to each individual person to brave what can be a petrifying challenge and show up to a yoga class where they feel out of place and unwelcome. Given the nature of many yoga classes, which encourage silence and “me time” for light stretching and meditation before a class, there’s no real avenue for a newcomer to reach out and seek help, encouragement, or even a kind smile (or vice versa).

So what can we do as yogis, as teachers, or as someone who works the front desk of a yoga studio? It’s going to take conscious efforts to ensure every single person feels like they belong. If you see someone you don’t recognize, and especially someone who looks uncomfortable, show some kindness. Introduce yourself. Smile—with authenticity. Be an ambassador of “your” studio whether you own it, work there, teach there, or simply practice there regularly.

Remember that we were all beginners once. We’ve all been the new student before, whether in yoga or maybe it was that time in seventh grade when you wound up at a new school and didn’t know where to set down your tray in the cafeteria. That awkward adolescent still lives in all of us regardless of how we appear on the outside.

It’s all our job, as yogis, to open the doors of yoga to every new practitioner. Yoga is steeped in the practice of karma, so challenge yourself to do some good the next time you head to class. Your kindness might be the sole difference between helping a new student return—or decide that yoga just isn’t for them, for good.

We All Remember Our First

Just like many firsts, my first yoga class has some technicalities. Some subjectivity. Technically, my first class was during the first quarter of my sophomore year in college. That was 15 years ago. I knew nothing about yoga besides the fact that it was getting trendy and I’m pretty sure the women who did it looked good. Plus, “rich” with student loans, it seemed free. That class was held on still-wet wrestling mats in the humid and rank university gym, and led by an elderly man who only instructed us into one two-minute asana (pose) the entire time—and it was partner yoga. Where we had to touch each other’s feet. A stranger’s foot. Yeah.

The rest of the class was spent telling us which bones, ligaments, muscle groups and other anatomy tidbits we’d be required to memorize for next week’s semi-surprise quiz. I dropped that class immediately.

What I consider my real first class took place at a very upscale yoga studio in Portland’s Pearl District a few months later. They offered a couple of free classes per week to help their teachers-in-training get some experience. It was intimidating, it was scary, and I felt totally out of place (that freshman 15 was turning into a sophomore 60-100). I kept going to that same studio for three years.

I quickly learned that the structure of these free classes was identical every time. Through repetition, I learned both the Sanskrit and English names of numerous poses. It was like a non-hot modified version of Bikram Yoga. I clearly remember thinking how difficult downward dog was to hold during my first class, how far my heels were from the floor, and the instructor saying, “Eventually, you’ll think of downward dog as a resting pose.” I thought she was insane.

I also remember the terror of crow pose. There was absolutely no way I could ever do that arm balance. Or any arm balance. However, it was just like everyone said—one day, it’ll just click and you’ll pop your knees right onto your arms like you’ve been doing it for years. (Although I must admit it was disheartening when I showed my mom and she said, “Kids were doing that when I was in elementary school.” But, hey, at least children of the Depression were doing yoga!).

In the early aughts, there was a smorgasbord of free (karmic) yoga classes around the Portland area and I tried them all. There were the ones where we had to chant “Ohm” for half of the class, the hot yoga classes, the kirtan classes and the rock ‘n’ roll classes led by former military bootcamp instructors.

And they were right. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. The less scary it gets. The more you form a very strong opinion of your favorite type of yoga mat (Jade … I’m sorry, bank account) and yoga pant brand (stereotypically Lulus … I’m very sorry, bank account).

The yoga community is a very warm and welcoming one—or at least it should be. And if it’s not? Don’t let those bad apples get in the way of your practice no matter how new yoga may be for you. An unwelcoming group or studio just isn’t your people, and that’s their loss. Seriously. Because if they keep shutting people out, they certainly won’t grow, thrive, or make a profit.

My beginning is largely why I started Get it Ohm! I was so lucky and will forever be grateful for all those free yoga classes in my early years of practice. I was a broke college student who truly couldn’t afford a studio membership. Now, it’s time to give back. It’s time for a little good karma (yoga).

Sometimes the best things in life really are free. Like yoga. Hikes. Great love. And those 7-11 Slurpees on July eleventh every year.

Orthorexia: The Unrecognized Monster

Orthorexia is thankfully getting a lot of media attention lately, but it’s still far from being a household word like anorexia and bulimia. Largely, this is because it’s relatively new (coined in 1996 by Dr. Steven Bratman) and it’s not yet a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and other recognized eating disorders are actually mental disorders. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder.

Orthorexia refers to a person with an “unhealthy obsession” with eating healthy and/or leading a healthy lifestyle. Like many types of eating disorders, it can begin innocently enough with an attempt to lose weight and get healthy. In a culture where clean eating, Paleo diets, fasts, raw food consumption, smoothie worship and Instamodels are constantly showcasing the purity of their eating, it’s easy for anyone—including doctors who don’t specialize in eating disorders—to not only glance over developing orthorexia but actually encourage it.

A Narrowing, Harrowing Path

Every day, someone with orthorexia has another chance to “be good” and flex an ironclad will over food and exercise choices. Their diet can become so restrictive that only a handful of “safe foods” are an option. Similar to those with anorexia, embracing a solitary lifestyle and pushing away friends becomes a must. Most social interactions center around food, and that’s just not feasible for someone with orthorexia.

Self-punishment is common when there’s a “slip up,” and they may try to fix that perceived mistake with hours of cardio (also known as exercise bulimia), severe food restriction in following days (anorexia), or purging/bulimia. Just like other restrictive eating disorders, orthorexia might seem to be health-driven, but there are a myriad of possible underlying motivations. Eating disorders are often linked to self-esteem, control, a person’s history, and self-identity amongst numerous other factors.

Orthorexia and Yoga + Strength

I’m solidly in the camp which believes there’s no such thing as being recovered from an eating disorder. Recovering, for life, yes.

Like alcoholism, the real goal is management for life—there’s no “cure.” Even within the most highly regarded eating disorder specialists, there’s a lot of wiggle room when it comes to best practices. Some doctors will encourage patients to never weigh themselves again, and even to avoid gyms and workouts (particularly in the most dire of eating disorder stages). “Exercise bulimia,” or using exerci

se to excessively burn calories consumed and as punishment, is common for those with eating disorders. Many people with eating disorder don’t show symptoms of just one disorder. There’s often a primary eating disorder, but it’s complemented by a sprinkling of others. For example, a person may be largely anoretic (the proper term for someone with anorexia—there’s no such thing as “anorexic” in the medical field), but also exhibit signs of bulimia (purging and/or exercising), orthorexia, and binge eating disorder.

However, with doctor approval, I also see exercise as a potentially powerful tool that can aid in eating disorder management—particularly yoga and strength training. Cardio has its place, certainly, but it’s just a part of a healthy lifestyle. The spiritual aspect of yoga and its gift of nurturing your relationship with all parts of your body introduces you to your whole self in a way eating disorders innately try to block. Strength training helps you realize just how strong and powerful your body is. Strength, growth, and power are all words that the eating disorder despises and fears.

There’s often a thin line between disordered eating and an eating disorder. Many people, especially Americans, exhibit signs of disordered eating from time to time. Binge eating disorder is proving to be especially prevalent. A diagnosed eating disorder, however, is on another level. It’s paramount to seek out doctors who specialize in eating disorders for proper help and diagnoses. Eating disorders are a silent and very deadly killer—including the ones who haven’t made it into the DSM (yet).