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Backpacking Fitness

Why We Hate Gyms

Research uncovers a big difference between outdoor fans and gym rats

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A study of 1,800 people released last month by the marketing company, Hanson Dodge Creative, discovered that people who lead active outdoor lifestyles are more adventure oriented while fitness-minded folks approach activity with a single-minded determination. That makes sense. I mean I know few people who take up rock climbing for the “awesome” back muscles it develops, and I know few gym people who find a pick-up soccer game appealing for the reason that they can’t track how many calories they burn/miles they run.

Still, I find the results interesting because in my limited experience, the most popular fitness topic in the various outdoor sports/lifestyle magazines I’ve written for or worked at is, without question, weight loss. And I know from my short stint at a fitness magazine that it’s also the most popular topic among those readers (“Blast 3 Inches Off Your Belly!”). Honestly, I expected the report to demonstrate that the outdoor enthusiast and the fitness-demo had more in common than it did. I didn’t expect the fitness people to see exercise as “energizing.” Nor did I suspect the outdoor population was after pursuing “calm” through their activities. I thought they’d both share those observations.

In the summary post, put out by our colleagues at SNEWS (an outdoor- and fitness-industry news service), they neatly quoted the report’s conclusion, “The fitness-oriented manage life (i.e., seek to control it); the outdoor-oriented ride the waves. The fitness-oriented tend to be lone wolves; the outdoor –oriented tend to be pack animals.”

Granted this report is making some sweeping generalizations, but that’s what marketing people do, they figure out neatly defined categories of customers for companies to chase after. But I’m left perplexed, because, in terms of this report, I’m not an outdoorsman, I’m a fitness freak. Check out the evidence: I have some very specific goals when I exercise (run marathon, climb a mountain, or ride 200 miles over a weekend), and usually I like to run, ride, hike alone. And I admit, I geek out on heart-rate monitors, power-meters, and the numbers on my bathroom scale.

I guess, like millions of others out there, I fall into a weird gray area. Or maybe it’s that fitness people can find a home in the outdoors, but outdoors people are less likely to pursue fitness.

Whaddya think?

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