Most of my book, Footnotes, is about how important it is that we have regular access to an environment that possesses natural aspects, being on that permits the kind of mental repose that can only really come from those places. I also discuss in my book, the weird history of treadmills and that by running on them we, among other things, become part of a longer history of corporal punishment that goes back a couple of centuries. I don’t mean to be hard on the gym, and treadmills in particular, because they do have their uses. It is the easiest place to do strength training after all.
Today, going to the gym, I decided to run a route there, do my weights, and do a short run back (the last bit of course was never going to happen – and it didn’t). But the environment where I live is heavy suburban, and I had to cross tens of roads on my run. It is because of things like this that we are not mentally recharged by these runs. Our directed attentional faculties become depleted by having to assess the numerous threats that busy suburban environments fling at us in the shape of killer-boxes of steel and glass that vroom right by us. Within a few feet of the cars, I found myself holding my breath for a few steps whenever I saw fumes splutter from the ass of some diesel bus. It was a really beautiful day today, but by the time I got to the air-conditioned gym I was glad of the clean air, and the roads that I no longer had to cross, and it made it clear to me why some people prefer it to being outside.
We need more parks and green spaces that are not dominated by cars. The latter do the double of polluting the air and require us to expend mental energy in assessing their movement and intentions when we go out to move. Outside is too important to our bodies and our minds to be given over so easily to motorised commuting.