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Why Health Clubs Are So Nice

I used to work out in health clubs. But, you have to pay. So, one day I got an idea. I would no longer spend $360 on a yearly membership. Instead, I’d spend $360 on workout equipment. Then I’d work out at home for free. It was a worthy idea. It worked nice, for a while.

Working out from the basement

I keep my workout equipment in my basement. I go down there and run on the treadmill. I go down there and grunt and groan as I lift heavy weights. Please note that my definition of heavy is different than Hulk Hogan’s definition. Still, I get some good workouts in down there.

Usually, when I’m done, I feel somewhat winded. But, the winded is from aerobic activity. It’s because I got a good workout. But, today I felt more than just winded. Like, I literally felt dyspneic. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

I went upstairs. My son met me at the top of the steps. He said, “Dad, can you get me a snack?”

I said, “Um, I will as soon as I catch my breath.”

He said, “But, I’m hungry.”

I ignored his plea. I went upstairs. I entered my room. I grabbed my iPhone. I set the pillows up as props, and I leaned against them. I opened up an app. I started playing a game. I paused it, deciding to concentrate on my breathing instead. I could easily take a deep breath. But, I just felt like the air I was getting in wasn’t enough. I could feel a slight tightness in my chest.

And the idea for this post popped into my head.

The difference between working out in basements vs. a health club: Triggers

Why am I winded? Like, I don’t get like this at the health club. Well, I get winded after workouts, sometimes. But never like this. And then it occurred to me: there’s mold and dust in my basement.

Think about it. We just endured a very hot and humid summer. Basements tend to become a lot more humid than the rest of the house. So, what loves warm, humid environments? You guessed it: dust mites and mold spores.

You can even smell the mold down there. I mean, it’s a nice basement. It’s relatively new. The house was built in the 60s (I suppose the definition of “new” also varies from perspective. If you were born in the 1990s, I suppose the 60s is ancient history. But, to me, 60’s is not THAT old. It’s modern. But, I digress).

So, even though it’s a newer house, it doesn’t take long for mold and dust-mites to build up in basements. Now, there are some ways to prevent this. You could run a dehumidifier down there. You could also have central air or a window air unit in the summer. But, I have none of those. Those things are costly. So, my basement has become a breeding ground for those pesky invisible asthma triggers.

So, anyway, back to health clubs.

I started going to health clubs again in March 2018. I did this so I’d have access to more equipment. Like, in your basement you can only store so much. Today, however, it was me alone with my kids. I didn’t want to leave them to go to the health club. So, I worked out in my basement. I did my upper body workout.

I didn’t think anything of it at first. But, as I was inhaling during my workouts, I was unknowingly inhaling invisible asthma triggers. It did not bother me at all until my last series of reps. That’s when I started feeling unusually winded. Like, it was almost a panicky sort of feeling.

So I finished my workout. I went upstairs. There stood my son wanting his snack. I felt bad that I couldn’t get it for him. But, breathing is more important than hunger (in my opinion, anyway).

This is a nice thing about good asthma control. You have flare-ups. They are mild and generally easy to control. A few puffs of Ventolin and just sitting here doing this. I still feel uncomfortable, but it’s neat what time can do. I will be able to get on with my day. I will be able to take my kids to Country Dairy as planned at 1 p.m. today. We will all have fun. The asthma does not stop me from doing things.

Still, it’s annoying.

And that’s why health clubs are nice.

You don’t think of these things every day. I don’t go to the health club thinking, “This is far better than working out in my basement.” But, when you work out in your basement, and it causes you trouble. You realize how nice health clubs are.

At least where I live, health clubs are not in basements. And even if they were, central air keeps the air cool. Health clubs are not breeding grounds for dust mites and mold spores. And, for this asthmatic anyway, they mean a bit more than just gaining muscle, losing weight, and meeting people.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • TracyLee
    12 months ago

    I loved the camaraderie and inspiration at the health club, particularly when I worked remotely out of the house. And I will always be grateful to the person who just had rotator cuff surgery and showed me a safer way to do tricep extensions. I edited a weight lifting book for a trainer in exchange for free sessions on the machines, which was fun.

    But once I developed asthma, there were too many triggers. Dust bunnies in the locker, coats with pet hair on the hooks, a strongly fragranced spray used on the cardio equipment, mold on the shower curtains, fumes from the indoor pool, heavy traffic in the carpeted areas, and dryer sheet fragrance on pretty much everyone.

    Ah well. I’ve got a nice setup at home now (used exercise equipment is often in yard sales here), but I do miss working out with others.

  • Samuel Taylor moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi TracyLee, we appreciate you sharing your experience with us. It’s nice to have a social aspect to your training, I know what you mean. Have you tried contacting different gyms to see if they control for thing like those sprays? Some facilities do their best to manage irritants like that.

    I’ve coached and route-set in many climbing gyms and the chalk was always a trigger for me. However, one gym I worked at made it a point to have “chalk vacuums” to keep chalk out of the air. I never had a trigger there.

    I wish you the best in your work outs, wherever they might be.

    -Samuel, Team

  • TracyLee
    12 months ago

    Samuel, it is good to know that your persistence at going to different climbing gyms led to finding one with a chalk vacuum. I did check out two other gyms that weren’t too far away. One had the same list of triggers, the other one was at a highway intersection with heavy commercial traffic and the diesel fumes inside the building were too much for me. (No vestibule — an entry space between a double set of doors does a great job of keeping outside air out.)

    The city continues to grow and maybe some day there will be other possibilities.

    John, if you read this, my exercise space is in a 1970s concrete basement built before building codes required waterproof sealants on the exterior. It is possible there is mildew between the concrete and the sheetrock, although not enough to see or smell in the finished room.

    The indoor air quality resources I rely on do not consider consumer mold test kits reliable, so all I can do is hope that any hidden mildew cannot become airborne. I have had three neighbors in similar homes tear out basement walls due to plumbing leaks (each one at a different location in the plumbing) and all discovered hidden mildew. But the leaks were obvious within the finished rooms and we haven’t had this problem.

  • Shellzoo
    12 months ago

    I am the opposite. Long before I figured out it was asthma, I used to hate going to the health club because all the latex in the gym equipment bothered me. I ended up buying a treadmill for at home and also try to walk local trails. My treadmill is in a spare bedroom so no dusty problems. It can fold up against a wall if I need space.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    12 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo, and thanks for responding to John’s excellent article – we’re so glad it resonates so clearly with you. It sound like you have the exercise aspect of asthma all set for yourself. It’s good to see you know exactly what works best for you. Keep up the good work! Leon (site moderator)

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