.Insiders’ Guide

coverwebLet’s be frank. Life is awkward for a one-percenter like me. All around are pious examples of the 99 percent—smug, superior, vocal, and proudly touting their lifestyle while presenting an implied challenge to justify mine. Some might call it protesting my very right to exist and flourish. Shockingly, in this alleged haven of the “do your own thing” credo, there is an underlying tension tearing apart the very essence of our citizenry. As a member of a mostly silent minority in Santa Cruz, allow me to climb, with some concerted effort, onto my soap box and declare to the world, or at least to anyone in earshot, what we one-percenters are often too intimidated to state in public:

I do not live an outdoor lifestyle!

So all of you people in the “Occupy Nature” T-shirts, listen up. I am not an adventure traveler. I am not sun-friendly. I do not hike during my lunch hour. I am not titillated by tide charts. I don’t own anything made by Coleman (unless you mean Ornette). And I speak for my fellow one-percenters when I say, “I’m here, I’m indoors, get used to it!”

That said, let me state with equal vigor that I am not a couch potato. I am not sedentary. I do not need a hand getting out of the recliner. I do not get winded walking through the mall; I don’t particularly enjoy the mall. I am not, by and large … by and large. I am just here, living happily and healthfully, indoors.

secure document shredding

cover_InsideersI know of a place,
Where you never get harmed.
A magical place,
With magical charms.Indoors, indoors, indooooors!- S. Squarepants

My life as an “insider” began long before I ever set foot outside. My interior status is rooted in my genes. Some people don’t tan. Others freckle. I, on the other hand, redden to a crisp and stay that way; a sunburn from July 2008 is still visible today, a permanent reminder that some of us require six degrees of separation, not from Kevin Bacon, but from Mother Nature. Dermatologists have removed numerous suspicious dots off of my person, and thankfully all have been benign. When I discuss sun protection with these professionals, they generally recommend: 1) layers of the highest level sun block on the market, 2) long sleeves, 3) a wide brimmed hat, and 4) remaining indoors, with the sunblock, sleeves and hat. (One inquired whether I had a basement to inhabit.) My piercing green eyes are on the same page as my skin, and are so sensitive that I find it difficult to see anything outside during the day, even with prescription sunglasses on.

“Wow,” you are thinking to yourself, “what a pain in the neck. No wonder she’s an expert on 1970s sitcom dialogue. She’s a regular Agnes Kravitz.”

True, I do pull the sitcom card pretty readily (see aforementioned Bewitched reference). However, during my formative years I also raced catamarans, competed on a swim team and hiked some of Yosemite’s best trails. And let me tell you this: I was miserable. And very, very pink. (In the “smells of summer” category I include Noxzema right alongside Hawaiian Tropic.)

Outside is where people go to get hurt.

I know others like me, not particularly averse to the idea of the sun, but in light of the ramifications of its direct involvement will respectfully decline invitations to the beach, park, redwoods, mountain top, skate park or any number of charitable runs. I also know people who are consumed by hives within mere feet of pollens, weeds, and most grasses, freshly mown, growing wild or medically prescribed.  (These are cover_pacificEdgeusually the same people who are tortured by the tag inside of a shirt.) There are those at variance with the insect world, inflating on contact with mosquitoes, bees, and meat-eating spiders. There are those among us who suffer greatly under the weight of environmental allergies, such as colognes, exhaust, and the delicious smell of meat on a spit. Clearly there are plenty of good, if not great, reasons to stay the heck inside.

What I have in common with so many other “insiders” is a fondness for indoor activities. I love to work hard, work up a sweat, work over a competitor—indoors. I often ride a bike, skate, or dance—indoors.  I’m considering climbing and shooting arrows—indoors. And like most people, I also love to read a book, see a play or listen to a band—indoors.

“Well,” I hear you murmur through your helmet strap water bottle device, “I like all that AND a good triathlon.”

Congratulations! You are what I like to call “ambi-vironmental,” that is to say you enjoy indoor and outdoor activities equally. Actively ambidextrous if you will.  That’s fantastic, but not necessarily superior. Manny Pacquiao, Benjamin Franklin and Dimitri Martin are all considered ambidextrous but I don’t consider them superior. (On second thought, I’ll concede that I am most likely inferior to Ben Franklin on many fronts.)

Before you get your bike shorts in a knot, let me make something clear—I am not getting my indoor panties in a knot. I merely want to lend an air of dignity to those of us who love to hear about your paddle-boarding afternoon, but probably won’t join you.  Now, as winter approaches and the weather becomes less amenable to the outdoorsy, I suspect that you will be joining us—indoors.

cover_bowmanWhen I say “indoor fitness” you may think “gym membership,” and you would be well on your way to the ins and outs of the great indoors. There are more than a dozen privately owned gyms in the Santa Cruz area, all offering viable options for workouts. Any number offer classes, treadmills, free weights, exercise machines and guidance. I surmise that all of them see a spike in attendance after Daylight Saving Time ends on November 6.

“We see a lot of cancellations in May, then a resurgence of new memberships in the fall,” says Thomas Beauchamp, a personal trainer at Toadal Fitness in downtown Santa Cruz. That is a key reason for Toadal’s three-month hold option, which can be used for the summer months.

He also sees what some might consider “non-athletic” types at the gym, which makes sense to Beauchamp since it is a safe environment to push the envelope under the watchful eye of trained and helpful staff. He also notes that the structure of machines and classes works well for many members, something I heard repeatedly while researching this story. (Yes, I left my house.) “Machines make you do the exercises properly,” and a class schedule gives a specific timeline to get up and go, instead of waiting for the fitness mood to strike.

While Beauchamp is an avowed “outsider,” he does admit that the ability to multi-task while at the gym is convenient. Answering emails or watching the news while run-walking your daily half-marathon has a lot of appeal in our over-committed culture.

Similarly, Tom Davis, owner of Pacific Edge, Seabright’s popular indoor climbing spot, chuckles that yes, they “have a few vampires—a few teens in particular” who frequent the gym in addition to their regulars. Most of the clientele are augmenting outdoor climbing habits, and take full advantage of the indoor walls as well as yoga classes. For the indoor sportsman/woman he recommends finding an activity you really love, because it takes more motivation to participate in something location-specific rather than opening your front door and jogging. “Luckily,” he added, “convenience in this town is a big factor – there are a lot of options here.”

What makes climbing unique, whether indoor or outdoor, is that it requires a buddy, or belay partner. It’s more than casual because “he’s holding your life in his hands. It’s very social because of that, and breaks down barriers you sometimes find in gyms.”

Perhaps the most social group I came across on my quest is the Santa Cruz Archers. These are not men in tights, but I get the feeling anything goes with this bunch. I didn’t associate archery with the indoors initially. What came to mind was more the hunter in the woods, the marksman on the range, the Ted Nugent on the NRA poster. “Well, you could hunt rodents at the indoor range, but it might be frowned upon.” So started a lively conversation with Henry Bertram, who represented the indoor as well as outdoor programs with enthusiasm and open arms. Group classes and open shoots draw a wide swatch of participants, and some are “indoor-only shooters.”cover_BikeDojo

For the low, low cost of $3 the average citizen can walk in the door, learn the ropes and be shooting arrows, whether in group lessons or one of their Friday evening indoor shoots. Bertram described the weekly events as “60 arrows at 20 yards, with scoring and ridicule, and all skill levels are welcome.” To clarify: all skill levels of ridicule are also welcome and valued.

While the social factor is appealing, Bertram pointed out that archery is a high precision sport and requires focus and practice. There are quite a few dedicated archers who will stop by after work, run through the outdoor range attacking every target at whatever speed or distance they can muster, and then proceed home. I suspect one of these daily visitors might be the local three-time world longbow champion, who Bertram notes “might prefer to remain anonymous.”

Fresh air is good if you do not take too much of it; most of the achievements and pleasures of life are in bad air.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes


Like many of the proprietors of sports facilities in Santa Cruz, Rob Mylls’ love of fresh air was the impetus to go into business doing what he loves. Now, as the common story goes, he spends more time inside his own facility than outside. As the owner of the Bike Dojo he does get to witness plenty of people achieve goals and find some pleasure in life. And not in bad air at all. He has found a great way to appease his ambi-vironmental nature; while the Bike Dojo facility focuses on spin classes morning, noon, and night, they also offer Saturday group rides to destinations including Davenport, Scotts Valley and the cement ship at Rio del Mar in Aptos.

“Not many people know this, but 50-60 percent of Tour de France riders train inside on trainers,” which might be what gives spinning its reputation. “People think it’s hardcore,” he adds. And it can be. But Mylls has watched complete beginners—dedicated insiders—start with trepidation, get hooked on the activity and the convenience, and then move on to outdoor rides. Others remain indoors—some in the popular classes and others taking advantage of the virtual rides (think flora with no fauna).

Bike Dojo does everything it can to spread the cycling love. They have drop-in classes for $10, loan bikes for outdoor rides, and offer training time for groups preparing for triathlons. It’s a serious strength and endurance workout, even for cheaters like me who don’t stand up. I suppose that’s not truly spinning, just pedaling.

Another indoor activity I only do half way is batting cages. I swing, but I don’t connect. But, much like spinning, it’s still a workout. Sean, the in-house batting cage specialist at Jerry’s Sports, claims he’ll go into the cages and bat 13 tokens’ worth of pitches. At 20 pitches per token, that’s about one hour and 260 swings at awesome, and he feels it afterward. “I’m definitely sore after that,” although with five seconds to rest between balls, I can’t imagine what he’s getting all worked up over. Kidding.

cover_battingYou’d be surprised at the batting clientele. Not only are there plenty of Little League players, high school hitters and twenty-to fortysomething wannabe Cody Rosses, there are quite a few ladies of a certain age who drop by to maintain some upper body strength or, in one or two cases, use the cages as physical therapy after non-baseball-related injuries. The pitching machine is adjustable, with speeds ranging from 35 to 85 miles per hour. If you don’t like fast-moving objects flying toward you, you can have slower-moving objects flying toward you. Fantastic! Also fantastic is the Thursday promotion, when all batting cage token fees are donated to the Brian Stow fund.

Jerry’s provides bats and helmets, you provide the $6. Sean will provide the humble guidance, as evidenced by his response when asked what pitch speed he hits. “I can hit anything.”

All of the local experts I spoke with agreed that indoor sports activities are a viable option to a fit lifestyle, although they did recommend leaving the crypt every now and then for some natural vitamin D and fresh air.

There was some disagreement when it came to the snootiness question: are there fitness snobs in Santa Cruz? Some shrugged and claimed they’ve never witnessed it. Others admitted that yes, there is a health conscious bias here, with so many natural options and the best food supply on the planet. One laughed and pointed out the number of yoga mats seen tucked under the arms of pedestrians and grocery shoppers, trumpeting their commitment to a particular fitness choice. Another source joked that according to online dating sites for this area, “Everyone works out nine times a week, mountain bikes to work, and lives in a hand-hewn tent on an island … with Wi-Fi and a Genius Bar.” We’ll have to take her word for that.

Baby it’s cold outside…
Dean Martin

Autumn is upon us; winter approaches. We are all, insiders and outsiders, bound to co-mingle a little more closely for the next few months. Do not be afraid or wary! That tanned runner on the treadmill next to you may have just the tip you need to prevent cramps. That pasty fellow on the weight bench may be the best spotter you’ve ever worked with.  Heed the Dalai Lama, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” And while enemy is a strong word (what was that guy thinking?), please keep in mind that outdoorsy types usually know where the convenient restrooms are. And really, isn’t that the most important thing?

Photo captions:
Pacific Edge Climbing Gym
Santa Cruz Archers
Bike Dojo
Jerry’s Sports

Kim Luke is most likely inside somewhere having a marvelous time. ki*****@ba*****.com


A Side of Inside

Wondering where to begin? Here’s a short list to get you started.

A Side of Inside
Wondering where to begin? Here’s a short list to get you started.
Bike Dojo
Spin classes
1101 Pacific Ave., Suite G,
Santa Cruz,

Blue Lagoon
Two hoppin’ dance floors
923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,

Boardwalk Bowl
Public and league bowling
115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz,

Bush League Racing
Simulated Nascar racing,
Capitola Mall,

Cross training
2521 Mission St., Suite C,
Santa Cruz,

Dance Synergy
Dance, kickboxing, more
9055 Soquel Drive, Aptos,

Jerry’s Sports
Batting cages
1148 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz,
Sporting goods & fitness equipment, baseball, shoes, batting cages,, running, basketball in Santa Cruz at shopjerryssports.com.

Laird’s Academy of Martial Arts
Korean martial arts and kickboxing
399 Encinal St., Santa Cruz,

Motion Pacific/Motion at the Mill
131 Front St., Santa Cruz,

Neptune’s Kingdom
Mini golf and arcade
400 Beach St. Santa Cruz,

Pacific Edge
Rock climbing, mat yoga, pilates
104 Bronson St., #12, Santa Cruz, pacificedgeclimbinggym.com
Palomar Ballroom Dancing
Dance classes – ballroom and more
1344 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,

Santa Cruz Archers
Field and Target archery
DeLaveaga Recreational Area,

Santa Cruz Roller Palladium
Roller skating
1606 Seabright Ave.,
Santa Cruz

Toadal Fitness
Gym, classes, equipment
Multiple locations in Santa Cruz.

Dance workout
Multiple locations.


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