Takoma Pork in the Voice April 2007
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Success of Gym Project Requires Lots of Patients, Says Local Group

Takoma Voice Insert - April 2007

Abs Class at Gymspital
A recovering accident victim feels the burn as he works his abs in this gymspital test class.

TAKOMA PARK—“Are you here for yoga, or are you already in pain?”  If some supporters of the proposed new gym have it their way, you might be hearing that question a lot. Gym proponents are pushing for a new twist on the project to make it more palatable to Takoma Park citizens: converting the soon-to-be abandoned Washington Adventist Hospital building into a gym that also serves as a part-time hospital.
“We realize that a lot of people are uncomfortable with building a new gym right now,” said John Cross, spokesperson for FitER, a nonprofit organization that developed the plans. The idea is a response to objections that the gym is not really needed and is too costly for the city to take on. “By making a gym/hospital, the ‘gymspital’ could fill the hole that will be left when Washington Adventist Hospital moves,” said Cross. If we combine these two bodily needs—exercise and health care—we would be getting so much more bang for our buck, so to speak.”

Rather than being a full-service hospital, the gymspital, would instead serve as an emergency facility, or a holding place for patients until they could be transferred to a regular hospital. “Let’s say your daughter shoves corn up her nose and you can’t get it out. You could bring her here and work out while she’s being taken care of,” Cross said.

The gymspital brings the term holistic medicine to life, Cross explained.  “For example, a pregnant woman could come here for her prenatal yoga classes.  She can stay and labor here before delivery, or even just schedule a C-section after class.  Busy people can really take multitasking to a new level when it comes to fitness and medical care.” 

Workout activities would be carefully paired with medical services to motivate both groups toward healthier lifestyles. “I don’t know about you, but if I’m running on a treadmill and the guy next to me is on an oxygen machine, then I might want to go that extra mile,” Cross said. That motivation could work both ways, too, he explained. “Just maybe that guy on oxygen would want to get off his fat duff if he saw my six-pack abs in action.”

Medical equipment also could double as exercise equipment.  “Our weightlifting equipment includes a whole area devoted to gurney pushing—good for upper and lower body strength, especially if you’ve got a big person on board.”  Runners can test their skills as they transport urine specimens to a nearby lab.  And fitness pole dancers can have a lot of fun with the IV poles, Cross pointed out.  “Just try some moves while you’re also working around a bag of blood.  Now that’s a challenge.”

Initial reaction to the proposal has been positive, but some citizens have expressed reservations. “I like the idea, but I don’t know how comfortable I’ll be if somebody’s bleeding next to me while I’m doing step aerobics,” said Jen Planschia, Takoma Park citizen.

“But that’s why this is so perfect for Takoma Park,” countered Cross. “So much of a workout could be tailored to helping patients.  And studies show that sick people really benefit from distraction while receiving care. If a bleeding person is watching you do your step aerobics and not worrying so much about his wound, you’re exercising for a much bigger cause than just wanting a smaller butt or tighter thighs.”

However, the intermingling of bodily fluids, dubbed “blood, sweat, and tears,” by one citizen, is a concern, acknowledged Cross. “We are going to need to take certain precautions.” People might be asked to wear masks or gowns during workouts, for example. “But we’re going to make them out of a wicking, triple-banded lycra, which should be supportive and non-chafing for even a DD cup,” he said.

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