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Why workout in a stinky, over-air conditioned, florescent light gym when there are flowery parks, year-round breezes and sunny days?  Fitness plays a large role in the Southern California lifestyle and there are many fun and low-cost ways to stay active without even realizing you are exercising.  I frequently see joggers, cyclists, skaters, and walkers along beaches, boardwalks, parks, and neighborhoods.  The gym may be for some people, but it wasn’t for me; I’ve discovered a plethora of ways to incorporate exercise into one’s life without the gym!


Weight room at the gym or this?

Steph fp 1

Would you rather do these on a weight bench or a fountain rim?

I work full time, go to school full time, and now blog full time; therefore time is a limited and precious commodity in my world.  After several years of working and schooling full time, I grew tired of the lack of fun and variety in my life.  I resented always saying “no, I  have to study” and seeing Facebook check-ins and pictures as life carried on without me.  While thoroughly enjoying the information and stories my education afforded me, sometime I’d rather be wine tasting instead of reading about soil types, or hiking instead of writing about trade agreements.  I was longing for two distinct things that were lacking in my life: more exercise and more fun.  Once or twice a week I had a free evening from studying and chores, and faced a choice: the gym or the happy hour.  I still had a long way to go school-wise and retirement is not even on my radar; my stamina for this dull and repetitive existence was wearing thin.  So I dug deep with the determination of “if there is a will, there is a way.”  And the answer dawned on me as clear as the sun I craved; I would find a way to combine the two.

I hate the gym: the smell, the people, the confinement.  I love vacationing: the smell, the people, the freedom.  I found when I was on vacation I had lots of time and energy to explore, play and learn. So I decided to live like I’m vacationing all the time.  Many times I’ve thought while visiting some awesome place like Hawaii, New York, or Paris, that if I live here, how different my life would be.  I would run on this beach every day; I would ride my bike through this park all the time; and I would spend hours exploring this city by foot.  Well I live in friggin San Diego, CA, an American paradise! There is so much to explore and do here, and the most accommodating weather for year-round activity.  Problem solved, I can be on vacation 365 days a year – if I choose to be.

The totally amazing rose garden at Balboa Park smells WAY better than a gym!

The totally amazing rose garden in Balboa Park smells WAY better than a gym!


Running around the outdoor theatre in Balboa Park – I feel like a kid again!!


Nutrition consultant at my gym


A regular at my gym (Balboa Park is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo – and these guys roam around outside the zoo – awesomeness!


My gym doesn’t sound like machines and blaring TVs

I made a list of things I love, like, and don’t mind.  I love being outdoors, having a personal trainer (that I couldn’t afford at the gym), dancing, hiking, parks, and the beach.  I like bike riding, weight training, and walking.  I don’t mind jogging, swimming, and cardio activities.  I don’t have to go to the gym to exercise, and I don’t have eat and drink to have fun!  The result of this discovery has led to a life richer than I ever thought possible.  I have such a variety of activities and fun things to do, it is sometimes hard to decide.

I’ve had a personal trainer for past two years.  Twice a week I pay homage to my health at Tiger Training Temple in North Park.  I spend an hour under the supervision of an expert squatting, cursing, sit-up-ing, and sweating through a variety of activities designed by my trainer for optimal health and hell.  Okay, it really isn’t hell, actually, I quite love it!  The gym charged outrageous rates for personal trainers, who I learned read Fitness magazine for their “expertise.”  I believe I paid $120.00 a month, on top of of my gym membership for four trainings per month.  My current personal trainer is NSCA C-PT certified with an AOS in Personal Training, and most importantly, is not affiliated with any stinking gym!  I pay my trainer the approximate amount of one hourly wage I earn at my job.  The first hour of my wages every Monday goes to my health and happiness.  Not a bad investment and it is cheaper than the medical insurance that is taken out of my check every two weeks.

Brand and I

Brandi & I – We’ve giggled through exercise for two years together!


You enter as a cub and leave as a tiger – at Tiger Training Temple!

My trainer, Brandi Mahan, is a certified personal trainer and the owner and CEO of Tiger Training Temple.  Although I’ve been her client for the past two years, our friendship spans nearly 20 years.  Brandi, like myself, was unimpressed with the gym scene and the cost of personal trainers that came with the gym.  Several years ago, I quit the gym and fiddled around with various dance classes and home workout videos.  At the same time, Brandi embarked on her own fitness journey on a much grander scale (pun intended).  She quit her gym and overpriced under-enthusiastic trainer, and hit the park.  Balboa Park that is, with a love and intensity that has led to a new career as a Personal Trainer.  You can learn more about Brandi and follow her journey here at Tiger Training Temple.

run II

Brandi and I running around the beautiful organ pavilion at Balboa Park

Downward dog

Why sit on these benches when you can do downward dog? Make sense to me!

Brandi and I had drifted in different directions, but the universe reunited us just as we were both embarking on our new journeys.  Brandi was trying to figure out an anti-gym exercise program for herself and  I was trying to combined fun and fitness.  Tiger Training Temple was born when Brandi and her wife Rose traded running on a treadmill for running through trees.  Instead of stair climbers, they climbed real stairs in Balboa Park’s many gardens.  They swapped push-ups on a smelly gym floor for push-ups on grass. They replaced lunging through the gym’s weight-lifting area for lunching around beautiful fountains.  Brandi was so excited about this discovery of fun exercise in a beautiful and free setting, she wondered why anyone would ever go to a gym again.  Jungle Gym was born – hour long exercise adventures in Balboa Park for $10.00 a class; no RSVP and no memberships required.  You just show up, explore, and have fun!


Stair climber at the gym or climb stairs through Palm Canyon in Balboa Park?

While a lot of my friends played a variety of sport in our younger years, I was a dancer (when and if I was exercising at all).  I wasn’t a good dancer, but a loyal one.  I dilly dallied around in community college for ten years before transferring to California State University, Chico to pursue a BA in Social Science.  Six of those years were spent exhausting every dance class available.  When I received a letter saying I could no longer enroll in dance classes, my teacher allowed me to enroll under my mom’s name and continue for another year.  I took jazz, ballet, modern, and belly dancing; I still belly dance to this day.  I’ve had several dance teachers and schools since my community college days, but currently, I use instructional videos and drills at home.  Between my personal training, belly-dancing videos, very occasional runs, seasonal hiking, and flirtations with water sports (kayaking and paddle boarding), I stay reasonably fit.


My family and friends with different taste stay fit in different ways: Shanda plays racquetball and volleyball up to four times a week.  My mom takes pilates, yoga, aqua aerobics, and dance classes several times a week. Chef Kristi takes kickboxing and is a runner who is always training for the next marathons.  Chef Kristi’s dad, Bill, takes spin classes and plays racquet ball.  Jason regularly goes to the gym and takes boot camp classes; and John and Carlos jog, ride bikes, and take Crossfit classes.  My boss hits the gym every morning before work.  My buddy Greg also trains with Brandi, participates her 6:00am Run Club, and is a regular at Jungle Gym.

In Southern California, if you are not out taking advantage of the awesomeness of living here, what is the point of paying the high cost of living?  You can be cooped up indoors, in front of the TV for much cheaper in other states.  But in Southern California, there are beaches to run, mountains to climb, and superbly sunny weather to do it all in.  If you visit San Diego, you can rent bikes to ride along the beaches, hike countless trails, walk along natural paths or city promenades, or drop into one Brandi’s classes for a local’s view of Balboa Park.  It is cheap, fun, healthy, and what the locals do!

What Brandi sees...

What Brandi sees…

What I see.

What I see.

But I still earned this, because I'm awesome like that!

But I still earned this, because I’m awesome like that!


You are only limited by your imagination….

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