5 Reasons to Add Gymnastics to Your Olympics Must-See List

(Image Credit: Instagram @alyraisman)

(Image Credit: Instagram @alyraisman)

The opening ceremony for this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio are tonight, and the ceremony kicks off some very busy weeks of athletic competition in sports that don’t get a whole lot of attention outside of the Olympic year. One of those sports is gymnastics, which takes the spotlight every four years as casual fans and Olympic-watchers take the opportunity to check out this unique sport. Maybe gymnastics is already on your can’t-miss Olympic viewing list, but if it’s not, it should be, and here’s why:

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10 Summer Beach Bag Essentials

10 Summer Beach Bag Essentials

10 Summer Beach Bag Essentials

Summer is officially here and you know what that means – time to hit the beach, enjoy some fun in the sun, and travel on a vacation or two. There are few things quite as glorious as a day soaking up the sun with the waves crashing nearby, and the summer season is the perfect time to enjoy it. If you’re looking to make a full-day trip to the sand, it’s essential that you pack your beach bag accordingly. Forgetting sunblock or water can quickly turn your day from fab to drab. Check out our list of 10 summer bag essentials. Continue reading

Your First Time: Ordering Sushi

Your First Time: Ordering Sushi

One of the most intimidating things I have ever done was order sushi for the first time. I remember sitting at the table at my favorite Chinese restaurant and internally debating if I really wanted to attempt it or not. What if I didn’t order it correctly? What if I didn’t like it? What if I accidentally ordered some with raw fish (I know a lot of sushi is raw, but not all of it and I prefer my fish cooked)??! Continue reading

The Best and Worst Cities for Staycations 2016

The Best and Worst Cities for Staycations 2016

I don’t know about you, but I tend to think a “staycation” can be just as fun, if not even more awesome than an actual trip. Think about it. No airports, no lost luggage and no possibility of bedbugs (unless you have a problem at home, and if that’s the case you should be reading an article how to get rid of bedbugs instead of this one). If you’re among the many Americans considering a staycation this summer, WalletHub’s recent report on 2016’s Best & Worst Cities for Staycations might peak your interest.

The number crunchers at WalletHub compared the country’s 150 largest cities across 28 key metrics, including movie and bowling costs, golf courses, frozen-yogurt shops and spas per capita, and the cost of house-cleaning services to come up with a comprehensive ranking of staycation spots.

Topping the list as some of the best staycations spots are, not surprisingly, also some of the top travel destinations including: Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa, Florida and more unexpected spots like Salt Lake City, Utah and Scottsdale, Arizona. Even more surprising are some of the cities ranked worst for staycations including: New York, New York and Los Angeles, California.

Some of the most fun facts from the study include the following:

  • New Orleans has the most museums per 100,000 residents, 23.34, which is 79 times more than in Aurora, Colo., the city with the fewest, 0.29.
  • Seattle has the most coffee shops per 100,000 residents, 109.43, which is nearly 30 times more than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the fewest, 3.67.
  • Orlando, Fla., has the most ice-cream and frozen-yogurt shops per 100,000 residents, 57.15, which is 13 times more than in Detroit, the city with the fewest, 4.31.
  • Buffalo, N.Y., has the lowest bowling costs, $3.09, which is nearly four times less expensive than in New York City, the city with the highest, $12.28.

Check out the lists of the top 10 best and worst cities for staycations below and visit WalletHub for the full ranking, metric used and more fun staycation facts!


Best Cities for Staycations Worst Cities for Staycations
1 Orlando, FL 141 Fremont, CA
2 Fort Lauderdale, FL 142 Chesapeake, VA
3 Tampa, FL 143 Los Angeles, CA
4 Salt Lake City, UT 144 Fresno, CA
5 Scottsdale, AZ 145 Fort Worth, TX
6 Atlanta, GA 146 Yonkers, NY
7 Las Vegas, NV 147 Santa Ana, CA
8 Minneapolis, MN 148 New York, NY
9 St. Petersburg, FL 149 Oxnard, CA
10 Honolulu, HI 150 Chula Vista, CA

 

5 Tips for Good Gym Etiquette

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There seems to be an unspoken “gym etiquette” code that some gym goers understand, while others seem to have missed the memo. But what are some of these unspoken rules? Continue reading

3 Summer Mocktails (or cocktails) for Each Time of Day

Lemon Berry Dreamsicle (Image Credit: Brailey Lisath)

Lemon Berry Dreamsicle (Image Credit: Brailey Lisath)

There is a lot to love about summer. The sun is finally out, you can enjoy an array of outdoor activities, and it’s the season for vacations. However, one of my favorite things about summer is that it’s also the season to get fancy with your drinks. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a nice morning, afternoon AND evening pick-me-up? Here are three mocktails (or cocktails if you’re a bit more adventurous like me) to try this summer, and the time of day they are best received.
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Top 3 Spring Break Destinations for College Students

(Image Credit: Vitaly Krivosheev)

(Image Credit: Vitaly Krivosheev)

Midterms have come and gone and spring break is upon us. If you’re anything like me, a poor college student, then you really have no plans this break. So I am here to suggest a couple destinations for you to pursue while your friends post pictures of the beach and pina coladas with those tiny umbrellas.

 

Your bed

Whether you’re going back home for the break or staying at your apartment, your bed should be your #1 destination this spring break. After all, who else could be there for you in your time of need better than your bed? No one. The answer is no one.

 

Your refrigerator

Now that you’re momentarily free of the weight of education, why not head down to your local grocery store and buy anything and everything your heart desires (as long as you can, you know, afford it). Stock that fridge high so when you wake up from that 4 hour nap, you have a snack or two waiting for you.

 

Netflix or Hulu

Now that you have some free time, why not catch up on all those shows you’ve been meaning to watch? You and your bed can spend some quality time together as you binge watch the latest season of Workaholics or Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Lose yourself in TV shows and ignore all the responsibilities that wait for you at the end of the break.

 

Spring Break is a time for you. It is a time for you to take a moment for yourself and remember what you enjoy. And just because you or your family can’t afford a fancy vacation doesn’t mean your break can’t be as fun or as mentally rejuvenating as someone else’s. And Walmart sells those little umbrellas, too, you know.

Texas State University: Why Are You So Awesome?

Texas State University: Why Are You So Awesome?Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last three years here, but I gotta say that Texas State in San Marcos is one the best places I have ever been. It’s possible that I’m biased, though, so I’ll try and prove it with a few examples. Here are a few aspects that makes Texas State University so special.

 

The River

Texas State students spend probably around 70% of their year at the river. It’s currently February (granted, a very warm February) and I saw about a dozen people at the river yesterday! It’s a beautiful place full of beautiful people enjoying the Texas heat and decompressing after class. It’s also tradition to jump in after graduation, robe and all, no matter the weather.

 

The Bubble Believer

The Bubble Believer is a guy who popped up on campus last semester and spends his time blowing bubbles at and with students while spreading positive vibes to everyone. One time I popped one of his bubbles and smiled at him and he said, “Thank you for blessing my day with your smile.” He won my heart that day and whenever I see him on campus my day is a little bit brighter.

 

LBJ Statue

President Lyndon B. Johnson graduated from Texas State in 1930 and we have a statue of him at the end of the quad. He has his hand stretched out and students have a tradition shaking his hand before a big test. Tradition says doing so will get you an A!

 

The Fearless Squirrels

While our squirrels aren’t particularly friendly (you can’t pet them or anything), they aren’t afraid to run in between the legs of hundreds of students. You’ll see a few lounging on benches around campus and if you’re not careful, they’ll steal your french fries right out of your hands.

 

Outspoken Students

There are very few quiet days on campus. During the week, the free speech area is usually full of people expressing their opinion on something, whether it be sexuality, abortion, or religion. Texas State encourages this by having a designated free speech zone at the beginning of the quad around the Fighting Stallions statue.

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Honestly, I could talk about my school for hours. I graduate next semester and I am absolutely struggling at the prospect of not walking through the quad 5 days a week. If you’re looking at schools to attend or maybe just reminiscing about your alma mater, let’s take this time to appreciate everything Texas State has to offer us.

My First Time Moving to a New City (and Then Moving Back Home)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

(Image Credit: milangonda)

Out of excitement and the need to ensure that it was actually happening, I packed my bags a month early. I was moving to Oxford, England after a lifetime of he-said-she-said over frozen yogurt in sunny, suburban California. Steeped in four generations of local history, my big dreams transcended the railroad town limits.

Don’t get me wrong; I have traveled all over the U.S. I have seen a polar vortex in NYC, jazz musicians on every street corner orchestrating a choreographed New Orleans dance, bikini-clad bodies sweating on the January beaches in San Diego, the Vegas strip (I didn’t say I remembered it, but yes, I saw it). I have seen a lot of my country, and I love it for all its complexities—the contradictions Walt Whitman explores in “Song of Myself” ring true when you subject yourself to the cultures available in the home of the free, land of the brave.

Still, I wanted more. What a greedy girl, I know. I wanted more travel, more experiences, more exposure to varieties not available in my home.

Packed and ready to hit the skies, I wanted to make a change and to change. I had never been outside of the country before, so here we go… Here is my journey as it unfolded:

Challenge one: getting there.

Unable to sleep on the plane, I arrived, haggard, tired, hungry, and smelling like 100 different kinds of foul. To the bottomless pit of wretched airplane food-induced farts of a man sitting next to me, you are the stuff of nightmares and my nose hair has yet to grow back. I walked up to the currency exchange with my neck kinked and my head throbbing. After losing $40 in the currency exchange from my $100, I went to collect my baggage.

Challenge two: getting to my new home.

I waited four hours—FOUR HOURS—for my luggage, which turns out was lost. LOST?! What do you mean lost?! I had no phone (I had shut it off and decided to go the route of using wifi to FaceTime friends and family), which became a scary reality at this point. Sooo… No calling for help. No spare clothes. No understanding of the bus system. I looked at the airline woman, eyes thickly webbed with deep pink lines signaling exhaustion, as she calmly explained my luggage was lost… Oh, hell no.

I cried because that is obviously the most logical and proactive thing to do, but after five minutes of sobbing, I pulled myself together enough to ask for a phone to call my destination. Just then, the airline man from behind the scenes ran out yelling, “There’re here! They were logged under the wrong load. I found them!”

A quarter relieved, a quarter exhausted, a quarter delusional, a quarter intoxicated by the surrounding force of British accents, and 100% ready to settle into my temporary life, I set out for the bus stop in the pitch dark, freezing cold London air that feels nothing like my California Januaries.

The Bald Eagle has Landed

My American ass landed in Oxford at 8 p.m. The only lighting streamed from a building a block away, but look, there is a strange man about 20 years of age walking out towards me. I gulped loud, swallowed my pride (and all of the nightmare stories of European abductions I had been fed before I left), and I asked if he knew where my flat was located. I’m not normally insane, but I needed help. Januaries in England are COLD for a California girl, and a night wandering the street did not appeal to me, oddly enough.

He looked confused when I gave him the address, but he eventually said he knew where to go and even offered to drag one of my heavy luggage cases along. How nice! Just don’t kidnap me, sir. I took self-defense classes for these kind of situations, and I don’t want to have to use my mad skills.

Well, surprise, surprise, I made it out alive. He walked me to my door and said a nervous good-bye with an awkward, “I’ll see you later” which of course never happened.

After a restless, cold night of sleep without proper bedding or any understanding of how to use the heater in my flat, I woke famished. Underneath those dark circles was an eager smile. I met the biting air with enthusiasm, and after five steps… Nope. Nopenopenope… I all but ran back to my room for five more layers. THERE, I thought. Now, I’m ready.

Leather gloves shielding my fingertips as they slid across the chilly, stone church walls—Feet still rocking my oxblood cowboy boots as I trekked all over town (because they’re cute and I didn’t care if I looked ridiculous)—Hair tucked under a beanie and into a wool scarf that wrapped tightly around my neck… I strolled through those streets and avenues every day, so much so that the stone statues became my friends, watching over me as I stumbled home from pubs and waiting with me at the bus stop.

Half of the time I had no idea which stone statue was what saint, so I named them all myself. There was the Patron Saint of too Much Pub Food who stood alongside the Patron Saint of too Much Cider, both centrally located in town, surrounded by their buddies on the neighboring stone slab. There was also the Patron Saint of American Humor, a fat baby with a disproportionately huge head. Then there was the Patron Saint of Bus Stops because we were always running after a bus… Oh yeah, and the Patron Saint of Mexican Food because my California-grown taste buds were in heaven when I found a local burrito spot—ahhh, jalapenos.

Thanks to them, I collected four months’ worth of late nights and hearty laughs in Oxford and throughout my travels in Europe, as they always watched over all of my adventures.

I also met these incredible people—these brilliant, beautiful, funny-as-hell, crazy-awesome people who quickly became some of my most treasured friends because of our interests and shared experiences in travel and displacement. I sat beside book-reading folks on the bus and had intellectually stimulating conversations with strangers and new friends alike. The mind expands in the company of greatness. You can almost feel yourself grow and that is a pretty cool thing, ya know?

You can take the girl out of America, but you can’t take the Thoreau out of the American, as I thought: “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth” –Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

I loved every minute of my experience, but all things must come to a close, and as my journey home drew near, I prepped with angst and delight.

I’m Going, Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss my travels throughout Europe. I love Oxford, my City of Dreaming Spires, but the trek home was much welcomed. I missed my bed, my dog, my books, my library, my routine—I now miss the spontaneity of my travels, but the grass is always greener, right?

The readjustment period was just as hard. I literally got the flu the week I returned home (in June), which I like to think was my body’s way of saying I never would have gotten sick had I not come home, though it was probably just getting used to U.S. germs again.

That first night I slept more soundly than I had in all four and a half months I spent abroad. I collapsed into myself, finally feeling the weight of my journey.

I gradually moved into a routine. Spending time with friends and family helped to ground me, though there is always this thing—this stamp on my life that is a composite of all that I collected in my passport. It marks the page in my life’s passport signaling my openness to travel, welcoming all that is new and diverse within my railroad town foundation. It marks where I have been and where I am going.

Why Men Should Give Yoga a Chance

(Image Credit: undrey)

(Image Credit: undrey)

Man, the stories are true in regards to yoga. It’s a complete workout that can kick your butt in more ways than one. Believe me, like most guys, I was one of those skeptics that thought yoga was geared more towards the “feminine” side and basically threw aside the benefits that participating in the activity could have for me. Like most men, I prefer taking the more “masculine” route by lifting weights and doing cardio because in my mind I thought, as a man, that’s the only way you can build yourself to get stronger. Jeez was I wrong…

After suffering from a back injury a while back (I have to remember to stretch more OFTEN), I was told by a physical therapist to cease any strenuous physical activity for a couple weeks. Now, if you knew me in a personal level you would know that’s not an option for me. I love to stay active, as I think it’s the best thing for your body to thrive in the vitality and longevity that fitness brings. So with that being said, sitting on my couch was not an option. This is where yoga came into play.

After pleading to my physical therapist about ways to stay in shape, he brought up the idea of yoga. It was funny because the way he said it was if he knew right off the bat I was going to say no. (He wasn’t wrong though; I’m a skeptic.) After hearing him out for a bit I decided to take his suggestion. I went out and bought a yoga mat and looked up a few videos on Youtube. It was then where I was introduced to Fightmaster yoga, with Lesley as the instructor, and then I fell in love with yoga. After a few yoga sessions, I can honestly say I’ve never felt my heart pound that hard repeatedly after any cardio session I’ve ever participated in.

Guys, trust me, yoga isn’t as taboo as you think it may be. I’ve learned to leave my comfort zone in order to try something that I thought wasn’t “masculine” enough. I personally believe that can be dangerous thinking, especially if we’re inhibiting ourselves from trying something new. So, calling out all men (who haven’t tried yoga yet) – I dare you to go out, buy a yoga mat and engage in the activity. I’ve already added it to my weekly routine. Try something new for once; it won’t hurt! At least not that much!

AshleeeyBash: San Jose Heroes & Villains Fan Fest 2015 RECAP

(Image Credit: Ashley Bulayo / The Daily Quirk)

(Image Credit: Ashley Bulayo / The Daily Quirk)

This is a WAY overdue recap video but here it is anyways! I attended the inaugural Heroes & Villains Fan Fest in San Jose back in November. It did have its kinks here and there but hey, it’s their first year and things picked up by the second day. If you are considering going or if this is your first time even hearing about it, Google it. See if it’s coming to a city near you because it’s honestly one of the best cons I’ve been to.

5 Benefits of Learning That Instrument You’ve Always Wanted To Play

(Image Credit: Sergey Nivens)

(Image Credit: Sergey Nivens)

Everyone could use a little more music. Heck, I’d go as far as to say without music, life can get…flat. *ba-dum tshh* But, seriously.

Ask anyone: “What instrument do you wish you played?” I guarantee that they’ll have an answer for you.

Then they’ll probably follow it up with, “Bu it’s too late now – I wish I would’ve started learning it when I was younger.”

Don’t let your age stop you from learning that instrument! Sure, you probably won’t be considered a “child prodigy” at this point in your life, but you can still gain all the benefits from learning regardless of what people will call you. I’d call you a “pretty cool dude.”

Plus, who needs to be a child prodigy? Those kids are just a bunch of try-hards! (Unless you are one, in which case, I respect you.)

I started learning how to play drums in seventh grade after getting obsessed with blink-182. I wanted to be Travis Barker (which is probably true for most pop-punk loving twelve-year-olds). And I’m really happy I went after it.

Looking back on my drum-learning experience now, I think everyone who wants to learn an instrument should try to, assuming they have the time and opportunity to do so. You’ll gain so much from it.

Here are just five of the benefits of learning an instrument:

A great and rewarding way to spend your time

It’s euphoric to lose your sense of time while practicing. And when you can feel yourself getting better, there’s not a greater feeling in the world! Not to mention, you feel good about yourself after a practice session; you’re accomplishing something worthwhile.

New friends!

All of a sudden you’ll have a brand new interest to use to connect with people. Imagine how cool it’s going to sound when you say “Yeah, me and some of my musician friends did this.” Trust me, it ups your popularity by at least 10%. Plus you’ll have the ability to start a band or join a band. I did marching band for all four years of high school; some of the people I was in it with are my closest friends and I wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for playing drums.

Stress relief

Making music can reduce your stress! Research has shown that playing music can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, and lessen anxiety and depression. Along with that, playing an instrument is a great way to make your mind focus on something completely different than what’s bothering you.

Improved patience

Without a doubt, there are going to be instances in your instrument learning that are not all rainbows and butterflies. There will be difficult pieces, exercises, and techniques along the way. However, as you learn, keep a cool head and persevere through the rough patches of your musical journey; you will find yourself gaining an impressive sense of patience. If you could get through that song or exercise, then what can’t you get through?

Smartness!

Yes, being an instrumentalist also makes you smarter. When learning how to play an instrument, many different parts of your brain are stimulated in ways they wouldn’t normally be. These parts, which control your motor skills, hearing and memory grow and become more active. In fact, studies even show that your IQ could increase by seven points!

 

As it turned out, begging my mom to get me drum lessons was one of the best decision I made. Now I want to start picking up a new instrument: either the piano, or I want to start rapping – yes, the goofy white guy from the midwest wants to rap. But hey, Asher Roth did it. Why can’t I?

And this is the exact mentality I think everyone needs to have when approaching a new art or discipline: All these other people have done it, so I can too.

You got this.

5 Hidden Treasures of Central Texas

5 Hidden Treasures of Central TexasI may or may not be totally biased when I say Texas is the greatest gift to this world, but I know with a state of such a large size, visitors have tons of opportunities to discover all of what the state has to offer. But as a born and raised central Texan, I am partial to say that this is where a majority of the awesome places to visit lie. Here are just a few places to add to your to do list if you ever find yourself in the Lone Star State.

Fredericksburg Herb Farm

Fredericksburg is a town in central Texas that is known for its huge German influence. The Herb Farm is a cottage styled house where visitors are welcome to stay as they travel through the culturally rich town. If you’re there in June, be sure to stop by the Stonewall Peach Jamboree and Rodeo and try and buy every kind of peach you can imagine.

 

Enchanted Rock

After you hit Fredericksburg, if you’re feeling adventurous, head up to Enchanted Rock. It is a state park that thousands of people each year choose to experience. Many people report back that the hiking experience is magical and would definitely recommend it to visitors!

 

Jacob’s Well

Not far from Wimberley, TX, is a spring known as Jacob’s Well. The water is clear and beautiful and diving tours are encouraged. Tours of the area and the spring itself are offered even in the winter months. The spring’s history and importance to Native Americans are highlighted during these tours.

 

Bluebonnet Cafe

In Marble Falls there is a cafe that has been standing since 1929. They serve breakfast all day and classic Texan dinners, but the cafe is revered for their pies. The pies are made from scratch every day and Monday through Friday 3-5 pm is pie happy hour! So be sure to stop by and grab a piece of pie and learn about the Bluebonnet Cafe’s long history.

 

Gruene Hall

Gruene Hall is in is located in Gruene, Texas, which is a part of New Braunfels. Like Fredericksburg, New Braunfels has a huge German-influenced history. The big draw of New Braunfels to most visitors is Schlitterbahn, which is a giant three part waterpark. However, if you’re looking to avoid long lines, head over to Gruene Hall, a dance hall that was built in 1878. You can catch a local country performer or maybe even a big name and dance the night away.

 

As the second largest state in the US, Texas has a lot to see. But if you’re looking to do something different than visit the beach or an amusement park, this list is here to help you discover places that not even all Texans have visited or heard of. Also, we Texans are known for our hospitality, so be sure to talk to the locals as you travel and learn more about our great state!

Top 5 Gym Pet Peeves

Top 5 Gym Pet PeevesAhh! There’s nothing better than getting a nice sweat going. I’ve been into the fitness lifestyle for about three years now and I can honestly say it was one the best decisions I’ve ever made. The feeling you get from pushing your body past its physical capacity is indescribable. Of course with fitness comes gym memberships and not so pleasurable experiences. Here are a few gym pet peeves that’ve manifested since I’ve started working out.

The Staredown:

Allight, I’m all for helping somebody if need be, but one thing that bothers me is when somebody just stares at you from afar and doesn’t even utter a word or acknowledge that they may have a problem with you or with what you’re doing. I’m not saying this happens only at the gym, but it’s happened quite a few times. You could already imagine the NSFW thoughts I’ve had during these situations.

 

Not Wiping Down Machines:

Etiquette is a must when attending a gym, so explain to me why some individuals have a problem with this rule. If you’re using a particular machine or equipment is it that hard to grab a wet wipe and clean your station? Like seriously how old are we?? Get it together folks.

 

Dirty Locker Rooms /Bathrooms:

I know that cleanliness falls on the gym staff, but as adults I feel as if we make tend to make their job harder than it has to be. Why are we flushing things that don’t even belong anywhere near a toilet? I’ve seen newspaper, lunch bags and bandages thrown in there. On top of that, some decide that placing used towels on the floor instead of a basket is a better choice. I tend to believe the notion that people are more civilized in places that they reside than in public. Usually in most gyms you have to be 18 years old to have a membership, so I question where some people learned their manners.

 

Obnoxious Grunting:

At a gym you’re going to hear an array of noises such as people conversing (which should be taking place elsewhere, not at a gym) or the clanging of weights against each other. One particular noise that gets to me is the LOUD, obnoxious grunting that takes place during an individual’s set. It’s usually being done by the jacked up muscle dude who thinks he runs the place. I have no problem with you expressing yourself at a gym, but if you’re grunting due to the difficulty of the weight being lifted, how about you just lessen the weight? Stop ego lifting, guys.

 

Use of Membership:

Alright, this one has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time now and that is the use of a membership. If you’re paying monthly for a gym membership then you have every right to decide how to put it in great use. What gets to me is when people attend a gym just to ride on a bike or run on a treadmill. It’s cool if you want to get your cardio in, but you can also make better use of a membership by doing other exercise. Many gym-goers, especially women, are afraid to lift weights, but it’s actually a great way to round out your fitness routine and reach your goals. If you’re willing to spend money on a membership, why not take advantage of all of the benefits that come with it?

 

There you go, my gym pet peeves that tend to get to me on occasion. It’s important to respect those around you, no matter where you are, and we tend to forget that, even if it may be common sense. I’m here to make my gym (and yours) a welcoming place for all.