This information is purely from personal experience, I’m not giving expert advice, what works for me may not work for everyone.
I thought I would talk a little bit about exercising, specifically my journey to finding something that works for me consistently. My training may alter as I set myself new goals, but for now this is best for my busy schedule and lack of cash! This is aimed at people like myself who might not have the money for a monthly membership, but really want to get in shape. I hope to show that while gyms can be a great tool, they are not necessary for fitness.
Early Relationship with the Gym
When I first started going to the gym I was utterly hopeless, confused and intimidated. I would run on the treadmill for about 20-30 minutes, and then use some assisted weight machines for an additional 20 minutes rather aimlessly.
Why I would force myself to use the treadmill is beyond me. I hate running. Always have, always will.
The reasoning behind this was I didn’t know what to do in the weights section. A treadmill was less scary and I was sweating so why not? Everyone knows how to put one foot in front of the other, I couldn’t possibly cock that up. Cardio machines are a safe zone, and I found it hard to break out of the habit initially. Even when you feel brave enough to use free weights or machines, you still don’t have a clue what you are doing. The little pictogram on the side of the machine might tell you where to put your arm but it doesn’t tell you how many reps you should be doing, what exercises should be paired together, or how many times a week you should be doing this!
Hand on heart, I can’t really say my early experience of gyms was worthwhile because I didn’t know what I was doing.
Over the last year I’ve been signed up to a local gym with my rugby team mates. My fitness has improved a lot during this time, and although I’ve chosen to not renew my membership I’d like to outline the pros and cons of attending a gym. Again, this is entirely personal, I’m just sharing what worked for me!
Exercise can be very social. There have been times when I would refuse to go to the gym on my own. It can be really nice to go with your friends because it feels like less of a chore if you’re hanging out too. If you like to exercise with friends then the gym is for you. Just make sure to set a plan with your gym buddy and keep each other accountable.
Equally, some of us need to be motivated by our environment. Like the tree in the forest, did I really miss that last burpee if no one saw it? Being surrounded by others exercising can either be intimidating or encouraging. You either buckle with the pressure from being watched, or you get into that great headspace where you want to prove yourself. It took me a while to realise this: no one cares what you are doing in the gym. Do you spend your time analysing other people’s workouts, or are you focusing on your own movements? Exactly. Don’t ever feel scared to try out new things! Personally I found in the early days that the gym was positively impacting my workouts, being in the right environment gave me that extra push to power through.
The gym on a basic level is just a space to utilise. I’m a serial house-mover; I cannot count how many houses/flats I’ve been in over the last two years. Each place had its own obstacles when it came to exercising from home. Attempting jumping squats in a first floor flat at 6am is awkward (unless you really hate your downstairs neighbours). I’m lucky in my new flat as it is ground floor and very spacious; if my living situation had been different then I’m not sure I would have made the same decision. If you lack the space at home to workout, then please stick with the gym as you need some room.
One of the most obvious pluses is the equipment. If your training involves treadmill sprints or assisted weight machines then it’s a no-brainer. Very few have the means to set this up from home (however my brother has set up a home gym in his garage!)
Gyms are expensive. Whether you sign up to your local independent gym or a tennis club, it’s still a monthly bill that we all begrudge paying. How many of you have divided the monthly cost by how many sessions you plan to do, to assess how much you pay per go? I certainly have.
The distance from your work/home and the gym can be make-or-break for a workout. I actually had to start taking my gym clothes to work with me because if I went home first, I would usually sack it off because I couldn’t be bothered to go back outside. It can become a very easy excuse if your gym isn’t on your doorstep.
I listed ‘space’ as a pro earlier, however that isn’t always the case. My old gym was pretty small with a lot of people signed up. Turn up at the wrong time and you’re screwed. I have seen countless conversations online discussing ‘good’ times at specific gyms, some people resorting to training at 5am just so they can have some peace and quiet. It can be awkward trying to avoid getting your bum in the girl’s face next to you. And there is nothing worse than having a workout planned, only to wait and watch someone play with their phone on the machine you want. Be open-minded about the space available to you at home, because sometimes it is no better in a gym.
This point is personal to my training style so not necessarily reflective of gyms themselves. I do enjoy weight lifting, and it compliments my body/training style much better than endurance activities. However, I got into HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training) that still utilises strength and I really enjoyed it. I could see myself getting visibly stronger, I would get really sweaty, and my workouts would take no longer than 45 minutes from start to finish. While this was great, I started to realise over the months that I was going to the gym and wouldn’t touch a single piece of equipment. Nothing. I saw less and less reason to pay for a membership, because everything I was doing in the gym I could do from home.
The Importance of a Plan
Having a gym membership is not the most important step to getting fit (it’s a cruel fact that paying the monthly fee alone doesn’t get you abs). I have made so much progress just by having a plan and a routine. I have been using the same HIIT ebook for a long time, and I’ve only invested in an additional ebook recently for some variety. You can find snippets of plans online, but most trainers don’t put out their advice for free. It is a worthwhile investment, but do your research. Different plans have different goals: figure out what you’re trying to achieve whether it’s weight loss, flexibility or muscle gain. Checking out a trainer/athlete’s social media will give you a good indication of what their plans involve. The cost of an ebook will be significantly lower than a subscription to a gym, and it’s yours forever.
And even if you don’t have the cash for that, the internet is your friend! There are thousands of YouTube videos for every type of exercise you could think of. Don’t know how to do a piked push-up? Someone will have recorded themselves doing it. Want a 10-minute yoga video to alleviate back pain? You will be spoiled for choice. You can spend hours looking through content, but my biggest advice is to get a plan and stick to it. An ebook with a weekly programme has worked best for me because it gave me structure. I know how many workouts I have to complete each week, so I can plan in advance around my schedule. There is less chance of missing a workout just because I’m busy. Also my workouts are short, lasting no longer than 45 minutes. No one has time to spend two hours a day exercising, and it’s kind of pointless! You’ll achieve more by working at a higher intensity for a shorter time.
Exercising from home has significantly increased my productivity. I don’t have to travel, I don’t have to compete for floor space, and I have more money to spend on sports bras (yay!). In the future there is a possibility I will sign up to a gym again, but for the moment I would rather save my money when I can make progress at home for free.
Takeaway from this Post
In an ideal world we’d all have nutritionists, personal trainers, a snazzy gym and live by the beach for morning walks (in my dream I have lots of dogs too). Most of us in reality are super busy and don’t have the luxury of expendable cash. If you’re essentially choosing between investing in a decent program vs. a monthly fee for floor space, personally I would opt for the program. You can get fit with your body weight alone, and it is far better to know what you are doing compared to aimlessly wandering around the gym. Even better, you could invest in home equipment (i.e. kettlebells or resistance bands) with the money you save. This post may be blatantly obvious to some but I hope for people like me, who have wasted so much time dithering around a gym, that it will make sense and be helpful.
As boring as it sounds, the key to getting fit is being organised!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this, please share and subscribe for more. I’d like to do a post on my eating habits for fitness and weight loss, please let me know if this is something you’d like to hear. I would really appreciate your input and support!