When the clock hit 12am on 1st January, few would have envisioned the 6 months that lay ahead. Whatever it meant for you, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown has undoubtedly been a trigger that has caused many to evaluate what it is that is really important in their life. For me, striping life back to the bare essentials and having time to appreciate what is most important to me also helped me to realise all that was superfluous. One of those things was my gym membership.
About 6 weeks ago I contacted my health and fitness club and told them that I won’t be going back. I’ve had a gym membership or access to a training facility full of equipment for the entirety of my adult life. Even since I started training calisthenics, I still went somewhere to do it. Now, for the first time, it’s gone and I have no plans in the short-term to go back. Here are the reasons why.
Caveat #1: I’m going to tell you why I am not going back to the gym. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t because having a gym membership could be exactly what you need. Just like my wife is deciding to keep hers. It’s right for her. Here, I’m just going to tell you what my thought and decision-making process has been. Perhaps if nothing else these will help you evaluate how, where and why you train so that when you go back to the gym, you do so with more clarity and purpose.
Caveat #2: I have complete sympathy and empathy for gym owners who have had their business swept from underneath them and some may argue that I should continue to support them in this time of uncertainty. That’s a fair point, but sometimes you have to make choices and on this occasion, I am choosing to do what feels right for me and my family life.
Let’s cover off the obvious benefits of not having a gym membership these are the easy wins:
Saving money – Whilst I think most gym memberships are great value when you view it through the lens of an investment in your health and wellbeing but if you don’t need to go to the gym to train, that’s £50, or whatever you pay a month back in your bank account. Over the course of 12 months, that’s £600 and the equivalent of a long haul flight, and travelling is something that makes me very happy. I want to do more of that and I don’t need to go to the gym to get a decent workout done. I’ll talk more about motivation shortly.
Time – Travelling to and from the gym takes time. Time is the most valuable commodity in the world and I want more time in my world. Training at home serves this desire well. It also entirely mitigates the risk of getting distracted and spending half of my 60-minute session engaged in small talk with other gym members. Not that I don’t value community but most of the time I need my sessions to be efficient. The truth is that if you want to get real adaptation and progress then you have to be focused on things like rest periods.
Convenience – Training at home facilitates a more flexible approach. If it takes you 15 – 30 minutes to get to the gym, you’re unlikely to want to only stay there for 20 minutes before travelling home. So you have to plan in bigger blocks of time to go, or you just don’t bother because you haven’t got time. When you have the option to train at home those short and sweet workouts become completely viable. If you’re busy, tired or just need to do something for your mental wellbeing, home training becomes a huge asset. I’d also suggest that if you’re focused, you can get as much done in 20 minutes as you often will do in an hour at the gym.
I think a lot of people will have previously told themselves the story that they need to go to the gym to train. All those same people who didn’t just pack in training during lockdown will now realise that this simply isn’t true. When you want it enough you will make it happen. It just requires a change in mindset.
Yes, the gym is convenient, it’s warm, they have lots of equipment, maybe fresh towels, a pool and a coffee shop. If those things are the things that get you to go the gym then I ask the question, how motivated are you to actually train? Or do these nice to haves just make working out tolerable? If it’s the latter, I would encourage you to find a form of physical activity that you enjoy and is not a chore.
I love training so the venue becomes irrelevant. Furthermore, I have loved training at home during lockdown and I have done some of the best workouts I have done, maybe ever.
Training from home is easy when the sun is shining and the birds are singing. When winter comes, the environment changes somewhat and it is going to get harder and that is where the question of priorities comes in.
How much do I value my health and fitness? Enough to get a workout done when it’s a bit drizzly or cold? When it’s dark? Truth be told I can’t give a 100% truthful answer yet because it’s currently British summer time. However my mindset is this, I kind of want to have to get on the front foot, suck it up and dig into some fortitude and train when the conditions are not perfect. I’m actually strangely looking forward to the autumn. The plan is simple, prioritise my training and, where possible, structure my day around it meaning I can train when I feel most motivated, when the rain stops or when I intentionally create space in my diary to get away from my computer.
It would be remiss not to mention the challenges that we all face when trying to train at home.
Equipment – Yes it will take some investment to get the basics but this is where calisthenics comes into its own. It does not cost a lot to get a very functional setup at home and it’s yours to keep. If you have a set of rings which cost around £30 and somewhere to hang them then you are geared up with probably the most effective piece of equipment in all of training.
Invest steadily over time. Maybe for the first couple of months just spend what you would have done at the gym on equipment for your home. You’ll be reaping the return on investment very quickly.
Lower Body Training – You need squat racks, barbells and hundreds of kilos of weight to train your lower body effectively right? Wrong. You can create significant progressive overload and do far more benefit for your human movement system by thinking about scaling the demands on your lower body in different ways. A 20kg weight vest will make your single leg or pistol squats much more challenging. Use the same loads in other unilateral exercises like rear door elevated split squats. Do more plyometrics and make and investment in your bone density and reactive strength at the same time. These things will serve you well as you age.
Most people don’t need to pull huge amounts of weight for 1 or 2 reps. What most people need to do is train the lower body in different ranges of movement and planes of motion. They need to maintain stability, balance, kinetic chain integration and fast twitch capabilities. They need to get out and run, preferably at different speeds and on different terrain. How did a treadmill ever condition anyone for the real world?
Distraction – I won’t lie, in the past I have found myself doing household jobs during rest periods but that has stopped recently. I have a Garmin watch that tracks my reps and rest periods for me. It has been one of the most valuable additions to my training because it provides accountability.
When you train at home, that should be your focus. Plan the session before you start and then don’t stop until it is done. Rest is for rest, not opening letters or watering the plants.
So there we have it, the reasons why I cancelled my gym membership. Yes, there is an adjustment period but if you can work through that I think you will seriously wonder why you needed a gym in the first place.
With all the benefits in mind, I get to make savings on many fronts which in turn means I can spend my time, money, energy and attention on the things that are really important to me. My family, my business and my hobbies.
Training at home. I’m all in and would love to know if you are on the same journey so please send us a message on social and continue the conversation.
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