Last week I talked about the pros and cons of working out at home, but this week I want to talk about the gym. That place where most people feel that they absolutely must go in order to get fit and trim. That place that can invoke fear in the hearts of even the most secure people, and bring grown women to tears. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but for some people, the gym is a big, bad, scary place. For others? It’s like paradise with shiny machines and lots of mirrors. If you’re thinking about joining the gym, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of working out there.
Should I Work Out at the Gym?
For some people, working out at a gym is the only way they feel comfortable getting their workout in. That’s completely fine and if that’s you, go for it. However, according to research, 67% of people who have gym memberships don’t use them. That’s a lot of money down the drain. So, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons.
Pros of Working Out at the Gym
Top of the Line Exercise Equipment
When you’re at the gym, the equipment is top of the line (or it should be!). The treadmills have more shock absorption, the ellipticals are solid and stable, the weights come in all sizes and shapes, and there’s usually plenty of equipment to go around. You don’t have to worry about having anything at home or buying anything extra, because the gym has you covered.
Variety, Variety, Variety
If you prefer to do resistance training exercises on machines that isolate a specific part of your body instead of using dumbbells, for instance, the gym will have plenty of different options for you. There will be equipment in the gym that you’ve probably never seen, let alone know how to use. For some people that can be very intimidating, but for others it’s a challenge and exciting.
Most gyms offer classes for their members that are included in the membership fee or that can be attended for a small additional fee. If you like trying new classes or working out in a class setting, the gym is a great way to go.
Personal Trainer Access
All gyms employ personal trainers to help members with exercise goals and equipment questions. If having a trainer by your side makes you feel more comfortable or empowered when working out, the gym might be the place for you.
Out of the House
When I first started working out at a gym it was because I desperately needed to get out of the house after spending all day home with three small kids. Sure, I wanted to get in shape, but the truth is that I needed an escape and the gym was it. For some people, being able to get out of the house and go somewhere else to exercise is the biggest bonus of all.
Depending on the gym you’re considering, you could be privy to a whole host of other perks by working out at the gym. Some places have racquetball courts, juice bars, hydro-massage tables, swimming pools, saunas, and more! In some cases, the gym is more like a destination retreat than simply a place to work out.
Cons of a Gym Membership
With the perks of gym membership comes the cost. While month-to-month memberships aren’t all that common, there are gyms that do offer them. However, even those month-to-month gyms usually have a one-time membership registration fee or even a yearly membership fee that’s attached to them. Most gyms require a yearly commitment though. Sure, you can pay month-by-month (typically with direct debiting from your checking account or credit card), but you’re also paying a registration fee and sometimes even a yearly “facility improvement fee”. The contracts are usually hard, if not impossible, to cancel after the initial 3 day period required by law. Generally, you don’t start not going until the third week and by then it’s already too late to cancel. If you want to save money, be sure to watch for specials or see if the gym offers discounts for paying in full. Most gyms also offer discounts for military veterans and first responders, so be sure to ask.
No, other people typically aren’t a con, but if you’re self-conscious about working out, having other people around can be a huge con to a gym. You may subconsciously (or consciously!) decide not to workout as hard, sweat as much, or challenge yourself quite as much as you otherwise would if the gym is crowded. It can be intimidating for those just beginning their fitness journey to be on a treadmill or lifting weights while sandwiched between people who are farther along on their journey and with the bodies to prove it. As a solid introvert, I understand this completely and, honestly, have been guilty of it myself.
Gyms can get really crowded right before work and right after work – the two most popular times to work out. If you have flexibility in your schedule and can work out whenever, this probably won’t be an issue. However, if you can only work out between 6-7:30am or 5-6:30pm, be prepared to deal with some gym crowding. What does a crowded gym mean for you? Well, there may be limits for how long you can use cardio machines, weights, etc. and there may be a wait for using them. Plan accordingly!
Unless you live next door to the gym, consider the amount of time it will take to travel to and from. What will you do on snowy mornings before the street plow has come? Will you still stop at the end of a hectic, hard day at work if it’s raining? How are you going to get there if you have a sick child or your spouse is traveling for work? There are definite pros to being able to get out of the house to exercise, but sometimes the logistics of it can be a breaking point.
As I said before when I talked about the pros and cons of working out at home, the key to finding the best fit for your workouts is to go where you feel most comfortable. If you want to exercise at a gym, tour a few different ones until you find the one where when you walk in you feel comfortable and at ease. Look at what people are wearing, how they’re acting, and how friendly they are. Ideally, the place where you exercise should be filled with supportive, kind, friendly people who are there for more than socializing.
It really doesn’t matter where you work out, as long as you do. Go with what feels most comfortable for you. Now, go exercise!