I’ve had a few people ask me about whether I would recommend joining a gym over working out at home and I wanted to take some time to answer this because it really depends on your personal situation and goals.
Not everyone has the time or resources to go to a gym. For example, if you are a new parent with a busy schedule or there isn’t a gym in close proximity to you then you need to structure the majority of your workouts at home. If you’re able to to make it to the gym often enough to justify a membership then I would recommend joining. This could be in addition to any home workout program you do.
Memberships aren’t cheap so you have to weigh the cost by the number of times you could (realistically) make it to the gym. Meaning, if your membership is around $45 per month and you can go 3 times per week (12 per month) then you’re paying around $3.75 for every gym visit. I think that is very reasonable when you look at it from that perceptive. And remember – it’s an investment in your health so it’s worth the expense!
The benefits of joining a gym:
- Access to a wide variety of equipment. Becoming a member of a gym gives you access to machines, equipment, and weights that you wouldn’t have access to at your home (Oh, how I would LOVE a squat rack in my garage!). This increases the number of movements and exercises you can do, allowing for greater fitness gains. If you have specific goals (lets say you want to gain muscle), then you should head to the gym since that will get you faster results.
- Motivation. Some people have mixed feelings on this one, but I really see the gym as a place of inspiration. It’s a community of people committed to health. I get especially excited when I see women lifting on the strength floor. I sometimes have to keep myself from giving them a thumbs up.
- No distractions or excuses. I’ve written several articles about how easy it can be to workout from home and ways to squeeze in exercise with kids around. That being said, I also believe a lot can be gained emotionally by carving out that time to focus on yourself and nothing else. If you are the type of person who would be distracted easily working out at home (laundry, phone calls, emails) then you should try to get to the gym so you won’t get side-tracked.
- Access to classes. Most gyms offer group classes which can be a great way to meet other people, try something new, and incorporate different muscle movements. I like classes because they take the guesswork out of training. All you need to do is follow the instructor. I’ve discovered boot camp, boxing, step, body-pump, and yoga classes through various gyms.
- Other perks. Some facilities offer hot tubs, saunas, pools, tennis and racket ball courts at no extra charge. Certain locations even offer childcare during your workout (check to see if this is an added fee).
The downside of gyms:
- Busy atmosphere at times. It’s not always easy to get your workout in (check out my tips for navigating a busy gym) and equipment can sometimes be very limited. As such, you may have to be flexible with your timing and creative with your workouts (think: super setting or on the spot training).
- Travel. Yes, you do have to travel to the gym and that eats into your time. It can be a hassle if you are far away and parking can sometimes be an issue.
- Intimidation factor. It can be a tad unnerving for some people to visit a gym. I get this! I used to be like that, too. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’re bound to feel uncomfortable. I recommend getting someone knowledgeable to help you with your form and instruction (I know a guy!). There are also some very good YouTube videos out there that give great demonstrations.
- All the germs. I’m sorry, but it’s absolutely true. Gyms are synonymous with germs. Locker rooms, showers, mats – there is no avoiding bacteria or other strange viruses in the health care setting. So just be sure you are wiping things down, using towels over mats and benches, and for Pete’s sake, wear flip-flops in the shower!
Do you have a gym membership? What do you like best/least about your gym?