Regular exercise makes you feel and look good. It also helps increase longevity, reduces stress and lowers the risk of many diseases. It is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
For most of us, when we think about regular exercise, our first thought is to join a gym. They are convenient, have all the equipment and classes we need and the membership cost is usually a good incentive to keep going.
Since exercising regularly is good for you, one would assume a gym membership would always be worth it. But, that is, only as long as you go regularly.
Years ago, I joined a gym and regularly worked out, for about 6 months, both cardio and weights. I was in great shape, felt amazing and looked really good (I did!). Then I went on vacation for a couple of weeks and when I got back, I never got into it again. I didn’t cancel my membership right away because I was convinced I would go back and I didn’t want to feel like I was giving up. I kept paying for many more months and eventually did cancel. These days, every time I think of joining a club again, I always wonder if the same would happen. Is a gym membership really worth it for me?
A few interesting facts about health club/gym memberships:
- U.S. Health Club industry revenue was $27.6 billion in 2016.
- In 2016, 3% of Americans (age 6 and older) were health club members.
- The average membership is $58 per month
- An average member will work out twice a week
- Over two third of membership go unused! This is an insane number, so many people just wasting their money away. I was at my local gym checking things out last week and I asked the rep about it, he told me some of their members (about 60%) have been paying for years and never show up. Do people just get so used to paying the fee, they stop noticing it on their bank statements?
- If you stop going to the gym for any reason (sick, vacation), the odds are you won’t go back.
- Membership is more about time and energy than about money
- It’s not because you have the membership that you will get in shape
(You can check out more statistics at http://www.statisticbrain.com/gym-membership-statistics/)
SO WHY DO 2/3 OF CLUB MEMBERSHIPS GO UNUSED?
Here are some of the top reasons why people stop going to the gym and a few tips on how to avoid them:
Life gets in the way! Too busy and no longer have enough time.
You try to make time at first, you set goals and are eager to start, then slowly life gets in the way and you don’t go as often and eventually you just stop going.
- Check where all your hours go and eliminate everything that is non-added value (like too much TV time!). You will free up hours for your work outs.
- Schedule your time to the gym. Add it to your calendar, and honor it like you would any other appointment (not optional). If something better comes up, work around it or reschedule your gym workout. Make sure to update your calendar right away (just like you would any other appointments).
- Go to bed 30 minutes earlier if you can. It may be that you are not getting enough sleep to do everything you want to in a day resulting in a lack of energy.
Nobody else cares if you show up. The gym won’t miss you!. They are actually banking on most of you not showing up in the first place.
You don’t feel like working out today so you are just going to stay home and watch TV instead, who is going to care anyway? Nobody is going to call you and remind you to come in, you are not accountable to anyone. You skip once, then twice, then you stop going all together.
- Let everybody know around you what you are doing and when, you will be more accountable. Post it on your blog if you are a blogger!
- Join with somebody. Whenever you don’t feel like working out, you will have to let them know and that may be enough to motivate you. You won’t want to let them down.
- Get a personal trainer for a while. You will have to schedule sessions ahead of time and will have to show up.
In a rush and want results right away. Too much too soon.
If your main fitness goal is to get in shape and lose weight, you may start by going four or five times a week and expect results right away. You are setting yourself up for failure. It takes 2 to 3 months to start seeing physical results.
- Start slow, it is not a marathon, you are trying to change your habits, it is going to take a while. Some say it takes 21 days to create a habit but it can take a lot longer. Start small and work your way up. Instead of committing to five gym visits a week, start with two visits.
- If you really want to lose weight and get in shape, you need to do both, strength training and cardiovascular exercise, mix it up.
- If you exercise consistently and eat right, you will start seeing physical results after 2-3 months, so be patient and don’t give up.
- Don’t reward yourself with food items. It is ok to treat yourself once in a while but if every time you work out you treat yourself to a piece of cake or a chocolate bar, then it counteracts the calories you just burned.
How many people do you hear complain about how they dislike a machine but still use it! You need to enjoy your workout, whatever you do.
- Try all the equipment and classes and find out what you like. Stay away from the machines you don’t like.
- Mix it up and don’t let your workout become too routine and boring.
- Don’t overdo it at first; limit your time in the gym to 20-30 minutes per visit. You don’t want to overdo it and you want to look forward to your next work out
So what does all this mean to me? Is a gym membership worth it? Should I join the gym and hope I will be an exception to the rule? With most clubs, you have to commit to at least one year, do I really want to take the chance and potentially waste money?
With all that information in hand, I decided to hold off on the gym membership until I am certain I am ready to make the time commitment and the adjustment to my diet. Instead, I made a list of the free activities available to me already and selected a few I may enjoy or that fit best into my current schedule. If I can stick to the schedule and the minor diet adjustments, then I should be ready to join the gym.
Here are my health goals for the next few months, ALL FREE:
- Walk my dog every day for at least 40 mn. I know I should already be walking her regularly but she is a small dog and we have a nice size backyard so I don’t always do it.
- “Climb up” the 17 flights of stairs at my office, 5 times a week.
- Work out at least 3 times a week on my elliptical (a small investment from a few years ago). I have used it several times in 2 to 3 weeks increments, and every time I stop! (if you don’t have any equipment, you can download a workout routine)
- Stop eating junk food. I work in an office and have a tendency to snack a lot during the day, anything from chips to chocolate. No point in joining the gym if I am going to keep snacking.
- Drink water! Recommendation is about 8 glasses a day (8 oz.) but that seems like a lot to me. I will aim for half of that and work from there.
This winter, I will also try to go cross-country skiing a few times. I already have the equipment and free trails around town. I just need to schedule the time!
If I can slowly work up to this plan and stick with it for at least 3 months, then I should be ready to join a gym. But by that point, I may not want to anymore. While I would really like to participate in some of the work out classes at a gym, if I can get a good work out for free, I may not be interested in spending the money anymore.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself if you are thinking of joining a gym:
- Can I get as good of workout, by using what is already available to me, for free?
- Will I actually go and how often?
- Do I know someone who already goes there or may be interested to sign up with me?
- Do they have the kind of equipment or classes I am interested in?
- Is it close enough to work or home?
So what do you think, is a gym membership worth it for you?