So the burning question is, "Should I join a gym or workout at home?"
Apparently, if your New Year's resolution was to exercise more this year, chances are you've already given up or you're on the verge of doing so. And you're not alone in this. Almost everybody has a proposed workout schedule on their to-do list.
Your best bet to achieve this aim is to either join a gym or creating an in-house gym (popularly referred to as home gyms lately.)
The decision to work out is no small endeavor. With life’s schedules and obstacles always getting in the way, it’s understandable why people give up on their fitness goals.
Most people make it to the contemplative mountain of change, however, very few actually start the climb and even fewer make it to the top.
But did you know the major contributor to achieving your goals is through finding a medium that works specifically for you?
The greatest choice to make once an individual has decided to set fitness goals is deciding where to workout. Should I join a gym or workout at home?
Let’s take a look at the majority of things to consider in order to help you make the best decision for you.
The Benefits of a Gym/Health Club
Joining a gym has many benefits, making it an optimal choice for both health and fitness-related goals. It is essentially a one-stop-shopping center, complete with a variety of options and services geared to the consumer.
Beyond the primary benefits, gyms also have many secondary benefits that can mean the difference between success and failure in reaching one’s goals.
And there's adequate study and proof by a team of Iowa State University researchers to back this claim as to why you should join a gym today.
Here are a few advantages and disadvantages to the gym scene.
Advantages of Joining a Gym
Back in the early 2000s, I worked in the corporate world in a big city. I had a 9-to-5 position making great money and all the benefits one could ask for.
One of my personal goals has always been to maintain a certain level of fitness, but this career path didn't allow for much residual time, especially as a mother of small children.
I had family obligations after work and my mornings were spent getting children ready for daycare and school, not to mention getting myself ready for work.
I decided to join a gym. After a few phone calls, some visits and information from people within my network, I found a place located less than 5-minutes from my work. My goal was to stay fit and the time I had was during my lunch hour.
It was a perfect fit for me! For my entire career, I was able to slide out of the office several days a week and get in my workout. In fact, the gym setting was so large and so practical, with full-service showers, classes and cardio equipment.
I found myself staying consistent with a routine and quite content with the options. I maintained and even exceeded my goals!
The list of advantages to joining a gym is great, given that you find a place that fits your individual needs and preferences.
Just like the perfect pair of jeans, finding the right fit is essential to your level of comfort. In the fitness world, comfort equates to self-esteem and confidence, and confidence equates to success!
OK. So let's dive in and look at some advantages:
1. Most big gyms and fitness centers have a large square-footage that offers a variety of options for every level of fitness. Swimming pools, indoor/outdoor tracks, specialty classes geared to beginners or advanced, funky yoga and dance classes, basketball courts, free-weight areas etc..
As well as strength training/toning machines and tools to get you into top physical condition. You can find something for almost anyone.
2. Gym hours are often accommodating to most schedules, with some fitness locations staying open 24-hours, erasing the old excuse that you ran out of time. Some open their doors early in the morning, and others stay open late. They may even have key-card access after hours, providing options to all schedules.
In addition to operating hours, many full-service gyms offer additional benefits such as massage chairs, saunas and hot tubs for relaxing after an intense workout or to utilize on their own.
Other services include daycare, shower facilities and restaurants or smoothie bars onsite. A gym certainly has its bonus perks!
3. When it comes to finding a gym, there are many different types to choose from. Specialized gyms such as kettlebell gyms, CrossFit gyms (also known as boxes), boxing gyms, full-service self-defense gyms, yoga centers, strength and conditioning gyms and a variety of other generalized fitness centers that offer cardio and toning classes, senior citizen classes, private training, free-weights and fitness machines.
Some gyms have entire rooms set up for cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, elliptical, rowers and fitness bikes. Variety is truly the spice of life and the advantage of joining a gym is you get a choice of what you prefer.
4. Most fitness centers provide greater access to a variety of exercise equipment and exercise classes, creating a matrix of opportunities to reach your goals. For beginners or individuals who are learning how to use certain pieces of equipment, gyms offer the opportunity for learning proper equipment usage and effectiveness.
This variety allows for highly targeted training, including hard to reach accessory muscles and individuals who are going through a physical rehabilitative program.
5. Boredom is often non-existent in an actual gym setting, mainly due to the variety and the socialization benefits affiliated. If you don’t want to lift weights, you can jog or walk the track, and you just might make a new friend doing so.
If you want to take a high-energy class to help uplift your spirits, you can. You have the opportunity to meet new people and experience new things, creating an environment of growth and enhanced wellness.
Social interactions are important to overall wellness and having a network of support within a gym-setting can provide the exact medium to meeting your goals.
6. In a gym setting, you can actually focus on your workouts and all things fitness related. There aren’t many non-fitness distractions pulling you away once you are there.
You are also surrounded by other individuals who may be on a different level of the journey, which can be a great source of motivation.
Within the gym itself, there is also an air of energy that seems to draw you into the workout environment and get you moving.
7. In terms of cost, joining a gym often provides an excellent opportunity for any budget. Many businesses offer employee discounts or even cover the full cost of a membership.
Monthly financing, or low monthly payment plans for those on a budget, make gym dues much more affordable. If you have the cash in hand, you may even receive a significant discount for joining long-term at one-payment price.
All in all, the advantages of a gym membership provide a motivational environment full of options designed to fit almost any need!
Disadvantages of Joining a Gym
There is a downside to being part of a gym, creating several unfortunate disadvantages if you aren’t careful.
1. One of the most common disadvantages of joining a gym seems to be overcrowding, especially during peak hours. For many large gyms, the availability of equipment and space offset the crowds.
However, in many areas. peak times, popular classes and certain equipment may have maximum usage time or even a waitlist/sign-up sheet.
As an instructor, I have taught several very popular classes during where I was forced to turn people away due to capacity issues. Rarely, was this well-received and often created frustration.
2. With many gyms, there is often a contractual contract in order to join. This can increase the financial burden in the event of anything happening in life, albeit serious illness of a family member or job loss.
The initial “sign-on” special may appear attractive; however, the reality can create potential issues regarding family finances and even impact credit scores.
I have seen people turned down for home and automobile loans because they quit the gym, breaching their contractual agreement. Be aware of what you sign.
3. In my experience, excuses are one of the most common reasons people fail to work out and a gym environment can actually increase the number of excuses. Maybe the weather has the potential to delay them, or the gym is too far given their schedule or it may be too crowded.
Even if the gym is in your neighborhood, the opportunity to make excuses not to go is great. It seems as though, past the initial hype of joining the gym, the energy tends to wane and the consistency is much less due to excuses.
4. Other downsides include the spreading of viruses and bacteria, especially during peak seasons and outbreaks. This is particularly important for individuals who have compromised immunities.
You must relay on the work-ethic of gym staff, and I can tell you not all staff apply integrity when it comes to their cleaning duties!
If you have health issues, it is your responsibility to ensure you ask the appropriate questions about equipment cleaning and sanitation.
Although few, the potential downers to gym membership can create many issues, thwarting your goal-achievement and creating a sense of failure.
The Benefits of a Home Gym
On the flip-side of the coin, working out in the comfort of your own home or garage may be more enticing!
It can allow you to achieve your fitness goals on a more consistent basis, providing an excuse-free environment that allows you to get it done!
Often, the excuses made and the skipping of gym-time can be eliminated just by having a designated space and some equipment in the home. Here is why.
Advantages of Working Out at Home
1. One of the primary advantages of working out at home is the freedom to do and to be. You get to come as you are without judgment or worry, I like to say aside from safety issues, the freedom of working out at home means you don’t have to follow the silly rules and codes or the esoteric gym culture affiliated with larger or specialty gyms.
You get to be who you are and wear what you want.
2. In terms of space, there are no crowds in a home gym. You don’t have to wait for the equipment to become available and you certainly do not have to share. This you are in control of cleanliness when it comes to germ transference.
3. You can work out when you want, where you want and how you want in the comfort of your own home. You can play your music genre on the loudest setting if you choose. You can adjust the lighting, the space and the noise level.
You can do exactly what you want without having to worry about anything else. And honestly, you could work out in the buff if you so desired. It is your space.
For some folks, this in and of itself, is the greatest advantage of working out at home and provides for success.
4. Working out at home can be quite valuable to those individuals who live in rural or remote areas, making it difficult to get to the gym consistently. I've seen many of my own clients drop inconsistency due to the distance they lived from the gym.
Compile unforeseen responsibilities and other issues on top of distance, and you may find that you aren't visiting as frequently as you intended.
Working out at home is highly advantageous to folks who do a lot of traveling, have erratic work and life schedules, or who simply find the thought of crowded spaces a major deterrent.
The equipment can be tailored to meet your specific needs instead of having a bunch of superfluous or unused gym equipment taking up space, creating an efficient workout environment that is targeted to you.
Overall, the positives of working out at home provide an unstructured and accessible environment that is tailored to your unique needs, lifestyle and schedule.
Disadvantages of Working Out at Home
As with any choice, there are likely to be some disadvantages and working out at home is no different.
1. The greatest disadvantage of choosing to workout at home is the high probability of being distracted. Many folks with home gyms or who workout in their homes are more apt to allow minor interruptions to get in between them and their workout that wouldn’t normally occur in a gym.
For example, phone calls may be readily taken instead of letting them go to voice mail. Interruptions by children, visitors and the spouse during a workout can mean the difference between 30-minutes of steady and highly effective training, or 3-5 minute intervals at a light to moderate intensity.
Not to mention, disruptions typically end up in disappointment and may even cause one to stop the workout altogether.
2. Home gyms tend to be less spacious in terms of workout area designation. Furniture might need to be moved around or workout equipment pulled out from storage.
Stepping into the living room and turning on the DVD player is nothing like stepping into a real-time studio where all of the equipment is readily available.
If you don't have much space, then you certainly do not have the room for a whole lot of equipment or movement and this can cause frustrations.
3. When working out at home, motivation is somewhat sacrificed in that there is no one to encourage you. You are often by yourself, with yourself. This means that excuses are much easier to make when you are feeling less than motivated.
For me, I prefer the solitude of working out at home, but I do find at times I need a little extra push to get me through. That isn't an option for most who workout at home.
Not to mention, the TV and the couch are mere inches away, leaving the option of stopping or quitting on the table!
For those who want to workout at home, it is important to weigh the disadvantages alongside the benefits in order to be successful.
Myths about Working Out
Many people feel naturally drawn to a particular workout environment that leaves them energized and successful. Unfortunately, there are so many opinions and beliefs in today’s society, that the populations are doing the opposite of what they enjoy.
Some may even be torturing themselves going to the gym or attending certain classes or moving at certain intensities, when they would much prefer to exercise in the comfort of their own home.
This typically comes from myths and fallacies surrounding working out.
Let's look at few common myths regarding fitness
Myth #1: Strength training makes you bulky,
The vast majority of individuals who perform strength training do so in the gym setting. Images of chiseled sweaty bodies or individuals wearing tight clothing, revealing strong bodies often comes to mind when we discuss strength training in general.
Strength training can be performed in the gym or in the home, and contrary to popular lip-service, it does not create bulk. Training for muscle-building and muscle mass creates bulk and that requires a very specific plan focusing on nutrition and specific exercises at specific weights.
A complete set of dumbbells or kettlebells, a barbell and plates, a few resistance bands and even an arsenal of bodyweight exercises are really all you need to develop muscle strength. This can be done in-home and in the gym.
Myth #2 You cannot get fit working out at home.
Some of the greatest workouts I have ever performed were accomplished in my own living room, my garage and in my very own driveway with nothing more than a single dumbbell.
In fact, the most memorable workout I have ever done wasn’t on the gym floor, but outdoors in my neighborhood. Even 7 years later, I remember that I was the sorest I have been to date!
There are so many options for performing effective workouts in the comforts of your home, from online streaming to multi-performance/multi-use equipment, that you no longer require a gym membership to get fit or even lose weight.
Myth #3: Home gyms are too expensive to put together.
I will say, if done correctly, a home gym can require a bit of prepping and a little budgeting. However, the financial benefits, in the long run, are unparalleled.
With the money you would spend on a gym membership, you could easily purchase one or two pieces of equipment tailored to your needs.
Even an initial purchase of a little more expensive equipment balances out after a few months and then the savings begin!
With some gyms costing $150-200 USD plus a month, for a 3-month gym membership investment, you could have a pretty decent home gym.
Whether you plan on joining a gym or remodeling the spare room in order to create your own gym, there are several things to consider and recommendations prior to taking the leap.
First, if you plan on joining a gym, do your research! Take advantage of the free trial periods and complimentary visits before you make a decision, especially if you aren’t sure what gym environment is a fit for you.
Some people enjoy traditional gym settings that have a room designated for cardiovascular equipment and a separate location for free weights and machines.
Other individuals may thrive in a sweatshop style environment, with fans in exchange for an air conditioner and punching bags or jump ropes instead of treadmills.
Some gyms only offer strength and conditioning classes while others provide a full schedule of options ranging from yoga, pilates to high-intensity step aerobics.
I recommend doing your research on several places prior to committing.
Another recommendation is understanding what personal needs and values you have. You may need a daycare center on-site that is part of the membership or you may be looking for a place that will allow you to let your children sit quietly on the sidelines.
Then again, you might be someone like me who wants to get as far away from kids as possible when I'm working out. Either way, finding a gym that fits your needs, your budget, your goals and your comfort level will help keep you motivated and eliminate any excuses you may have.
Conversely, if working out at home seems the more appealing route, there are a few steps I recommend prior to spending any money.
First off, make sure you have a plan regarding what you want to achieve. Is your goal weight-loss, strength building, toning or total body conditioning? From there, you can plan out equipment that you like and that you believe you will use.
One of the biggest complaints with home exercisers is they get bored and no longer use that “expensive” cardio machine they purchased for the new year, except to store coats or hang clothes! Don't let impulse and tends drive your purchase.
Also, do your research and see what is available to you in terms of workout media. With smart TVs and the internet, you can essentially have your own personal trainer on your living room floor at the push of a button.
Check into subscriptions or even current access that you may already have based on your subscriptions.
Lots of people like to download apps for their phones, but I've found these are often short-lived in terms of stick-to-it-ness and I rarely recommend them for effective training options, with the exception of individuals on very specific programs.
Figure out how to handle any distractions that may occur while working out at home. This may be putting up a “DON’T SPEAK TO ME UNTIL….” Sign to prevent interruptions or it maybe turning your phone on airplane mode while working out.
I recommend that you make an appointment with yourself and commit to that specific time, making your home workout a priority.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQ’s)
#Do I need anything special to workout at home?
No. Beyond a little space and a simple plan, your body weight is essentially all the equipment required to get you moving.
#How often do I need to exercise in order to maximize weight loss?
In order to lose weight, you need to increase your calorie burn or decrease the calories consumed, in conjunction with increasing lean muscle mass and decreasing body fat.
This is done by cutting calories or engaging in moderate to intense exercise 20-30 min a day 4-5 times a week, or by exercising longer and more times a week at a lesser intensity. Working out with in a home gym or at a commercial facility can help you with this goal.
#Are specialty gyms better than general-purpose gyms?
No. Specialty gyms provide a specific focus, training protocol and sense of community while general-purpose gyms offer up a greater diversity of options within a social setting. Depending upon your specific goals, the choice is highly individual.
#What is the average cost of a gym membership?
The average monthly cost for a gym membership varies by location and region. However, some sources say it's around $60 per month or approximately $750 per year.
This doesn't include fees or other services, nor does it include specialty gyms, whose costs are typically much more expensive.
#What is the average cost to start up a home gym?
A fully-outfitted multi-purpose home gym can range anywhere from $800-$2,000. This is complete with everything needed for strength, cardio, conditioning and mobility.
Purchasing brand name items will certainly land you on the higher end of the scale. Starting small, let's say with what you might spend on a gym membership and then adding as you go is one of the best ways to create a home workout environment that you love.
#Are non-name brand or discounted equipment less reliable?
No. As with any marketed item, there will always be name brands and budget brands, with everything in between. It is essential that you do your own research.
Specialty gyms often use name brand equipment because it is part of the culture. However, there are many stores that offer warehouse pricing on equipment for the home and the gym.
#Are workout channels and streaming options better than classes or using DVDS and Blue Ray?
No. It is a personal preference when it comes to workout options, and the media available is no different. Check your cable, dish or other networks to see if you are already paying for a fitness-related channel.
You can also use popular internet mediums like YouTube to find excellent workouts at no cost, especially if your home workout space is near a television that has internet access.
I do not recommend using phone apps for workout media unless you have a way to stream this onto a larger screen, only because of the limitations with sound and sight.
Making the Best Decision to Join a Gym or Workout at Home
Here are a few suggestions for you to consider when making your final decision.
- Take a visit. If you are genuinely interested in joining a gym, try out the gyms in your area. Ask for a tour and ask tons of questions about peak times, any issues that concern you, construction projects, safety equipment, policies and procedures, personal training, gym hours and access. Don’t be afraid to have a list of requirements prior to stepping through the doors. If they don’t offer at least a personal tour, I would mark them off of the list.
- Utilize the free trial period, and I mean fully. Take advantage of every single day and workout offered during the trial period. Try different classes or services included with the trial membership. Go at different times to see how the gym operates and flows.
You may find that you love the facility but the patrons aren’t a good fit for you. It’s important to feel comfortable, welcomed and happy when you are in a gym. If it feels like these are your people, then it may be a great fit for you.
- Check out the parking lot at different hours of the day and the night, as well as the parking lot lighting, call boxes or other features, whether pleasant or not. The parking lot says a lot about a facility and is a huge safety concern!
- If you opt for a home gym or prefer working out at home, sit down and make a plan. List your realistic goals, your budget, your schedule and any other limitations you may have. Have a contingency plan if you are someone who tends to make excuses to get out of working out. Also, have a contingency plan for dealing with distractions.
- Make a genuine commitment to working out at home by subscribing to an online fitness channel. They are typically inexpensive, often less than a discounted monthly gym membership.
There is nothing quite as motivational as having an expert instructor speaking directly to you in the comfort of your living room, especially when you aren't "feeling" motivated. I recommend an all-inclusive workout channel that includes a variety of different styles, exercise types, levels and options.
I hope now you're in a better position to make an informed and intelligent decision whether or not you should join a gym or workout at home.
Your guess is as good as mine!
Let's us know what you think about this question and your personal experience in this regard.
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