Can you tell I’m on the fence about this?
I can’t stop yakking about gyms: Big gyms vs. small gyms, chains vs. “boutique” fitness studios, signing nebulous contracts vs. heckling gym “closers” until they cry and cut the admin fee in half.
Now it’s time to tackle the biggest question of all: Should you even bother to join a gym?
Sure, a shiny, new gym membership could be your ticket to fitness success.
Or you could be one of the naïve and overeager gym-joiners that Berkeley exposed in a 2005 study (as it turns out, a shiny, new membership rarely seals the deal.)
So are you better off joining a gym or exercising at home?
Here are a few factors to consider to help you make the call.
1. Do you have the right gym equipment at home?
Cardio isn’t enough to reach your goals; you need to be able to do full-body strength training, too. You could add stunts to your daily dog walks, but if you have to stop doing arm circles or lunges every time a neighbor drives by, your fitness results will be shaky at best.
1 point for gym membership (where everyone’s making a fool of themselves.)
2. Are you looking for love?
Word on the street (or on Twitter, anyway) is that asking hot guys or girls to “spot you” is a great way to score a date. So unless there are scores of available hotties working out in your basement, you’ll need to head to the gym to flex those muscles and make a love connection.
1, no, 2 points for gym membership.
3. Are you saving up for a summer vacation?
Then go ahead and skip the gym, because there are plenty of cheaper ways to work out. Besides, Berkeley researchers have found that consumers aren’t as rational as they think they are when it comes to signing up at the gym, frequently misgauging their “future consumption frequency” and choosing “the utility-maximizing contract.” In other words, we have a tendency to go for the premium membership and then promptly lose the card in our wallets, never to be seen or heard from again.
1 point for home exercise.
4. Are you a Zen master?
Emails and phone calls chirping in the background. Being surrounded by chores that need to get done. Home distractions can really zap your exercise Zen. Some of us need a steel locker door to separate us from our tech gadgets, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
1 point for gym membership.
5. Do you get overwhelmed easily?
Zen-schmen, you say? For some people, the gym is an even bigger cesspool of distractions than the home. Maybe it’s the bad techno remixes or the armada of equipment you have no clue how to use. Maybe it’s the constant feeling that you have an audience. If you’re the type of person who just can’t focus at the gym, don’t let the gym kill your stride.
1 point for home exercise (or a smaller fitness center.)
6. How convenient is it to get to the gym?
I have a friend who stops by the gym on her way home from work every night. Another friend has a fitness facility at work so she goes in early, pounds out some emails, then slips into the gym. If your gym is so conveniently located it’s unavoidable, maybe you should go for the membership. There’s something to be said for trapping yourself inside four fitness walls.
1 point for gym membership.
7. Are you bored?
If your well-laid fitness regimen has rattled to a stop, a change of scenery might be just what you need. If you’re bored with the gym, buy a bike or join a hockey team. If you’re tired of the same old workout DVDs and eight-pound dumbbells, sign up at a gym.
1 point for whichever one you’re not doing.
8. Do you like breathing fresh air?
Gym air can be kind of nasty. Besides, spring is around the corner (unless you live in Utah) and there are so many outdoor recreational activities to do. Ahh…
1 point for home exercise— or rather, outdoor exercise.
9. What’s your exercise personality type?
Which is your M.O.: Discipline or convenience? Competition or setting your own pace? Privacy or an audience?
1 point for the environment that matches your exercise personality type.
So, which is it going to be: Joining a gym or working out at home?
Joining a gym? Read these:
- When It Comes to Gyms, Bigger Isn’t Always Better
- How to Go Up Against Gym Salespeople and Come Out Victorious
Setting up a home gym? Start here:
- 6 Fitness Splurges Worth the Money
- 5 Ways to Avoid Fitness Impulse Buys
- 15 Great Fitness Buys Under $50
Make going to the gym worth your time:
Fun fact: remember when gyms were called health clubs?