It is that time of the year when thoughts turn to the New Year and with it resolutions both realistic and unrealistic. We all know that the most common resolution people make is to get fitter and lose weight, a feeling that is heightened by the overindulgence over the Christmas period.
Having made the resolution the next logical step for most people is to join a gym. I am here to tell you that this is the biggest mistake that you can make and will almost one hundred percent ensure that you don’t achieve your goals.
I have been there by the way so I am speaking from experience when I tell you that the only thing that the gym will make you lose is your hard earned money.
I joined a fancy gym once years ago. Here are a list of some of the facilities that were available for my princely monthly fee:
Fully Equipped Gym with all sorts of modern equipment)
Classes free to members
This is the list of equipment that I used:
And I only really used the sauna to pass the time and make me feel less guilty that I was spending all that money for a twenty minute run on a treadmill.
To the casual observer I was sweating hard on the treadmill. The reality was that it was tears at the money I was throwing away in the full knowledge that I could literally do this for free and in fresh air.
In the reflective atmosphere of the sauna I would start to do some maths. It would take me ten minutes to drive to the gym from my flat. A further ten minutes were spent trying to find a parking space. Fifteen minutes would pass as I got changed. I then needed to factor in another ten minutes or so of waiting for a free treadmill during peak times. Twenty minutes of running. That was the absolute maximum amount of torture that I could endure on a treadmill before levels of boredom never before experienced set in and this is coming from someone who used to sit through Catholic masses.
Fifteen minutes to have a shower and get changed and another ten to drive home. Eighty minutes altogether just for a short run on the treadmill.
It was clearly not worth it and to add insult to injury I was certainly not getting any fitter.
I saw my contract out (that’s how they get you) and never set foot in the gym again. I would never have to wipe down equipment again or be forced to watch inane pop music videos or worst constant loops of Sky Sports News. I already felt better knowing that I would never have to hear another grunt of effort from some Instagram weightlifter.
I used to do cross-country running in high school and competed at a fairly high standard. I used to love it. I used to love it especially when it was cold and rainy and hilly. I needed to tap into that feeling again to get the motivation to run again outside in nature and in my natural habitat. The gym was too safe. It was warm and dry where I needed cold and wet.
The first thing I noticed is that running outside is fundamentally harder than running on a treadmill, mostly because of the wind but also because you are constantly changing pace, even just a little. Over kerbs, through traffic, up and down hills. There is a happy upside to this also as it keeps it interesting. The environment is constantly changing and you are not bored. I started to see parts of the city I lived in different ways and noticed how the character and atmosphere shifted depending on the time of the day (or night).
You don't get this smile from the gym...
I was finding my running feet again and even entered into some 10k races. The best part was that I had essentially gained time; no more driving, changing, waiting. I could pull on my trainers, open the door and choose a direction. Running is a simple sport.
It was also around this time that I was sitting on an oil rig in the middle of the cold North Sea when I got a message from a friend asking if anyone wanted to spend a few days cycling through some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. I was dreaming of dry land when this message came through and instantly said yes. The fact that I didn’t actually own a bike or indeed had not cycled in approximately ten years were but minor details. I speak about this cycling adventure in other posts so to cut a long story short, I got the cycling bug. Badly. I was then cycling to work and cycling at every opportunity, exploring the area where I lived and improving constantly.
Suffering up another hill. Still better than the gym.
The feelings of exercising outside, both running and cycling, could never be found in the gym and now exercise wasn’t a chore but a thrill. I was happier and fitter than I had ever been. The money that would have been spent on a gym membership was sunk into the bike.
If, like me, you have a job and kids and everything that goes with that then it is even more important that you don’t join the gym and follow my advice instead. When you are time poor you have to be extra smart about how you squeeze in some exercise. For example, I run on my lunch break at work (I have a shower) and in the summer I cycle to and from work. There is no way I would have time for the gym these days.
Clearly some people do like the gym. I encourage anyone and everyone to find the right exercise for them. I just want people to move and be healthy and ultimately happy. What I am saying is simple that just joining the gym will not make you fitter. It takes hard work and to get through it you need motivation. The gym, for me, did not provide the motivation I needed and this might be the case for you also.
It is also important to find the sport that works for you and that might not be running and cycling like me. I would love to have more time to play football again and rekindle my love of the sport. My footballing career peaked at a young age at the legendary Scottish club of Queens Park before the lure of girls and other pastimes stole my attention.
So if you want to get fitter in 2020, write down your goals and be honest with how you are going to achieve them. If you follow my path then not only will you get fitter but you will gain experiences and stories that are not found within the four walls of the gym.
Cycling and exploring outside. Not a grunting weightlifter in sight.
Happy 2020 everyone.