This is Part 1 of a 2-part post.
With the New Year just days away, many of you are probably re-committing to a regular exercise routine. You might be thinking about purchasing a gym membership to get you started. In this post, I cover the pros and cons of a gym membership to help you decide if it’s a wise investment for you. Tomorrow I’ll give you a run-down on the different kinds of fitness centers and membership packages on the market.
Pros – A gym membership could be one of the best investments you make this year — if you use it!
Motivation – Spending the money on a membership creates an automatic motivator – the desire to “get your money’s-worth”. This can encourage you to work out more times per month that you normally would, especially if your health insurance plan gives you a discount on your membership fee when you go a certain number of times per month.
Diversity of Equipment – You would have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment to outfit your home gym with even a modest representative sampling of what’s available at any commercial fitness center. Add to that the options of a swimming pool, racquetball or basketball courts and a wide range of fitness classes, and you can see why many people are happy to shell out membership dollars month after month. If you’re the type of person who gets bored easily with the same workout routine, or if you don’t have the space for at least a few different pieces of workout equipment, you should really consider joining a gym.
Social Interaction – Going to a gym is a great place to interact with other, like-minded people. Even if you don’t regularly converse with others at the gym, working out in close proximity to others can make you push yourself a little harder, and it can fulfill some basic social interaction needs if you spend most of your time alone otherwise. You can really capitalize on the social interaction aspect if you attend group fitness classes or find a workout buddy.
Access to Fitness Professionals – Every gym is staffed with personnel who have at least a basic knowledge of exercise techniques. Most of them will also have at least one certified fitness professional on staff, and they will normally be happy to give you brief descriptions of proper form, etc. Many gyms will include a complimentary session with a certified trainer, which you should definitely take advantage of. If you’re able to, it would also be a good idea for you to pay for a few personal training sessions when you’re first starting a new workout routine.
Cons – Remember that part about having to use a membership in order for it to pay off? There are a number of reasons why building a home gym may be a better fit for you.
Cost – If you add up the cost of even the cheapest monthly membership over one year, the tab will run you between $300 and $1,000 per person. That’s an incredibly good bargain if you regularly use that membership, but if you go to the gym five or six times per month, then not only is your per-visit cost pretty high, but your membership isn’t doing much to improve your fitness either. For $1,000 a very decent home gym can be put together including: resistance bands, a set of adjustable dumbbells, a stability ball or basic bench, and a cardio machine of reasonable quality. When you add to that the fact that other members of your household can use that equipment as well, then a home gym begins to really look like an economic bargain.
Frequency of Workouts – The ability to work out at home is almost guaranteed to make you get in more workouts per month than if you have to travel even a short distance. The fact that you’re forced to walk past and look at that gear you spent your money on every day in your home is also more likely to guilt you into using it than the monthly bill from the gym on your financial statement is.
Year-Round Flexibility – Living in Minnesota, I use my gym membership a lot in the winter, and almost not at all in the summer. My workout routine changes entirely once I’m able to get outdoors, and then only the hottest of summer temperatures can force me indoors. This means that a person could end up “wasting” four to six months worth of membership fees each year. My gym actually offers the ability to suspend my membership dues during the summer, but that is certainly the exception rather than the rule.
You’ll notice that I mentioned “my gym.” Yes, I have a gym membership. Although I regularly work out at home year-round and nearly all of my workouts are done outside in the summer months, I have still found a gym membership to be a good fit for me. The reasons for this are personal and unique to my own fitness goals: I run at least one marathon each year and I own an elliptical machine, not a treadmill, so I need to hit the gym in the winter in order to get my miles in. I work swimming and racquetball into my routine at different times of the year, to keep my aerobic fitness up while letting my body recover from the many, many miles of running I do eight months out of the year. Finally, despite the fact that I have some very good, high-quality strength training gear in my small urban loft, I never get quite as good a workout at home as I can get at the gym.
If you think a gym membership might be right for you, tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of this post, “Which Gym Should I Join?”