By Bryan Smith (@)
Big gyms are great. They house a plethora of equipment, all the floor space you could ask for, and, if you are lucky, you may even get to witness the upper thighs of a senior citizen in short-shorts that haven’t seen the light of day since the Leafs won the cup. Sometimes the glory of just being able to tell your friends, “Yeah, I’ve got a gym membership” as opposed to saying, “Yeah, I pay $49.95 per month, plus applicable taxes, for no reason” is enough to keep it.
But when was the last time you were actually inside your gym? And if you do frequent the facility, what were you doing to actually get you closer to reaching your goals?
This is the problem I see with clients who keep their memberships to the local big-box gyms. I’ll first ask them what they are doing when they go. Typical responses are:
1. “I usually warm up with some cardio. The weight section is often a little too full to use most of the machines, so instead I’ll just finish off with some heavy cardio.”
2. “Well, I do the sitty-pushy machine for a few sets, then the sitty-pully machine. Oh! There’s this great sitty bring-my-elbows uppy machine that I especially love to use. Really gets the shoulders going.”
3. “I found a great ‘Booty blast butt bikini bod in seven to 12 weeks’ program online that I usually do in the stretching area while I catch up on Big Brother on the TV screen.”
There are many reasons people go to the gym. The biggest one that I’ve seen is because they think they have to in order to get results. Most don’t know what to do or how to do it once they get there, but they know they have to go because that’s where the fit people go. This is a bit of a backwards way of thinking, but I get it. So the question is, why aren’t you as fit as you’d like to be? Why aren’t you coming out of the gym looking like that toned, hairless man who just held the door for you with his triceps glistening in the sun?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the gym. I was a member for years. All I’m saying is that there may be a better way to do it — a better way for you, in particular. If you aren’t happy with your results and are feeling a little overwhelmed with the idea of going back to hormone central (a.k.a. Globo Gym and the like), maybe a home gym is what you need. I know what you are thinking: “I don’t have the money to start a home gym!” Well, it can be cheaper than you think. I’ve seen many successful clients reach all of their goals simply by working out at home. It doesn’t mean you need to buy racks of weights and the latest cardio equipment; it just means that you need to think of the exercises that would benefit you the most. It’s true that, unfortunately, the machines at the gym usually provide a very basic function. They are there so that you, a semi-regular gym-goer, can manipulate the equipment with very little risk of injury, in a very controlled environment. The only problem with that is I can’t remember the last time I had to sit down on a seat with a backrest and push hundreds of pounds away from my chest in a straight line. If this is your goal, that’s great, but for the general population, I think something like being able to do a push-up properly or being able to squat while effectively engaging the glutes is a much better goal. Being able to manipulate your own body weight is something that I feel is terribly overlooked in the fitness realm, and not being able to do so is a massive predictor of injury and dysfunction. My studio was established from a rehabilitation background. We’ve had elite athletes come to us for training, and they spend the first few sessions just lying on the ground, doing some of the most basic exercises that are ridiculously hard for them to complete. Just because the gym is full of fancy equipment and the Internet is packed with elaborate exercises, that doesn’t mean you should use or do them.
Most people would benefit from buying a few weights and bands, getting themselves a foam roller, and spending a few hours a week in the comfort of their own home, recognizing how their body moves and gaining an appreciation of exercise before they venture off to the gym. It’s not sexy, I know, but in my opinion, it’s the best way to really teach someone how to exercise and not just how to go to the gym and mindlessly push weights while texting between sets.
Getting a gym membership feels nice. Pulling into the parking lot feels rewarding in itself. But spending an hour inside those doors feeling more confused than Stevie Wonder in a corn maze doesn’t benefit anything other than the gym’s bank account.