So I was reading something online that mentioned a book Beat the Gym by Tom Holland. I bought this book but was very unimpressed with it myself, though I can see how some of it might be useful to people who are brand new to fitness and gyms.
He begins early in the book talking about how gyms make their money primarily on people who sign up and pay but do not use, or rarely use, the gym. He gives some tips to be the kind of person who uses the gym all the time instead. I disagree with some of his points though and in writing a review of the book I thought I would write my own, very non-professional, list of ways to get the most out of your gym membership.
- Know Yourself, know what you want, know what you will do
One piece of advice he gives that doesn’t hold true to me is that you don’t need to love your gym just like it well enough and the most important factor is distance. Well, this really is not true for me. I joined the gym I did because it has a pool with very flexible hours (only closed 2hrs/day for cleaning). He actually writes off pools as rather unimportant features of gyms that get too much attention. Well… that depends on if you will use it or not. If you know you aren’t going to swim or go in the pool much, who cares if your gym has a pool? But if that’s important to you, then obviously it is an important feature! Swimming is what keeps me coming back to the gym. I joined for swimming and from going in for swimming almost every day I’ve started utilizing other things the gym offers, like weights and stationary bikes. I would not have joined just for those though.
- Do something and go somewhere you ENJOY
If I took his advice to go based on location only, I would have joined the planet fitness right by my house. And I probably wouldn’t ever go to it. Instead I drive past the planet fitness and 20 minutes out of my way, and 20 minutes back, to go to the gym I do. But it doesn’t feel like too much of a hassle because I enjoy my time there so much. Despite being further away I go almost daily, because going to the gym is something I look forward to. The same could be said of the place I go for Krav Maga.
I’m not telling you to join my gym, to take up swimming, or take up Krav Maga. But doing something you ENJOY, I think, is going to make a bigger difference in your consistency than convenience. If it’s close and convenient to get to, but the workout itself still feels like a chore, it’s going to be harder to be consistent than if it’s something you enjoy and want to fit into your schedule. Though certainly knowing your schedule (see #1 for knowing yourself) and if it works is also important. Despite loving Krav Maga even before I was on my medical restriction from it I was not doing it very often simply because very often my work and school schedule prevented me from making the class times. It doesn’t matter how much I enjoy it, work and school are requirements that I can’t forgo in favor of taking a krav maga class.
- Don’t Worry About Other People
I think the best advice he gives in the book is that most people are focused on themselves at the gym and not to worry about people paying attention to or judging you. Though he bugged me when he then goes on to give fashion advice including saying spandex is a “privilege not a right” and then cautioning against outlandish 80’s workout clothes. I say fuck his fashion advice. If spandex is comfortable or makes you feel good working out, rock your spandex. If you feel good in your 80’s fitness fashions, rock those. If you want to wear garishly bright Lisa Frank leggings (and really, who wouldn’t want to?) then do it! And don’t worry about what other people might think of what you are wearing. You’re there for you, let them worry about their own fashions.
- Pamper Yourself/Do Things That Make You Feel Good
This is similar to #2 except whereas 2 was about doing exercise you enjoy, this is about other factors. This is something I’ve been thinking about mentioning, which is how much I’m enjoying amenities I didn’t care about when I signed up. Not only do I enjoy swimming, but after swimming I relax in the hot tub, and I also have been making use of the steam room at the gym I go to. Does sitting in a hot tub or steam room do much for my fitness? Not really (though I do stretch in the hot tub). But I find it relaxing and I look forward to it. And it’s certainly good for my health because it helps me destress.
I’ve actually started a bit of a pampering ritual for myself after workouts. So far I end every workout with swimming (either I just swim, or I do some strength training and then swim). After swimming I stretch and then relax in the hot tub. After a bit of that I go back to the locker room and grab my little baggie with my shampoo and so on in it, which also has a charcoal face mask/scrub in it. I take a quick shower to cool down and use the face mask/scrub. Then I go relax or meditate in the steam room. After that I take a full shower, get dressed, and head home.
In addition the gym I go to has a spa in it, which I didn’t care about when I joined but I am definitely making use of it now, planning to get massages as regularly as I can afford to. The spa services cost money, not included in the gym membership, but still it’s something in the gym that isn’t a workout but still has benefits for me and I enjoy. Make going to the gym something you enjoy- both the exercise and anything else about it. You deserve it!
- Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin and Don’t Shame Others For Being Comfortable in Theirs
I’ve been thinking in my head how I know I’m getting old now because it doesn’t bother me to strip down naked in the locker room. When I was younger I never understood how adults could be comfortable changing in such a public place. Even when I joined the gym last month I wasn’t very comfortable with it. Part of my comfort comes not just from age but also because working out makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.
And so here is another point where I disagree with Tom Holland. He complains about too much nudity in the locker rooms.
Me- I think feeling comfortable enough in your own skin to be naked is a wonderful thing! The more you feel that the better. And when other people are comfortable with their bodies be happy for them being comfortable in them. If you don’t want to see someone naked, then just don’t look. Even if you do want to see someone naked, you still should keep your eyes to yourself and not be creepy.
But most importantly, don’t shame other folks for daring to be naked in a place designed for nakedness. Focus on yourself.
This isn’t all necessary of course, just my own little anecdotes turned advice about enjoying going to the gym.