29 October 2010 ~ Comments Off on Where to Work Out: Gym or Home?

Where to Work Out: Gym or Home?

You can do fingertip pushups everywhere. If, of course, you can do fingertip pushups. (Photo by lululemon athletica)

When it comes to where you work out, different people have different opinions. Some think the gym is the optimum environment, others prefer to exercise in solitude in the garage or living room. I think there are merits to both. Which is better for you? It really depends on your situation.

When the Gym is Better

The primary advantage of a fitness club is that it has more equipment than you’ll ever need, ensuring that if you decide you want to try a new exercise, you’ll have the stuff for it right there. Rows of rowers, waves of weights…all you have to do is pay the monthly dues.

The secondary advantage is a minimal level of support: unfortunately, most clubs no longer put an employee out on the floor for general questions, but you have a resource for help in the other clientelle: if you’re confused on how to use a piece of equipment, either ask a fellow member or watch someone else using a similar device.

A few other advantages of a gym membership:

  • Diverse cardio equipment. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you can vary your cardio and prevent boredom. Most gyms also have TVs you can watch while you pedal, run or step.
  • Other facilities. Many gyms feature a sauna, and others have swimming pools or whirlpool spas. Mine even has a climbing rock. These give you a chance to vary your exercise or to soothe aching muscles.
  • Motivation. I find it uplifting to be in a buzzing environment entirely devoted to my workout, without phone calls or pets intruding.
  • Discounts on massage. I would imagine you don’t have an on-site masseuse. If you do, please invite me over.
  • Free towels! Not all health clubs have this, but it’s pretty luxurious when they do. In fact, since I work out almost every day and take my showers at the gym, my bathroom has been much cleaner these days.

The primary disadvantage of joining a fitness club is the cost. In the US, monthly fees tend to start at $25 per month and can run over $100, depending on the swankiness of the club. Most clubs will offer a drastic discount if you pay in advance for 6 months or more. Make sure you love the club before you do that!

Also, you’ll want to take more care if you’re susceptible to viruses: think of it as being about as germy as the average workplace, with the addition of athlete’s foot. Shower shoes are important.

When a Home Workout is Best

When I can’t get to the gym (or just don’t want to), I work out at home. The greatest selling point for a home workout is the time savings: no packing the gym bag, getting in the car, finding parking, checking in, waiting for equipment or a shower…at home you just change into clothes you can sweat in, and then go for it!

This brings us to the selling points of the home workout:

No monthly fees. Buy as much or as little equipment as you need. Basic dumbbells and a simple bench are inexpensive and enable you to to a wide variety of exercises. My only piece of equipment is an Iron Gym (review link)—I perform the bulk of my home workout without weights, and at the end of a typical home workout I’m exhausted.

Privacy. If you’re timid about people watching while you sweat, home is the best option. You can also wear that old torn Motley Crüe t-shirt and sing along with “Don’t Stop Believin'” while you jump rope and no one will be the wiser.

Personalized environment. You can play your music at your volume, watch whatever TV channel you want (or pop in a fitness DVD program) and have the temperature as warm or cool as you like it. If you have small children or other things to take care of, you don’t have to be far from them. If you have space in a spare room or garage, you can customize the space for your specific workouts.

The biggest disadvantage of the home workout is that it’s a hassle to acquire and store heavy weights, especially barbells, and bulky cardio equipment, unless you’ve got a dedicated room. Also, because you’re on your own you don’t have other members’ brains to pick. On the other hand, with Google and YouTube at your fingertips, you can find any information you need pretty quickly. On the other other hand, those are good examples of the distractions that can disrupt a home workout.

Recommendation

If you can afford to try a gym for a few months, I recommend you at least give it a shot. The environment there is motivating in a way your living room can never be (unless you buy a few thousand dollars worth of equipment and invite a few friends over). You should experience it for yourself before you make a choice.

If cost is an object, outfit your home environment the best you can within your budget and make a point of doing whatever it takes to maintain your workout intensity. Invite a friend over to work out with you, or invest in some better stereo speakers for your music.

Personally, I work out primarily at the gym, but also at home on days when I can’t (or won’t) get out of the house. Whichever option works best for you, the commitment to fitness is the most important part.

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