The Gym: Friend or Faux?

Intent on getting fit without having to pay for it, I quit the gym some years ago in pursuit of a fitness regime that allowed me to stay healthy simply by =just living life. For the most part, it worked. I lived in London at the time and was cycling everywhere. I also swam regularly and took lots of long walks. I was pretty active, and it helped me shed a few extra pounds, and in theory, the swimming kept me strong.

But not strong enough?

A few incidents over the last year has me convinced that I could do with being a bit stronger. I’ve had ankle pain for years, and about a year ago my knee started playing up. I think the real wake-up call was a kidney infection last summer that caused me to lose way too much weight, and I’m pretty sure some of that was muscle mass.

Lately, I’ve been rethinking my anti-gym stance. In search of truth I went to one of the truest blogs on fitness I know, Cranky Fitness, and revisited my April 2008 guest post: Five Good Reasons to Quit the Gym.

For the most part, I still feel the same way: the whole idea of paying for physical fitness boggles my mind. I want a lifestyle that lets me stay healthy naturally, and the gym is once of the most unnatural environments I’ve ever been in.

And then I got to the end of the post, where I included a few good reasons to stick with the gym. A few of these really rang a bell:

  • You have a gym buddy
  • You like to swim and your gym has a pool
  • You live in a shitty climate
  • You enjoy lifting weights but don’t have the space or cash for a home gym

Neither January in Chicago nor February in England have been terribly conducive to long afternoon walks in the sun, and I’ve really missed swimming. But perhaps most importantly, I want to get strong, and I have a really hard time motivating myself to do strength exercises at home. I know if I show up at the free weights, I’ll use them.

So last December, during my month-long trip to Chicago for the holidays, I decided to give the gym another chance. I scored a 30-day membership at the YMCA near my parent’s place, and used it almost every day. Something must have been working for me, because when I got back to England, I signed up at the “local” gym (thanks to Tim for the encouragement).

I have a pretty basic workout plan that works roughly like this:

  • Monday: Strength – Quads / Back / Abs
  • Tuesday: Swim 2000m
  • Wednesday: Strength – Hamstrings / Chest
  • Thursday: Swim 2000m
  • Friday: Strength – Quads / Shoulders / Abs

My physio suggests that weak hamstrings are the cause of my knee pain, so I’ve been giving them special attention. Lately, the knee has been feeling better. Whether that’s due to strength training, stretching, rest, or ice, I can’t say. But nevertheless, something seems to be working, so why stop now?

I’m still at odds with the gym. I don’t want to feel like I need it in my life. And when I walk in and see the rows of treadmills, stationary bikes and TVs, I feel a little disgusted with the whole thing. But on the other hand, it’s kind of nice. Everything is just there, and having Tim along adds extra motivation, even though we don’t work out together while we’re at the gym.

So I’m going to stick with the gym for the next little while and see how it goes. I know it takes a lot longer than I think it should before I can expect to see any real noticeable changes from my exercise. So I’ve just gotta be patient and enjoy the journey as much as I can. At the end of this month it will be about 3 months since I got started at the YMCA. I’m excited to find out where I go from here…Stay tuned!

One thought on “The Gym: Friend or Faux?

  1. Jes

    I just recently branched out of using the YMCA only for swimming and I’ve been really happy with it. The crappy weather kept me off my bike and while I hate spin classes with a passion, it gave me something sortof cycling-related to do.

    Your routine sounds great and I like the variety!


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