Tuesday, February 6, 2018

10 Workout Options That Don't Require a Gym Membership

The gym isn't for everyone... It just isn't and in my humble opinion, there's nothing wrong with that. For me personally, I go through phases. Sometimes I'm all about the gym and if I'm honest, even when I hate going there or being there, I usually enjoy weight training and a bit of cardio on a bike or an elliptical machine. It's usually worth the effort once I've gotten started, but getting there is the hardest part. Gyms are sweaty and can be really busy with everyone competing for machines, weights or space. While some gyms are luxurious, mine isn't and if I'm honest, it's part of the reason I sometimes struggle to get there... It's not like I'm going to a beautiful place where I want to spend a lot of time - it's basic and sterile and not super inspiring. Furthermore, going to the gym requires a level of discipline that most of us can't keep up with all the time. There's no accountability and when I go, I'm solely responsible for pushing myself, which is hard to do sometimes no matter how much I want to achieve my goals. Sometimes I can hustle and pull off a good workout, while other times I can't even motivate myself to get there... And I'm okay with that - all I can do is my best.

While I wouldn't say that I'm completely adverse to the gym, I would say that it's honestly not really for me. If I can do anything else to get the physical activity I need, I do - every single time. I keep my gym membership specifically for a fallback for when I can't get active some other way and for targeting specific issues. I have a knee injury, so often my only goal when I go there is strength training to keep my knee and other muscles that effect it strong so I can - you guessed it - do those other things I like so much better... Other things that don't require the gym.

I'm a big believer in not wasting any time that you don't have to... If you hate the gym, don't go. If something isn't delicious, don't eat it. If you don't like a dress, donate it. Life's too short to feel mediocre, especially about something you might do 3 to 5 times a week, so why not find an option you can truly enjoy? Your body and your mind will both thank you for it, not to mention that you'll start to look forward to working out rather than dreading it!

Here are a few suggestions for how to stay fit without shelling out for a costly gym membership you don't want in the first place...

1. Dance
If you follow me on Instagram, it's no secret that I love dancing. I've danced for most of my life in some form or another and it's something I recently found myself going back to as a way to increase my fitness. I enjoy it and rarely leave a class, private lesson or workshop without feeling sore, tired, sweaty and truly worked - I've even seen some pretty great weight loss results, which isn't suprising since you tend to use all the muscle groups in your body for most types of dancing. If you live in a small town, it might be tricky to find a dance class you like, but for those of you living in cities, check out Google and look for adult classes. Most studios offer classes for absolute beginners, so don't worry if you aren't experienced. There are plenty of options available from classics like ballet, tap & jazz to more modern forms of dance like street, commercial, dancehall or hip-hop. I personally take a mix of Latin, tap and the occasional commercial jazz classes, but you can take whatever you like. If you're not sure where to start, think about the music you like and look for something that features that. If you love slow jams, you might like ballet, lyrical or ballroom. If you prefer something more along the lines of Beyonce or Kendrick Lamar, try one of the more modern versions mentioned above. If Despacito is your favourite song, try Latin or salsa. However you get started, a bit of trial and error is necessary to find the classes that suit you best, so just get started and if you're trying Latin or ballroom dances, don't worry if you're flying solo - you won't require a partner for most classes. Many studios offer pay-as-you go classes & memberships while others require you to sign up for a course of classes, but in my experience, they are rarely long-term commitments either way. The bonus is that you'll probably make a few new friends too.

2. Yoga
Yoga has become so popular that it's hard to throw a stone and not hit a studio or venue that hosts at least one class. Many companies and organisations are beginning to offer yoga, so if you work for a big company, keep your eye out for this option or suggest it to your HR team. Likewise, many fitness brands like Lululemon or Sweaty Betty for example, offer free or affordable yoga classes in-store or in public areas, so those are also options. Relaxing, centring and great for core strength, there are several different styles of yoga to choose from and you can practice in a class, privately at home with an instructor either on your own or with a group of friends. Alternatively you can join a yoga studio programme if you're really dedicated and there are retreats, festivals and yoga-centric holidays a plenty for you to take advantage of. Yoga is often taught inside, outside, on the beach or on rooftops and you can find them all over the world, so you won't have to go without while you're traveling. It's a win-win.

3. Reformer Pilates
I'm sure you've heard of pilates by now. Reformer pilates is the version that uses the complex machine contraption you may have seen on television or in magazines. I've never tried this before, but I really want to. Great for core strength, flexibility, posture and so many other things, it's my understanding that when you start, you generally begin with a few private lessons or a beginner class to develop your personal program, but after that you can attend regular group classes at a more affordable rate. If you're a bit more serious about it and want to invest in it properly, you can continue doing it on a one-on-one basis with an instructor or in group private lessons with only one or two other people. Either way you slice it, reformer pilates is one of the more costly options on this list, but from what I've heard, it can be totally worth it, especially if you have any body issues, injuries or problems you specifically need to address.

4. Walking/Hiking
I love a good long walk and when I'm near a hill of any kind, I'll totally hike it. Going for a long jaunt is the perfect way to explore a new area, enjoy some fresh air and get the blood pumping. I personally choose a long walk anytime I can over public transportation since I can't always get as much exercise as I'd like when life and work get in the way. Aside from having some appropriate shoes, it doesn't cost a thing and it's something you can make a day of if you want to... Walk a long distance to a lovely pub, have a drink and walk back, pack a picnic or choose a park to walk through and enjoy some beautiful scenery. If you need to incorporate this into your regular routine, schedule walks or hikes during the weekend, walk to/from work or at least partially if you can, go for a walk during lunch or walk off your dinner every evening. Additionally, choose stairs over elevators, park your car in the last spot in the lot and supplement your fitness routine with a few extra steps whenever and wherever you can. With Fitbits, various apps (I use Moves) and Apple Watches, you can track your progress and you'll be surprised how quickly you can work your way up from 1 mile to 20 miles.

5. Spinning
Spinning classes are usually offered in most gyms, but more recently this popular cycling workout option has begun to migrate to individual studios like Soul Cycle in the USA or Boom Cycle and Psycle here in London. With loud music, lights and a motivating instructor, these group classes are becoming an increasingly popular way to get fit. Choose a studio option with a pay-as-you go plan and never step foot in that gym you hate so much.

6. Barre Fitness
Based on ballet, Barre Fitness is a hardcore workout class. I recently tried a 20 minute excerpt from a Barre Fitness class and I was sore for a fair few days afterwards. It's hard, fun and very popular at the moment, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a class nearby unless you live in a really small town. The bonus is that all the fitness brands are now making really cute clothes for Barre Fitness, so you can invest in a fun, new workout wardrobe if you fancy!

7. Bootcamp
I'm not brave enough to do a bootcamp class, but I've watched a few of them before and they look great if you're up for the challenge. If you really want to push yourself, but you find it hard to motivate on your own, this might be the option for you. Many of these classes are done outdoors, while others take place in studios like Barry's Bootcamp, which boasts a burn of 1,000 calories per session.

8. Join a Sports Team
Look online for local teams that play a sport you enjoy for fun. Whether it be an organization or a local pub that has a team, you can make friends and get active doing something you really enjoy. If neither of those options exist near you, consider starting up a team or a league through your work, your church or with your friends. Plenty of people have a group of friends that have a pick-up game of basketball every week, so there's no reason why you can't start one as well if you can find others who'd want to join. Chances are if you want to do something, there are others who'd enjoy it as well.

9. Online Classes
If you live in a tiny town, online classes are ideal. You can choose something with little or no commitment - there are even options on YouTube. Alternatively, you can invest in something a bit more focused. With the internet, we no longer need gyms or classes to get the fitness levels we want and the bonus with something like this is that you can do it while you travel.

10. Trampoline Fitness
Trampoline Fit classes seem to be everywhere lately and they look like a lot of fun. Whether you sign up to a course, go to pay-as-you go classes or simply join one of the many trampoline parks that are popping up everywhere (many of them with child-free fitness time tables), if you love to bounce this might be the workout for you.

Depending on what you would typically pay for a gym membership, you could do a number of combinations within the same budget. If your membership is quite cheap each month, perhaps it's worth thinking about increasing the monetary investment you make in your personal fitness so you can get more joy out of it. Classpass or similar plans might be a good option for you in this case and will allow you to try out a bunch of different options to see what you like best. If you pay quite a lot, divide it into weekly sums to see how many classes you can afford and supplement those with the cheaper or free options like starting a weekly basketball game, doing an online class or going for a long walk on days you don't have the classes. Whatever you choose, it is possible to vary your routine, enjoy yourself, get fit and quit the gym if you hate it. It's simply a matter of finding some options that work for your schedule, fit within your budget and then making a plan.

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