Monday, June 24, 2019

Why Quitting the Gym is One of the Best Decisions I've Ever Made

Why Quitting the Gym is One of the Best Decisions I've Ever Made

Several years ago I was frustrated because I wanted to work out, but I didn't have the option. I'm not a runner and though I could go for lots of walks, it wasn't giving me what I wanted. We were new to London and my lifestyle was very different then. A gym was what I had become used to in the places we'd lived previously, but after moving to London I struggled to find the time and a place that didn't cost the earth. Once I found a gym that I could easily access and afford, I was over the moon... For a time anyway... I've gone through seasons of my life where I've been a very dedicated gym bunny, but things change, people change, schedules change and to keep the same routine in the midst of all those changes is sometimes not the best idea if not completely impossible. A few weeks ago, after 8 years of steady gym memberships I pulled the plug. I quit the gym and to be honest, it may be one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

Everyone will tell you that you need a gym membership and to be honest, I think it comes from a really good place. We associate gyms with health, fitness, wellness and longevity, but the simple fact is that those are only side effects of a membership you actually use. That said, the expectation is there, so I think some of us will keep trying to make ourselves go because we feel that we should or that we're supposed to. While I've gone through periods of time where I found myself quite pleased with regular gym workouts, various changes in my life seem to have made it increasingly more difficult for me to go for one reason or another. After a few years of frustration with my old gym, I switched my membership several months ago and it was fine for a time, but ultimately that switch told me what I needed to know... I'm simply not a gym person. It doesn't mean that I can't be fit or healthy, but for me personally, it's probably not going to happen in a gym at this point in my life and that's ok. In the past I've felt as though that was disappointing, that I was letting myself and other people down and that I should just suck it up and get used to spending 8 to 10 hours a week in a place that I hate, so I kept paying that membership fee every month, but it felt like more of a punishment than a privilege - like a ball and chain tied around my neck. I felt that I didn't really want it, but I was supposed to do it, so it was an unhealthy relationship at best that I was in for all the wrong reasons. To make things worse, when I couldn't force myself to go or when I did manage to get there and couldn't muster the organisation or motivation to actually be productive, I felt like a failure. The gym is supposed to make you feel better, healthier, stronger, not defeated. That realisation gave me the freedom to think outside the gym when it comes to my personal fitness.

Why Quitting the Gym is One of the Best Decisions I've Ever Made

This year I've really been working hard, trying to be more active and get more fit. I lost a rather large chunk of weight a couple of years ago, but since that initial weight loss, I had peaked feeling really pleased with my progress, but not quite happy yet, so I vowed to get back to business in 2019. I want to be stronger, faster, have more energy and do the very best that I can for my health. Despite my determination, I found the process of upping my fitness game really frustrating - nothing seemed to work out the way I wanted it to. After joining the new gym, I was relieved to have a space that suited me more, filled with like-minded, fitness-focused people and more options that fit within that very low price tag I was paying, but it only took a couple of months before I was unhappy again. The gym was crowded, the machines weren't what I was used to and the classes weren't very good. Eventually I found a class that I really liked and things started looking up. I attended that same class every week without fail for 9 weeks in a row, but then just as I was starting to see and feel some results, the teacher was promoted to a management position and stopped running the class. I had justified that the membership cost was so low that if I only used it for one class a week that I was still getting my money's worth and that one day a week was better than nothing. It also complemented my dance schedule really well and it felt like enough. When that class went away though, I was back to square one. I tried a couple of other new classes and left feeling disappointed every time - like they just weren't for me and that I'd rather be anywhere else. This all happened right before I left for my holidays, which caused me a bit of anxiety not knowing what kind of routine I'd be coming back to, but it also gave me some time to think.

Right after my holiday, it was full steam ahead planning for a dance competition, so I was still steering clear of the gym. I put the situation out of my mind for another week, but when I went to my dance competition, it didn't go well at all - in fact, it was terrible. I watched the video and that was worse. I felt really out of control of the situation, angry, frustrated and disappointed in myself and my fitness level. That feeling of gym failure started to grab hold of me and I realised at that point that something had to give.

Rather than wallowing and ordering pizza, which is what I would normally do after such a disappointment, I decided to try something new and do something about it...  I decided to take that anger and channel it into something good. Honestly, it was really hard - I just wanted to be mad, but something lit a fire under my ass and I decided to get out of my own way. I don't have a second to focus on how terrible I am if I spend my time and effort making positive changes. I realised that I was barking up the wrong tree with the gym and that I should take all that grumpy energy and let it power me into a change for the better. I quit the gym that afternoon - I just did it and it felt so good.

When I really stopped to think about it in a productive way, I began to understand is that there was nothing particularly wrong with my gym or any gym for that matter. There's was also nothing wrong with me. But when you put me in a gym, we're not compatible and it's as simple as that. I work from home, alone for most of the day every day. I don't do a huge amount of after-work socialising because I don't have time, so I'm probably more isolated than most people. The work I do is under my own steam and I'm very motivated and disciplined, but to expect that of myself at the gym as well might have been too much. Since I started dancing, I've haven't ever missed a lesson or a class outside of traveling or very special occasions booked well in advance. I go when I'm tired, when I'm sick, when I don't want to, when I'm injured or when it's raining. I realised at a certain point that I needed a fitness option that would be the same for me as the dancing. Something I can relate to, something I have to commit to in advance or pay for if I miss it and an activity that wouldn't isolate me anymore than my work life already does and require me to dig up even more self-starting. I needed something to motivate me, keep me interested and excite me, but also something I'd be held accountable for if I didn't show up. Quite simply, I needed to delegate - to let someone else be in charge of what happens in the hours I use for fitness. If I'm in charge of everything else, someone else can take the reins because even when I've been disciplined enough to go to the gym, I've often not been able to execute any kind of valuable workout while I was there. I didn't have someone telling me just 10 more reps, or keep going. I was trying to do literally everything myself and it was too much. After figuring this out, classes seemed like a good place to start...

After some research, I decided to treat my new fitness adventure like dating. The classes at the gym had been so bad that I thought I would need to try loads before I found the one. I decided to book a two-class trial package at a pilates studio that's close enough to walk to, but far enough that I get my heart rate up on the way there and back. I also joined Classpass, so I could try out more options local to me. I didn't know what I was going to like or dislike, but I knew I had to try something new.

It's now been about 3 weeks and I've been going to reformer Pilates almost every day. I didn't have to try too many classes at all to find something I like, though that option is still there for me. I book my classes in advance and the cancellation policies and fees make it easier for me to fully commit to them. I've found a workout option that involves being around other people and occasionally having conversations on days when I would normally be on my own for most of the day. The best part is that I don't have to think about what to do when I get there and I haven't once felt like a disappointing failure... I simply show up and do what I'm told. My attitude towards working out has changed drastically for the better and now I look forward to it - it's actually my favourite part of the day now.

Of course my plan might be financially out of range for some people and I totally get that, but there are options worth considering if you feel the same way I did. If you belong to a gym that you never step foot in, wouldn't you be better off repurposing that money and using it for something you will actually enjoy? It doesn't have to be studio classes at all... Find what works for you. Join a soccer or rugby team, play tennis, get 9 holes of golf in once a week, get a dog you can walk, take up a spinning class. It's better to do something you enjoy than to pay for something you never actually use. Alternatively, consider your priorities... If it's really important to you, can you save money elsewhere in your budget? For me personally, I couldn't do everything I was doing and comfortably afford a more expensive workout plam, so I cut some things out. I don't go out socially nearly as much anymore and have traded in a lot of eating out for food (and coffee) at home. Sounds boring, I know, but it actually helps me stay on track and since starting pilates, I'm usually too tired to do any of those things anyway by the time the evening rolls around. Giving up one nice dinner out a month more than pays for my Classpass and for me, it's totally worth it.

It's still quite early days, but since I quit the gym I've lost nearly 10 pounds. I feel like my goals and plans are back on track. I know exactly where I'm going and what time every single day and I also know that it's all sorted for me when I get there. The increase in my physical activity makes me want to eat better too. I know I need good, healthy energy, so I haven't touched a pizza or Reese's Cup in weeks (my two biggest weaknesses). I am lucky enough that I found a workout option that I love that just so happens to complement my hobby - pilates is great for dancers - and I feel absolute joy after every class, no matter how hard it is. Those constant feelings of failure and disappointment have disappeared and I now feel accomplished, excited and even proud on a regular basis. I'm actually enjoying the journey and get excited about all the little victories, which is such a welcome change. We'll see how it goes in the long term - I mean, we all know how life can get in the way of a new routine, but I honestly think that quitting the gym might just be what I needed.

If you're looking for a way to get fit, but also hate the gym, click here to read 10 Workout Options That Don't Require a Gym Membership.

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