I was given the opportunity a little while ago now to join a local gym of my choice for one month to test out membership and write about its value for a MoneySupermarket.com Gym for the Win scheme. The idea is to see whether joining a gym is worth it. Is it worth spending money on a membership in order to stay fit and healthy?
I quite liked the idea. I needed an exercise boost, I miss swimming and there are a couple of fitness centres close to me with pools, and I think classes are a great motivating way to get fit. So I phoned around a few of my local gyms to see about a temporary membership, which MoneySupermarket would reimburse me for so I could take part in this blogging activity. It was a no brainer really!
I discovered very quickly that the gyms in Lincoln really didn’t want me to join for one month. What they wanted was for me to sign up for a full 12 months on a contract that took the money straight from my bank account. One actually said “don’t be silly” when I asked if they offered temporary membership – although they did follow that up with “we could give you a free pass for three days”. Cheers! Another said they didn’t think that was possible but they’d get someone to call me back to confirm, but that call never came. There was one gym which did have a properly advertised temporary membership option – actually the most recent to open in the city – but the gentleman I spoke to explained that a temporary membership was “naturally” very expensive and they didn’t know of anyone who had signed up to it. It was £50 for four weeks.
I thanked the gentleman for letting me know and ended the call. £50 for four weeks in a gym did indeed seem very expensive. 28 days at £2 a day even when it wouldn’t be my own money made me cringe. I knew that I’d only have time to go twice, maybe three times, each week. My 12 visits would cost over £4 a time. This seemed like a terrible amount of money to spend. Maybe I’m a cheapskate. Maybe £4 for a 45 minute class isn’t that much? It certainly seems a lot for a few lengths of a 20 metre swimming pool. Maybe if I was planning to go every other day, for a couple of hours at a time, then it would seem less money. I’m sure other places are even more expensive – Lincoln is a “good value” place to live after all.
I didn’t make a conscious decision to not bother, but every time I thought I should get on and join so I could take part in Gym for the Win I cringed at the cost. A few weeks have passed and it’s one of those things I now know I simply shan’t do. I feel like a bad blogger following my initial enthusiasm for the idea, but I simply can’t bring myself to do it.
(Incidentally I did not receive any money from MoneySupermarket.com – the fee was to be in the form of a refund once I sent them my receipt.)
Thinking about it today I’m actually quite happy that I didn’t join a gym for a month. Yes I still want to swim, and I wouldn’t mind attending classes, but I’ve not missed out in reality. And anyway, when would I go?! I barely have time to work, eat, sleep and blog!
I’ve not been a big lazy bum, though (well I have some days, but not all the time!). Instead of heading to the gym in the evening and at the weekend I have been trying to get into the routine of cycling to work as often as I can – so that’s when the weather is kind (and, in fact, not so kind) or when I haven’t got too much to carry. I like the idea of incorporating exercise into my everyday tasks, and commuting is one of those necessary evils – getting there under my own steam has to be better (and more money saving) than using my car. It takes 25-30 minutes, the same time as it would take by car (courtesy of no Lincoln traffic), and I get two little workouts every day including lots of fresh air. Yes it’s tiring and I can’t do it every day (I managed four days out of five last week because I had some car-requiring-errands to run on Wednesday), but it’s good for me and can even be quite enjoyable. (Although if anyone wants to give me a more suitable bike for commuting – a nice road bike or traditional hybrid with some decent panniers, that would be awesome!)
Apart from that I still walk as much as I can, because I love walking and hiking, and I may have even been for a jog or two to try out some new trainers. But generally only at the weekends – on weekdays I aim to get on my bike and make exercise functional by fitting in with what I’m doing anyway. I am considering setting myself a new fitness challenge (I always work harder when I have a goal, perhaps something cycling related – any suggestions?), but for now it’s just about exercising regularly. And because it’s the summer – outdoors.
I appreciate that with gym membership you know what you are going to get: Large and bright air conditioned rooms with banks of cardio and strength equipment complete with audio visual entertainment to give you a convenient workout. Followed by the use of a small pool (in some cases very small) and/or the sauna to relax your muscles. You get a decent and predictable workout.
I also realise that for some people, the act of spending £100s a year on gym membership is the only way they would actually do any exercise. Some people need the indoors, the equipment, the motivation of having a big bill to force themselves to go. And so for them spending the money in order to get and stay fit and healthy is probably vital! But while I have been a member of a gym in the past, I can’t bring myself to do it now. For me, the best kind of exercise is that which can be done as part of your normal life, and that which takes you outdoors into the countryside, around the town or (best of all), to the salty sandy shores of the seaside.