I have always thought that having a gym should be one of the simplest businesses that exist, for the simple fact that most people who hire your service never use it for more than a couple of months. And before long he re-enrolls thinking “now he really is” going to get in shape, only to repeat the cycle over and over again. It seems that few things are more difficult for those of us who were not born with a natural tendency to repeat routines and submit to physical suffering than staying in the gym for more than a couple of months. I won’t know, I’m already on my third attempt!
And yet, exercise is an essential need for health, and as our sedentary urban life offers few opportunities to perform complete exercises that fit into our routine or that can be practiced calmly in public spaces; gyms are, to some extent, a necessity. So developing strategies to stay in that factory of sweat, muscle, and occasionally athlete’s foot is a must.
Here, based on my previous and current experiences, and collecting suggestions from others, I share with you what, for me, are the best strategies to increase your chances of paying for a gym and not losing money.
1. Choose the gym well
It’s a fact, if you have to walk 35 minutes carrying an uncomfortable gym bag or suck on a taco for an hour a day to go to work out, that new sweatshirt will become a mop for the floor in less than a quarter. Look for a gym that is close to you or at least on the way between work and home, something that you do not have a factor playing against you from the beginning.
On the other hand, a gym that in winter is colder than a presidential salute and in summer feels as if it were 4 kilometers from the Sun, will hardly motivate you to go. The same if the machines are bad, they are few or there are so many people that you have to fight with the other diners to get a weight (especially when your opponent has arms as thick as your head).
So the prospecting work is more or less important: check the route to the place, go inside, see the quality and condition of the machines, see how crowded it is at the time you plan to go, ask if there is air conditioning, check the state of the bathrooms and lockers, ask about the classes that are taught there and talk to other customers. If you can, also talk to the trainer who will put together the routine for you. If you don’t like something at first, it will probably be a growing obstacle between you and the gym. The price is not the only thing that counts.
2. Associate it with a routine
One of my biggest mistakes in my previous attempts at the gym was not turning it into a system. I just went when I felt like going and had the time to do it. And since time has that particular quality of expanding or compressing itself according to the desire you have to do something, strangely enough, I never found time to go, especially after arriving exhausted from work. But for Netflix there was time!
Therefore, make sure to set your gymnastic routine at a specific time around which you can order your day, or associate it with some other recurring activity. In my case, following the example of a couple of colleagues, I began to use the lunch hour at the office for this, a time when I had no other obligation and in which there were not many alternative activities that could tempt me to fail, and it has worked wonderfully.
Of course, not everyone has such long lunch hours or puts up with them eating at their desk to make up for lost time, but you can always negotiate with your boss to advance the starting time to take half an hour for lunch, or simply look for another time that can be associated with a routine. The important thing is that you order your other activities around the gym and not the other way around.
And try to do it daily! It is much easier to break a routine when there is a mental effort involved “is it my turn today or not?” or a decision to make “to go or not to go?”. When it’s something you do every day without exception, it becomes routine and almost a reflex action.
3. Notice when you have the most energy
Another mistake in my previous attempts was to leave the gym for the afternoon, after university / work. Of course, at that time I am “free”, but also exhausted. Many times I didn’t go because I simply felt too worn out to even bring myself to pack my bag. On the other hand, I’m not a morning person either. I woke up with a heavy head, my body shaken, in a bad mood, fatigued and not at all hungry, I definitely couldn’t fit exercise into that schedule either. As for the night, it is usually my most creative time and I prefer to leave it for other types of activities (writing, reading, drawing and… er… playing Playstation).
That’s why the alternative of going at lunchtime (one still eats a healthy snack to have energy before going) turned out to be the ideal option for me: at that time I’m wide awake, on “automatic pilot” intellectually speaking and with the full batery. There, the exercise, far from unloading me, works as a second load of encouragement just when I need it most.
We are all different, so that schedule may not work for the rest, but what matters here is that you pay attention to the times of the day when you will have the best disposition and the type of energy necessary to do sports, and put the gym there .
4. If routines bore you, join a class
That of spending the day doing 4 sets of 20 weight lifts on each gym machine is not for everyone. Personally, I get bored as a toll cashier, especially on the elliptical and stationary bike. Is that there are people who have no difficulty repeating an exercise or practicing a movement to perfection (musicians and Olympic athletes, I admire them), but another huge group of people prefer variation and feel that they are learning new things every day, even at the cost of doing them only moderately well before moving on to the next topic.
Fortunately, many gyms also offer classes: martial arts, fun dance, aerobox, TRX, etc., which can help you break the routine. I now do machines 3 days a week (every day working different areas of the body) and the other two I do martial arts. Thus, every day I am going to do something new and also, both exercises complement each other well, since one works strength, while the other exercises resistance, speed, coordination and balance.
Another advantage of taking these types of activities is that they have a schedule, and that helps you form a routine. Finally, as they are usually done in a group, over time you become a group of friends, a fundamental social reinforcement to enjoy any activity.
And what do I do with the treadmill / bike / elliptical? Every routine includes its 10 to 20 minutes of cardio, so they are unavoidable. I first tried listening to music, but besides sweat and headphones not going well together, I ended up getting bored of music and it happened to me that slower beats made me jog slower too, so I didn’t keep a steady pace. What did work was to take my Kindle (electronic book) and read while I exercise. Since I can adjust the font size, I can leave it leaning against the machine and read it without any problems. Time flies and I combine two activities in one! Win-win.
5. Use your context to encourage yourself
We tend to think that our mood determines our actions, but the truth is that it is a two-way street. Just as being in a good mood makes it easier for you to laugh, faking a smile or laugh when you’re not feeling well can improve your mood.
Also, wearing gym shoes can put you in the mood to exercise and make you feel more “sporty.” So don’t feel guilty or foolish about buying Usain Bolt’s entire outfit for a 5 minute level 1 treadmill run. If that makes you feel better and makes you want to exercise, do it. If it works, it’s not stupid.
In fact, try to have things that remind you to exercise and encourage you to practice it everywhere. For example, half an hour before leaving for the gym, I eat a banana. But I buy that banana first thing in the morning, on the way to work, and I have it on my desk all day. That simple reminder gets me in the mood for exercise. Those who train in the morning tend to leave their shoes and wardrobe ready next to their beds at night, with the same goal.
See what things in your environment you can modify and how to use your accessories to encourage you to exercise.
6. Add a partner
If the context is a powerful incentive to get you in the mood to exercise, a friend who shares the activity with you is an almost infallible ally. Just watching him get ready to head to the gym is a powerful trigger for the decision to do it yourself. In my case, the idea of joining the gym at lunch came up precisely because two of my colleagues already did. The more, the better: try to add your entire social circle (colleagues, family, partner) to the gym and you will see how things become easier.
Of course, try to find people who have more willpower than you, or they can have the opposite effect if they stop going before you.
7. Make your goal a system
The first time I joined the gym, I told the trainer that my intention was simply to be in good health, so he put me in a routine that was mostly aerobic (which was a drag). To make matters worse, after months, I didn’t see any change in my physique and that “feeling better” thing is so subjective that it was impossible to verify, so the enthusiasm gradually dissolved.
On my second try, I changed my strategy, and made it clear that I wanted to see physical results. This time I was given a more intense, weight-focused routine. Although at first I almost felt the muscles growing under my skin, the problem is that the Schwarzenegger physique (when young) is not achieved in a couple of months, so my enthusiasm curve fell faster than my ability to build muscle.
This time my objective is very different, because it is not focused on achieving a result, but on maintaining a system. This time, my only goal is precisely to go to the gym every working day of the week, unless it is really impossible. It’s not that I don’t care about improving my physique or taking care of my health, I just know that those will be inevitable results if I meet my goal of going every day. The beauty of approaching the problem in this way is that if before my goal seemed distant and unattainable, with my current goal, just by entering the gym I am already achieving it. And there is nothing better to maintain your motivation than meeting your goals.
Side note: Regardless of your goal, remember that in this other article we will tell you why pure exercise will not allow you to lose (or gain) weight, if it is not accompanied by an appropriate diet. If no matter how much you sweat you are not seeing results, it is time to pay attention to what, how much and when you eat.
8. Associate it with other positive things
When I started going to the gym, a number of other things began to change. For energy before exercise, instead of cookies and coffee, I improved my breakfast and started eating fruit throughout the morning. Then, to get the nutrition needed for the exercise to work, I replaced my “starving” lunches with ones designed to “feed me right.” Both things have me less hungry and with more energy. Also, in order not to succumb to exercise, I started going to bed earlier to be well rested, which in turn keeps me fresher and more focused at work. And as not to get bored on the treadmill I started reading, now I read more than before.
The good thing about this “halo effect” is that it increases the cost of leaving the gym: it is very possible that I would return to my previous bad habits and that would affect many areas of my life. Becoming aware of all the positive effects exercise is having on your life helps keep you motivated to practice it.
9. Go slow
The social pressure of watching the other Adonis lift weights that practically generate their own gravity, while you chug along with a Fisher Price toy weight, is hard on the ego, but there’s no better way to cut short even the most enthusiastic plan of action. training than injuring yourself by trying to go too fast.
Obey the routines that the gym staff have prepared for you and if you are finding them too easy, ask before increasing them. Perhaps you have to increase the repetitions before raising the weight, or perhaps you are doing the exercise wrong and loading muscles and joints that you should not.
The same if you start to feel pain in your joints: notify immediately! Again, you may be performing an exercise wrong or trying to lift too much weight. It is not arriving and going from inactivity to dragging trains with your teeth. Ask them to review your routine and see what can be done to decompress the affected area.
10. Pay month by month or the full year?
Here things are more subjective, so my opinion may not apply to everyone. The usual logic leads one to pay for a semester or a full year, because the monthly cost is lower and because they believe that having made that investment will force them to go.
Regarding the first, let’s agree that paying for a full year and going for only 3 months is much more expensive than paying for 3 individual months. So if you still doubt your ability to stay in the gym, the most economically reasonable thing to do is hire a trial month. And then another and another. Until you actually see that you have managed to make it a routine.
As for the second argument, I once read that paying everything in advance, in fact, works more against it than paying month by month. It is that by paying monthly, you renew your commitment and the expense you made is fresh in your memory. Instead, that big payment you made months ago quickly starts to seem distant and irrelevant, so it’s getting easier to “take the loss” and quit.
My advice is to contract monthly or quarterly, so as not to throw away the money. If everything goes well, then you hire the year with all confidence.