Chances are you spent the last 90 days at home, watching streaming services and eating more processed food than normal (I know I did). You were probably sitting more often, moving your body less, and your sleep schedule might have changed due to not having your normal work schedule dictating your life. Some of you probably looked to YouTube, apps on your phone, or scoured the internet for bodyweight training programs to try and keep your fitness afloat. Most of you probably had the idea to purchase various pieces of equipment to use at home, maybe even with the idea that you wouldn’t have to go back to the gym once the stay-at-home orders were lifted. Unfortunately a large portion of workout equipment is produced in foreign countries, so supply chains were exhausted almost as fast as toilet paper and hand sanitizer. The result for many people I know was a desire to train, but not having the space or the equipment necessary to get the job done.
I am guessing that many of you had great expectations for an at-home fitness routine but had a difficult time sticking to a new plan. The issue with working out at home is not physical, it is mental. For most of us our home is a sanctuary, a place to which we retreat after a hard day of work (that work can be mental, emotional, physical or any combination of the three). There is a major difference between how you think and feel depending on if you are at work or at home, and that difference is the same for how most people think of exercise. Call it training, lifting, exercise, or whatever you like; your body and brain treat exercise like it is a stress to your system.
One hundred years ago there were almost no gyms whatsoever — almost everyone performed a job that incorporated physical stress to their body. As our society has moved toward more “knowledge based” work through the invention of technology our habit of working hard daily has regressed, and we find ourselves sitting in one place for a large portion of our lives. This change in culture happened rapidly, but our bodies are still used to the concept of daily hard work. Some experts in the field even state that human beings are hard wired to feel that struggle is necessary, even beneficial. Some people choose to simulate that forgotten stress through exercise, whether they run or bike or lift weights or perform yoga poses. Understanding how we think about exercise is extremely important to understanding why some people love it and some hate it.
As a fitness professional for many years that has interacted with thousands, I can assure you that the habit of exercise is achieved through building a routine, which is a process that any person can learn and reinforce. Creating the habit of regular exercise has nothing to do with genetics, willpower, or personality type. Creating and reinforcing this habit is easier to do when you must travel to another physical location to perform your task of exercising. Let’s say you buy a treadmill and place it in the basement in the same area as your washer and dryer. The habit you already have is that when you go into that area you are supposed to be doing laundry. Now you are trying to rewire your brain to think of that area as a place to go for exercise, but also sometimes doing laundry. It is very difficult to erase one habit and create another, which is why your treadmill will be used as a drying rack more often than its intended use. Some people can work around this issue by creating a garage gym, but that concept might mean parking outside, which is usually not preferred during Minnesota winters. So although we have great initial intentions of buying equipment and utilizing home space for our exercise needs, we have an extremely difficult time overcoming the mental barriers to working out in our sanctuary space.
Enter your local fitness facility. Your local gym fits the criteria necessary for creating your desired habit of working out consistently. It is a physical location to which you must travel, and serves the singular purpose of providing you with the space and equipment necessary to exercise. In some facilities you will have friendly staff people that encourage you and raise your spirits when you are there performing your hard work. There might even be fitness professionals on hand to guide you through technique issues, give advice, and provide knowledge to help you overcome setbacks or struggles you might have from previous injuries or less than positive experiences. Of course these facilities come with a membership cost, which can range from a big box $10 per month gym to a $200 per month health club. Many people see this cost as an unnecessary expenditure, but you aren’t just paying for the building and the equipment and the staff. Remember that you are trying to create a good habit, and chances are you have spent real money on several avenues in the past that have not worked out. You might be spending more to have a membership than you would to have a piece of equipment at home, but chances are much higher that you will be making positive progress toward your goal in a gym setting.