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Home Exercise vs. the Gym (Which one is better? Let’s break it down…)

November 21, 2019

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I'm Mickie. I run One Strong Southern Girl from Small Town, TN. I love what I do. I want you to remember me because I helped changed your life. 

Hello!

There are people who believe you can’t get in shape at home the way you can at a gym. But there’s no magic in those machines at the gym. The fact is you can achieve the same results at home. Learn more about the pros and cons of each right here.

This topic was covered on a recent podcast episode of Crunches and Cosmos. You can listen here:

The best workout plan is the one we show up for.

Can we all agree about that?

The thing you need to realize is that where you workout doesn’t matter.

A gym routine is NOT the luxury car version of exercise and home workouts the beat up sedan. (A better comparison would be a PB & J sandwich to a ham and cheese sandwich. They’ve both got an avid fan base who prefers one over the other.)

You’re always going to get out of your exercise program what you put into it.

And you can create a phenomenal home workout program as good as anything you do at the gym.

I’m proof of that. I’ve trained for 2 Tough Mudders without ever stepping foot in a gym.

Home exercise isn’t the answer for everyone. But neither is the gym. You have to find what works for you.

And honestly, what you need now may not be what worked for you 10 years ago.

Your fitness goals and tastes will change over time with your life. You need to recognize that and adjust accordingly.

I exercised at a gym (I’m a former certified personal trainer) from my teenage years into my late 20’s.

But at some point going to the gym stopped being fun for me. My life had changed and it didn’t fit.

So, I started exercising at home and I’ve never gone back to a gym. Not yet, anyway.

Pro TipHonestly, everyone needs to have a home exercise plan B even if they workout at a gym, because there are gonna be snow storms, sick kids, meetings, holidays, etc. when you can’t get to the gym.

So, everybody needs to wrap their mind around the idea that home fitness is a different, but equally awesome, workout option.

You just need to exercise regularly, somewhere. Period.

Let me tell you some of the ways exercising at home is different than the gym–some pros and cons of each. And let you decide which one fits the best into your life right now.

Pros of Going to a Gym

All that Equipment!

So, everybody knows that (for the average person) a gym is gonna have more equipment available for you to use than you’ll ever be able to put under your own roof.

I think a lot of people sign up for a gym membership because of all those toys. (And by toys I mean exercise equipment.)

I mean. The possibilities! It’s hard not to imagine yourself in your new slim and chiseled body when you see it all.

It’s a normal reaction. And the one the gym is betting on. Why else give you a tour?

All Those Extras!

Smoothie bar, anyone?

What about a sauna? Swimming pool? Massage services? Personal training on site? Check, check…and check.

Some gyms (*ahem…health clubs*) have every fancy service you can think of to pamper your body from head to toe (inside and out).

If you like all that stuff then you’ll see this as a definite pro when it comes to home exercise vs. the gym.

Maintenance and Storage Ain’t Your Problems

Let’s be honest. In the age of the tiny house some people just don’t have room to store exercise equipment. And if this is you, then the gym might be your only option.

And don’t forget about maintenance. Guess who gets to clean, organize and replace any broken fitness tools? Not you that’s who. I like that about the gym.

The Cons of Going to a Gym

Ongoing Cost

As with most things that are memberships, you have to pay regularly, and for the life of the program.

And depending on just how many of those fancy schmancy services your ‘health club’ offers, you might be paying a lot of money every month to belong to the gym.

Make sure that you’re using all those services (and equipment) that got you excited to sign up in the first place.

I’d also like to point out that my time is a currency that’s just as valuable as the funds in my bank account. Anything that puts me in traffic is a direct expense on my time (and patience) and isn’t always worth it.

Sharing is Caring

When you’re a gym member you get to share all that cool stuff with all the other gym members. And guess where all those hands have been? (Try not to think about it.) It’s funny. But not funny.

The good news is that I’ve found most gyms these days are very good about keeping their equipment as ‘germ-free’* as possible.

*I think I used the word ‘sterile’ on the podcast but that’s not really possible. I mean, honestly, the gym is only a few steps up from a Kindergarten classroom when it comes to actually achieving a germ-free zone. But they try, and I appreciate that.

However, the real thing I’m referring to when I mention ‘sharing’ as a con for a gym membership is this…

You have to time your visit to the gym so you can use all the equipment you want, in the order you want, in the timeframe you want.

No one wants to wait in line, or modify a workout, because they can’t use a piece of equipment they’d planned to use. But when you workout at a gym it’s a part of life.

Sometimes, Greg or Shannon, or let’s call him Eric, yeah, Eric decides he’s gonna use that rock solid ab blaster thingamajiggy (yes, I made that up) master tool for 30 minutes straight no matter how many times you give him the laser eye and look down at your Fit Bit.

And after a week of Eric being Eric you have to change up the time you go to the gym just avoid him.

Because even though Eric refuses to follow the rules (only use the equipment for 15 minutes so other people can use it, too, ERIC) you always follow the rules. And secretly you know it sucks because if you could blast your abs for 18 minutes then you’re pretty sure that six pack that’s been in hiding since 1970 would finally break through the surface.

This is a part of gym life. And it’s definitely one of the cons.

Peer Pressure

Yes, I said the double ‘P’ phrase. And yes, it’s that same thing you were introduced to back in high school (aka-4 years of hell).

Remember being a teenager and eagerly doing whatever you had to do so that you didn’t stand out or draw attention to yourself? Well, it doesn’t really go away just because your age doubles (triples, etc.).

It’s pretty common to locate the person in the gym who looks the best in their skin and seems to know what they’re doing and create your gym routine around their gym routine. Another words, be a copy cat.

Why? Because the alternative involves admitting you don’t know what you’re doing and/or asking for help when you may or may not have time to get it and may or may not realize you need it.

We’re ALL a little guilty of this. And if you say you’re not then you’re lying. This was definitely how I came up with my gym routine in my 20’s and once I became a personal trainer realized how common it really is.

The problem is that no one likes to admit it but it’s intimidating to exercise in front of other people and no one likes to concede that they don’t know what they’re doing. And for a lot of people this scenario will limit the results they’ll be able to get at the gym, so it’s a con.

Pros of Home Exercise

You Can Focus

When you exercise at home it’s easy to focus on you and your body and getting the health results you want because it’s just you and your workout and no other distractions.

There’s a lot going on in a gym environment that’s beyond your control.

You control the environment at home (for the most part) and can really get laser-focused on your form and why you’re there.

Variety

Mixing up different workout styles and exercises is a key part of an effective workout routine.

When you exercise at home it’s much easier to find the courage to try something new.

For the same reasons people don’t like to ask for help at the gym, they also tend to do the same workouts and exercises over and over, rather than go out on a limb and try something new that might make them look silly in front of a room of strangers.

Monotony is the death of progress and consistency when it comes to exercise. I think people are more likely to try new workouts at home so I think it’s one of the pros of a home workout program.

You Own It

So, this is a pro and a con.

I’ve already covered the reasons that NOT owning all that equipment is a pro for going to the gym. But now I want to explain why OWNING your own workout tools is a pro for a home exercise plan.

I love buying new exercise equipment because I see it as an investment in myself and it’s not a reoccurring charge but it gives me a lifetime of return on my investment because most workout equipment will never have to be replaced.

You’ll also never have to wait in line to use your own equipment, you’ll probably never have to share it with anyone. And guess whose sweat that is? Just yours. Nice.

And one more thing about buying equipment. You don’t really need all that stuff at the gym.

When you shop for home exercise equipment you only need to buy a few small fitness tools that can be used in a bunch of different ways. And that big leg squasher contraption made for a man twice your size that got you excited to sign up for a gym membership (only to find out you don’t really like it because no matter how many times you adjust the settings it’s too big for you) isn’t something you have to buy for your home gym.

You Can Really Impact the People at Home

When you exercise at home you impact the lives of everyone who sees you do it. 

We all know that actions speak louder than words.   So keep in mind the fact that your kids will be positively impacted when they see you exercising in front of them. And the same goes for anyone else who lives under your roof. 

The people who see you exercising are watching you make your health a priority. That’s smart.

Time

It’s really convenient to be able to workout whenever it fits your schedule at home.

You don’t have to factor in traffic and you don’t have to make sure you show up at a specific time of the day to avoid Eric (or a crowd).

You can plan home workouts to fit into your day when it works best for you and your family.

Cons of Home Exercise

Self-Discipline

I stick to my story when I say it’s easier to focus when you exercise at home. But self-discipline can be an obstacle to a home workout plan for some people.

It’s just really easy to bypass your workout for a power nap and load of laundry when you’re at home. So, it takes some self-discipline to stay on the task at hand and not get side tracked when you’re following a home workout routine.

But honestly, for the people who use this argument to say that home exercise is more difficult. I say, it takes as much self-discipline to avoid the couch and a Netflix marathon at home as it does to actually drive to the gym and not Dairy Queen or Target instead of the gym. Be honest. It’s true. (But I’m still keeping it under a con for home exercise.)

You Have to Store it & Make Room for It

As I mentioned before, in this day of minimalism and smaller living, some people just don’t have room to store  exercise equipment or safely workout at home.

So, I have to keep that as a con for home exercise.

So, where should you workout?

I can’t answer that for you but make sure where you decide to exercise is based on what works the best in your life–not because of a promotional offer or what’s working best for someone you know.

This is about YOU and YOUR health.

And hey, don’t stress about it. If the gym doesn’t work, cancel your membership and commit to home exercise.

If home exercise isn’t working for you then go sign up for a gym. And the cool thing about a gym is that there are usually a bunch of options. So, find the one that has the services you want (and will use).

And remember there’s always the hybrid plan (a combination of home exercise and the gym).

The important thing is to find a system to exercise regularly that fits your life and needs.

Other articles for you…

Your fitness mindset–here’s what you’re doing wrong

You might be exercising for all the wrong reasons…

How to decide if you should sign up for an exercise on demand service

A comparison of feature in 30+ streaming workout services

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