Why the Gym is a Waste of Money

Push Ups

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in Frugality

This is a guest post from Darren Norman, a new blogger at Enter The Norman. Darren writes about his experiences and struggles with exercise for the lazy and weight loss in an ever fattening world. He was featured for his extraordinary weight loss on NBC’s Today show be sure to watch his story below. Norm’s also on Twitter.

March is here and the spring is coming. By now, many of you have realized that the gym membership you purchased, with good intentions of course, is quickly becoming a pain in the ‘you know what’ bill that you have to pay every month. Every time it comes, you tell yourself, “I need to start getting my money’s worth.” A fleeting thought that is gone ten seconds after it occurred. Believe me, I know the feeling. I’ve been working out fairly consistently now for the past four years, and as a self-professed cheapskate, I’ve come to learn what a waste the neighborhood gym is.

All that Glitters Costs about as Much as Gold

Don’t get me wrong. All that fancy equipment: the nicely balanced pulley system, the treadmill with the TV on the wall silently blasting to your FM tuner, it sure looks nice and I’m sure it cost the gym a lot of money. The first time you walk through, you picture yourself getting bigger by the minute as you power through day one of bi’s and tri’s, day two of chest and back, day three of abs and legs and day four of cardio. The reality of the situation is you probably got suckered; at least I did the first time. I went to my local gym and signed up, probably like you, shortly after New Year’s back in 2005.

They draw you in with what seems like a reasonable monthly fee, anywhere from $25 to $50 per month or more, depending on the facility. What they don’t tell you right away is that you have to sign a one or two year commitment to get that price, along with paying a sign-up fee of $100 or more. Now you start to question things. You know you need to get more exercise and this place also has a pool and hot tub. Who wouldn’t use that? Plus, if you pay the sign-up fee, then you get that low monthly price instead of paying $75 a month without the fee. What a deal! The thing that killed me when I went through all this was the fact that the application form called for my social security number. Yep, they also check your credit score. The final nail is the fact that after you’ve signed up, it hits you that you’re locked into this thing for the length of the contract and now you are helplessly handing money over whether you take advantage of the services or not.

Frugal Exercise Options

The fact is that you can get nearly all the benefits of working out at a gym, and more, for much less money and on your own terms. Along my path to losing weight, I’ve learned that the easiest way to stay motivated to get fit is to make it as hassle free as possible. This can be done for as cheap as the annual cost of a pair of running shoes. Running is free and one of the most effective cardio exercises out there. By working your way up to running a half hour, just 3 times a week, you’ll be amazed at how you feel. The best part is that you don’t even have to buy the nice shoes. I’ve got feet as flat as they come and I’ve found that buying a pair of cheap shoes, around $40-$50, then replacing the insoles with a $20 insert from your local sporting goods store is just as effective as spending $100 on “˜nice’ shoes with all the support built in. This along with the fact that you’re not shelling out your monthly gym membership fee and that you can start your workout from the front door of your house at any time you like makes it much more convenient.

In addition to running, there is any number of exercises you can do at home with no equipment and work all the same muscles as you would in the gym. The first that comes to mind is push-ups, working your arms and chest. This is a very versatile exercise, I’ve come to learn. By putting your hands together, you can focus more on your triceps than biceps. By using your knees as the fulcrum of your push-up, you can start off easy and work your way to a full push-up. Once you master that, try putting your feet on a step or higher to increase the difficulty. Crunches are another great exercise that is easy to do, working your abs, and with some modification, you can get your lower back and hamstrings in there too.

There are tons of resources out there to base your workout off of as well. You could do the hundred push ups challenge, the two hundred situps challenge or the two hundred squats training program. They even provide you a training plan to reach those goals. If you want something quick and dirty, try the Deck of Cards workout. You’ll find variations of this all over the place but the result is all the same. This gives you an intense 20 to 30 minute workout that you can do in your own home. Most variations have you doing push-ups and squats but you can always change it up by adding in things like crunches, tricep dips or burpees, all of which you will hate at first but will grow to love as you are able to do them more easily. Another one of my favorites, and I use that term with all the disdain I can muster, is the plank. The simple act of keeping your body totally straight while being propped up on your toes and elbows sounds easy. Try doing this twice for a minute each time.

With a little creativity and a pair of shoes, or not if you prefer barefoot (I personally have gone to a hybrid with the Vibram shoe: worth every penny), you can find any number of exercises that will give you a workout every bit intense as the gym will. Just to be clear, I am in no way a fitness professional. I’m just a poor schlubb that managed to lose a few pounds over the last several years. I tried all sorts of activities from the gym, soccer, rugby, running and cycling. Just remember, the hardest part of all this, gym or no, is the motivation to do it. My brother, and probably one of the fittest people I know, told me that even if all you do is walk for 5 minutes each day, you’re doing something. Maybe tomorrow you’ll walk for ten minutes, maybe not, may you’ll jog. Who cares, just do something. We’d love to hear some of your free or frugal fitness tips.

Photo courtesty crd!

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