It’s January. Cue the anti-gym headlines telling us we can lose weight and get fit for free by jogging around the park. Well, I beg to differ…
The gym gets a fair bit of flack in January. Deemed un-newsworthy the rest of the year, it creeps back into the headlines just after Christmas when thousands of us reportedly sign up for a membership we won’t use once February 1st rolls in.
‘DON’T JOIN A GYM’, screams an infographic courtesy of Country Walking. ‘Forget the gym’, pleads The Irish Times, which urges us to find our own way to fitness in 2017 with far fewer capital letters.
If recent years are anything to go by, a third of all new gym members in 2017 will sign up during the first two months. And the reason for the surge in interest? Pure Gym chief exec, Humphrey Cobbold, puts it down to following the crowd.
“We are still like lemmings after Christmas,” he says in the Financial Times. “We eat the turkey and then we want to repent for it.”
And it’s a fair point. I for one am guilty of slipping one too many pigs in blankets on my plate this Christmas. But, as we trot off to burn some calories – New Year’s resolutions and Direct Debit forms tucked under our bingo wings – I don’t think we’re complete morons for choosing to do it in a gym.
Having spent the last month trying out my local fitness centre – Robinson Pool – for the first time post-kids, I’ve become something of a convert. So, on behalf of post-Christmas fatties and bona fide fitties alike, here are 7 reasons why joining the gym in January might not be The Worst Thing Ever, after all…
1. You might actually save some money
You whatnow? Yes, yes, I know. I just said the words save and money in a post about gym membership. I won’t lie – after trialling a month’s membership at Bedford’s Robinson Pool gym, which is one of many Fusion Lifestyle gyms around the UK – I don’t think I can legitimately afford to keep it up once my free trial is over. The centre has just undergone a £1.3m redevelopment which makes it one of the best gyms in the area (it really is amazing), but also one of the most expensive at £46 per month, and I’ve just left my job. BUT, and it is a huge, shouty-caps but, I’ve saved money elsewhere*. I’ve eaten fewer takeaways, for one thing. And I’ve drunk less wine, for another…
*I promise I’m not just writing this to convince my husband this does, in fact, fit quite neatly into our monthly budget.
2. You get loads of variety
I know that walking is free. I also know that I only really like walking when I’m walking to the pub. So any fitness points gained on the way are lost about half-way through my second G&T. I tried a jog once, too – also free. It was such a novelty I wrote a post about it, and I’ve only been once since, mainly because I had to go at 5.30am before the rest of the house woke up and I’m just not that person. It was pitch black, I didn’t feel safe, and my ears were flippin’ freezing. Plus, I’d rather have had an extra hour in bed.
In my month’s membership at the gym I didn’t actually go into the gym itself – I spent the whole time doing classes in the dance studio. I did yoga, Zumba, Body Pump, Body Attack, Body Step, and lots of others. The group exercise class timetable at Robinson Pool is huge, and the fact there were so many classes also meant I didn’t have to stick to a set time or day, which doesn’t work for my erratic schedule. I just checked the app when I had a window of opportunity and booked myself on to whatever class was on.
3. The gym is not freezing cold
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked out of the window and decided today is not a Running Day due to the weather. There’s just no excuse when you’re off to an air-conditioned gym. Apart from maybe when the car needs de-icing and you can’t find the scraper. That’s definitely legit.
4. You might eat (a bit) better
My diet of Pom Bear crisps and Bounty bars (adopted partly out of necessity since I’ve gone freelance) has vastly improved since I started going to the gym, and now includes many more things that didn’t come in a plastic wrapper. I am, unfortunately, the kind of person who needs an incentive to not eat junk. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
5. You’ll earn those bonus blow-outs
On the flip side, I’m not going to lie: a massive curry on a Friday night doesn’t leave you with the same slightly greasy feeling of guilt when you’ve been to the gym three times that week (yes, that’s the most I’ve ever managed in my life). It’s probably not the approach of the gym elite, but I definitely subscribe to the exercise-so-you-can-eat-more rule.
6. You get some me-time
I freelance from home, so ‘me-time’ is work time. And if I’m not working, the kids are home, so it’s clean-the-house and do-all-the-washing time. It’s kind of crappy time. So it has been unbelievably nice to do something just for me: to dance around like a crazy person in a Zumba class without two small people attached to my legs, and to lie back and completely zone out in yoga without embedding a piece of Lego in my spine.
I even signed the kids up to the crèche – yes, this gym even has one of those, which runs every morning – and squeezed in an aerobics session while they played with All The Toys for an hour. I came out barely able to walk; they came out asking when they were coming back.
7. You can cancel if you get fed up
The good news is, even a month of going to the gym – or two, if you make it through February – is better than a month of sitting on your bum and thinking about maybe, possibly, going for a run. At most gyms these days, including Robinson Pool, you can cancel your membership at any time as long as you give 30 days’ notice. That means you’re not tied in for the year, and you’re not forking out a load of money for something you’re not using.
OK, so I don’t know if I can keep it up financially (my plan is to do pay-as-you-go for individual classes instead), but I do know I’ve had a blast as a bona fide gym-goer and I’ve done a whole lot more exercise in the last month with a gym membership than I have in the past year with a park next door.
So yes, Mr Cobbold, I might be a bit of a lemming. But at least I’m a slightly fitter one.
Disclosure: Fusion Gyms kindly gave me a month’s free trial membership in return for writing a post about my experience at Robinson Pool Bedford. As always, all views are my own. You can get a free pass for any Fusion Lifestyle gym here http://www.findyourfusion.com/free-pass. To find out more about membership options, including Family Membership – which includes use of the Swim School for your kids – take a look here or call 01234 357157.