With Christmas just around the corner, the mindset of almost everyone in the UK and the Western World is this...
"One last blow out for Christmas, then I'm gonna hit it hard in January, get fit and lose weight".
I bet at least 8 out of every 10 of you reading this blog are thinking exactly that. I would also be willing to put my house on this not being the first year you have thought like this. I bet the same thoughts have been going through your head this time of year for pretty much the entirety of your adult life.
If I'm honest, I'm starting to wind my training down too and my diet over the past week or two is certainly not what it has been over the past few months. Being smack bang in the middle of party season, a bit more alcohol and a few more treats have been allowed to creep in. That's OK though, nobody is expecting you to be robots and any really sustainable nutrition program can adjust or allow for this.
Fortunately though, this blog post is not about nutrition (well at least not entirely). It's more about making the right decision when January comes around so you can break the cycle this year and find a health and fitness regime that you can sustain, be consistent with and ultimately GET RESULTS!
So here we go, here are my top 10 reasons why joining a commercial gym this January for what feels like the millionth time is definitely a BAD idea.
1. You probably won't get the help and support you need to get where you want to be
Gyms get crazy crowded this time of year and most commercial gyms have also done away with regular fitness instructors in place of personal trainers who do free work in place of paying rent. As a result, your gym membership cost aint going to include a program that's worth a damn or be updated and monitored regularly enough to actually get you anywhere.
2. 80-90% of all people who try to get fit this way quit by February
Bad statistic that isn't it, well its true and if you have ever been determined enough to stick it out until mid February you will have experienced how much easier it is to get into that class or get on to the piece of kit you want.
There are many reasons for this but boredom is a big one. You start with what you think will be a great program, do it religiously for 3-4 weeks and maybe even get results at first. Unfortunately though, a program has to be updated around every 4 weeks to keep it fresh and stop your body adjusting to its demands. Here lies the problem, your bored of your current program, your results stop and you don't have a clue how to change it up to keep those results coming.
So just like last year and the year before, you get frustrated and give up. Never mind though, there is always next year you think. There is only one problem with that mentality however. Next year you are probably going to be fatter, more unfit and more unhappy with yourself, making it much, much harder to get those results and make those long term changes you crave every year.
3. You will get pretty much zero nutrition support or guidance
Everybody has heard the saying "You can't out-train a bad diet". Unfortunately, I wish you could but you just can't. So even in the unlikely event that your fitness instructor at the gym does set you up with a kick ass program that does actually help you get fitter, stronger and move better, unfortunately you are still fat. That's because you are missing the main ingredient in the equation, which is getting your nutrition right and learning how to fuel yourself in the right way. Unfortunately, the only way to get that is by shelling out an extra £120-£500 per month on a personal trainer on top of that gym membership you are already paying for.
Even then, most of your training is still done on your own as you can probably only afford 1-2 sessions per week with your trainer. Sounds like an expensive solution to me...
4. You will have nobody to help you set goals or be accountable to.
Goal setting is really important as it helps you define what exactly you want to achieve as well as the reasons for wanting to achieve it. Unfortunately though, this is what most of you get caught up in. Your focus is on your long-term goal, you define your progress solely on how much weight you lose or what you look like in the mirror from one week to the next.
Now trust me! I have been in this game for more than 15 years and this is a recipe for disaster. So instead of maintaining that long term focus, put your ultimate goal to the back of your mind and focus on the little things.
The small things that will help you get there like...
The list could go on but you get the picture, right? Unfortunately, training on your own at a commercial gym means there is nobody to help you set these little goals, nobody to hold you accountable and no-one to help you set achievable long term goals either. There is nobody to keep you on track and help you to see the value in the other ways you are progressing like improvements in your fitness, your body changing shape or how much more confident you have gotten now that you are a bad ass in the gym.
So please try not to solely focus on your weight, get the little things right, day in day out, celebrate your successes and learn from your failures and I promise the weight will take care of itself.
5. Training in a gym can be a lonely endeavor
These days in a gym, everyone wears ear phones, listens to their own music and are in their own little world. There is no banter, no support when it gets tough and nobody to bounce off and be inspired by. Now don't get me wrong, I love training on my own, it's my solace and my bit of "me time" every day. Like me, there are other weird people who are like this. The difference between me and those other people compared to the general population however, is that we know exactly what we a re doing, we are intrinsically self motivated, we know how to plan and execute workouts and we have a sadistic ability to push ourselves through a lot of suffering for no reward other than the satisfaction of having done it.
Now I think I am only like this because I am a trainer and I am coaching other people all day and I have a very social job, so I like the remoteness it gives me just for an hour per day. For most people this is a recipe for failure as they struggle to find motivation and support that they would otherwise get from a trainer or even better, a small group personal training program.
6. For a lot of people, a gym is not a pleasant place to be
This is something I hear a lot, especially in my "ladies only group program". Statements like...
"I never liked training in a gym I always felt uncomfortable"
"I feel like everyone is looking at me"
"I feel like I don't know what I am doing"
Now I can assure you, nobody is staring at you, in fact, most people won't even acknowledge the fact that you are there unless you are doing something really cool or really loud and ridiculous or you are on the machine they want.
Either way, trying to force yourself to be somewhere that you really don't feel comfortable in is probably not a recipe for long-term success. So instead of going down this route yet again, why don't you try something else, like a place with other ladies and gents in the same situation, who are there to support you and help motivate, somewhere away from all those grunting meat heads who walk around like they are carrying carpets and leave sweat over everything they touch.
7. You have no idea if you are performing the exercises correctly
So like a few of the other points before, unless you are forking out that extra couple of hundred quid a month on a trainer, you have zero idea if your technique is good. Now sure you can watch a few Youtube clips to help but there is nobody there to give you cues or help you adjust the little things to ensure you are getting the bang for your buck from every movement
Now stuff like deadlifting with curved spine is probably not as dangerous as we originally thought it was but it certainly isn't the best way to go for muscle development of fat loss, so having someone who can help refine your technique to ensure you are getting the best from it is essential to keep you motivated and to help you develop in the way you want.
8. The gyms are full of useless machines that are of no use to anyone
Seriously, when I was a tutor, travelling around the country teaching other trainers, I used to look around the gyms I visited and think "WOW! There is probably over 1/2 million pounds worth of useless kit in here".
Now you have probably heard an instructor or some other complete moron tell you that the machines are great for beginners. No they are not, not at all,
Training on these machines means 2 things.
a). Your training program is going to take absolutely ages as you would need to use about 4 different machines to get the same benefit that you would get from an exercise like a kettle bell swing.
b). They are rubbish for muscle building and fat loss. Because you are sat down and working small muscle groups, you are not getting out of breath, increasing your testosterone levels or hitting the intensity you need to really build muscle mass, lose fat or actually get fit.
So I beg you. Stop training on these pathetic bits of wasted metal, time and money. Pick up a barbell, kettle bell or a dumbbell and FFS learn to move and be functional in your training so it actually has a purpose.
9. There is no one to slow you down and make sure you don't burn out or get injured
Now this is actually a biggie, especially in January and especially for those who start a HIIT class from scratch or start running.
In January, you git the bug, you are determined to smash it so you train as hard as you can every day. After a couple of weeks though, because of the impact, you start picking up niggles, which turn into an injury a stop you training. Guess what happens to most people then? Yep, they quit because they are frustrated, de-motivated and annoyed.
So my advice on this one, to start slow, you don't have to kill yourself every time and please, don't train every day. You need recovery time to allow your muscles, bones, joints, cells and brain to heal and get refreshed. 3 days per week is plenty, in fact, if you are training right, 3 days per week is all you need to become a badass and develop some serious fitness.
Even top level Olympic athletes don't train every day, so please do not think that you need to.
10. The gyms don't want you there
Now this one, very few people believe when I tell them. Its a well know fact in the fitness industry that a commercial gym's business plan is based around 80% of their members not attending but still paying the monthly fee.
Now back when I worked for a commercial gym, which shall remain nameless (Serco, Manchester council) Lol! Our sales training went like this. If someone is an active member then email them with motivational info, workout tips etc. If however someone didn't attend the gym in 8-10 weeks we told to stop contacting them so we don't remind them they had a gym membership. That way they would not take up any space and we would still get the membership fee every month.
Now that is true of every commercial gym all around the world. Not very ethical or caring is it? So instead of going somewhere that really only wants your money, why not go somewhere you are valued, where people know your name and who you are. Where the trainers actually want to help you be the best you can be and the other people you train with become your mates, help motivate and keep you on track even when you want to give up.
So maybe somewhere that doesn't cost hundreds of pounds per month to get awesome coaching, high quality nutrition advice, mindset coaching to help you set and stick to goals and an environment that leaves you feeling nothing but supported and motivated.
I just wish there was somewhere like that in HD8 that we could go to so 2020 could be the year where you actually followed things through, stuck it out and achieved the goals you set out for yourself all those years ago.
Darren has over 10 years experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, sports injury therapist and most recently as an educator to other trainers. Originally from South Wales, he went to Liverpool University to study Sports Science and liked the city so much, he decided to stay. Since finishing his degree he set up a thriving personal training and injury rehab business which continues to this day. He has recently moved over to Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and has opened Faster Fitness Solutions, a multi-purpose training and rehabilitation facility located in the heart of the village.