by a.b.

For many years, I was the gym advocate. I went to the gym and worked out every day for two hours. Even when I stopped going and let the gym keep pulling money out of my account, I kept towing the party line.

I went to the gym for one reason: the rowing machine. Overall, I didn’t like the atmosphere. It smelled funny, inevitably someone forgot to wipe down the equipment they just dripped all over, and I didn’t like the way people would look at each other. It was far from a supportive environment.

Now, I know better. I currently work out at home with my Playstation2 and a game called “Yourself Fitness.” (Later, this game became “myfitness coach” for the wii.) It has a personal trainer that gives me moderate amounts of guilt, tracks my progress, and utilizes the equipment I have at home.

Craigslist and garage sales are excellent places to pick up used gym equipment, including machines and free weights, most of which are unused. Fall is the best time to start searching; people buy a lot of equipment to get in shape for the summer, but get tired of tripping over it for three months and put it up for sale.

Another thing that worked exceptionally well for me, was taking PE classes at the local community college. I took jazz dance, kickboxing, swimming and self-defense. Whether your hobby is archery or ballroom dance, there is usually a class that will peak your interest, and you can take the class for “no credit.” Some campuses will even give you access to the athletic weight/workout room with your student ID.

In addition, if you’re close to a campus with bleachers or a stadium, most of my kickboxing class took place doing squats and kicks up and down those stairs. Cost: free. Although it does help to have a cranky ex-navy officer screaming at you to move you up those stairs.

Currently, I would have to shoot myself if I got a gym membership; there’s a fitness room included in our rent that has treadmills, ellipticals, and circuit weights. No stairmaster? There are three flights of stairs outside my apartment door. Why would I pay to share a sweaty machine when there are evil steps three feet away that no one thinks to use?

My old gym membership cost me $39/month + initiation fee. When I get the urge to ignore my own advice I start thinking about what else I could do with almost $500/year. If you compound that $500 annually at a meager 2% interest, you’d have $6200 after 10 years! At 8%, $8900! How much do you think your creativity could be worth?

Green: Working out at home or driving to a closer location reduces car smog. Recycling exercise equipment is earth-friendly too!

Couples: Haven’t you seen The Mirror Has Two Faces? The couple that sweats together… well, watch the movie.

Kid-Friendly: While some gyms have daycare, I prefer the commercial for the Wii-fit with the little girl doing yoga. I used to do aerobics at home with my mom, and I know families that had a regular exercise routine together seemed to stay healthier as a group.

Photo Courtesy of LollyKnit