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I hate gyms.

Posted Feb 20 2010 12:00am

They feel like unnatural, close communities that make it difficult for an ordinary person to progress in their health goals. I go to the gym twice a week to meet my trainer. Once a week I strength train on my own and I run about three times a week, always outdoors.

To me, there’s no point in running unless it’s outdoors. Whether it be raining or snowing or oppressively hot, the treadmill by comparison is like a torture device. There’s no view. No wind resistance. No quick pace changes. Your feet bang one after the other as if you are running with no purpose. No destination. It’s enough to make me want to collapse on a couch and immediately get fat.

If you have a good gym trainer, your chances of success are much higher. But you pay dearly for a good experience. Mine, thankfully, is great. My trainer takes me into a large room reserved for trainers only. She enters a code on the door and we have access to the best equipment. Instead of machines, there are balls of all sizes, free weights, mats, etc. I love my trainer, but the locked door bothers me. No ordinary gym member has the same access that I do through my trainer, even though they’ve paid the full membership. To me, that’s a major problem in the fitness industry.

Gyms tend to act as though good health is a secret that can only be accessed when you pay for it. I’ve seen trainers design their fitness routines in such a way that their clients never know the big picture and are kept fully dependent on them. Clients never learn how to stay fit on their own; they only learn how to pay for more sessions. People should demand more.

I know someone who purchased a large gym trainer package. When it was all over, there was no progress. Absolute zero. She couldn’t afford any more sessions, so now she runs the stairs in her apartment building. She uses some of the techniques she learned to continue strength training at home, and she is making progress by herself.

Gym memberships have a fairly low rate of success. People don’t stick with gyms because they’re oppressive. Like disgusting little petri dishes of sweat and ineffective machines and creepy guys who gawk at you from across the room. This doesn’t happen outdoors.

Almost everything you see outside can be used to exercise. Stairs. Ledges. Bars. Hills. Sidewalks. Not to mention the benefits of fresh air and sunshine. When I lived downtown I used to head to Bay Street very early in the morning or very late at night. It would be completely abandoned and the basic structure of what was left looked like a jungle gym. Other times I would run through snow. Wearing grips, thick snow provides a workout like no other. In the summer, large trees towering secluded trails drop the temperature by about 5 degrees, as does running alongside the lake.

I am currently studying towards my Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification. This will allow me to train athletes. While a personal trainer certification can be obtained in a relatively short amount of time straight out of high school, the CSCS requires a degree. It is more specialized and harder to get. When I complete it, it will allow me to make athletic-level fitness knowledge accessible to anyone. I’ll not only be able to write with greater authority, but I can train anyone, including athletes at an Olympic level. Trainers have important knowledge that is absolutely crucial, but the way the gym industry is set up is ineffective. Gym trainers don’t even get paid well.

I would train non-athletes independently, visiting people in their homes. We’d tour the neighbourhood and train with the resources they have in their own backyards. Besides their homes, their gym would extend to the great outdoors. I’d teach them how to make progress on their own, and how to continue using what I teach them no matter where they live or how their schedules change. Something like that would blow a gym membership out of the water. And it would be cheaper than paying a standard, less educated gym trainer plus a membership.

Right now I’m training my sister as my guinea pig. Emma is only 14 so she is too young to join a gym, but she wants to work out. Because of her age, I am extremely cautious with her. Her body is still growing and it is important that she not hinder her development. We have only focused on nutrition, flexibility, increasing her cardio-vascular capacity, and strengthening her core. It has been three months and she has lost 10 lbs (mostly due to nutrition) and developed a nice set of abs. She is the only person in her entire grade to have abs. She walks around making everyone touch them.

Good health should be accessible to anyone who wants it. Standard gyms are notorious for their high pressure sales tactics and pushing you into buying things you don’t need. They make you feel uncomfortable and guilty. Then when you train, you feel unmotivated and embarrassed. It’s almost like they’re setting you up to fail. There has to be a better way.

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