Five months ago, it was probably a more simple answer in my mind. I probably would have said yes, the gym is a luxury, without hesitation. And the simple answer to this question is yes. To lose weight, be healthy and fit, you don’t need a gym. There are many exercises and physical activities you can do to work on your general health and fitness without any equipment at all. In fact, the current global pandemic has shown us just that. With gyms being closed around the world for several months, people have found awesome and interesting ways to stay active as well as the general exercises such as running or cycling etc. But the truth is, it may be slightly more complicated than a simple yes when you dig deeper.
I don’t remember ever being out of the gym for more than a few days at any one time except the times when I had an injury or would take a short recovery break which would last a week at most and wasn’t very often. By choice, the gym was my preferred place to train. Yet I still considered it definitively a luxury.
Several years back, a friend asked me this question. When the conversation would go towards a personal record or the day’s training routine, he, a non-gym-going cyclist, asked me if the gym was really a necessity or a luxury. He even challenged me to go for a month without attending the gym. Of course, I wasn’t having any of it. I enjoyed training at the gym, so it wasn’t a challenge I cared to accept, although I did actually agree with him in principle.
Little did I know at the time that all these years later I was going to face this challenge and not by choice either. This challenge would be plunged upon me along with the rest of world, fitness enthusiasts, fitness lovers, and all around health prospects. But not just for a month. Most gyms were closed for at least three months, and in some places the gyms that were reopened had to sadly close again.
The gyms in the UK are open again at the time of writing this. I have decided not to go back yet because things have grown a bit busy for me, and I’ve found that working out from home is much quicker and gives me more time to work on other things. I miss the gym a lot. I miss having the full range of equipment to use and the people that I would usually train with. But at the present moment, I’m content with home exercising even with the minimal equipment I have.
The thing is they’re not really the most enjoyable sessions nor are they the most expansive. With regards to increasing my strength and muscle mass or my personal bests, it’s not really that effective either. My health and wellness is still on track though and I do benefit from the endorphins however, but I am now seeing that for many the gym isn’t a luxury anymore and has almost become a necessity.
Over the time of the lockdown, many of my friends I spoke with said they were exercising less, and some had stopped working out completely (others though did scramble to buy bands or some basic equipment for extortionate prices). And the main reason I heard for this decrease in physical activity was that of motivation.
It can be hard to get into the mind-set when exercising at home, as my friend Sam, CEO of ThriVast, put it. At the gym, you are there for the purpose of fitness and training. You are also surrounded by others who are there to do the same. There is more of a variety of exercises you can do with the access to more equipment and even have a conversation about adding a new exercise to your repertoire.
It’s easier to switch to fitness mode when your purpose for being there is just that. Being part of a class or a collective is also more motivating than just getting off your sofa and doing hundreds of reps or high intensity movements when your TV is screaming for your attention and your mid binge TV show is just a click away.
On the flip side, many have turned to exercise and fitness for the first time during lockdown. It could be the fact that they haven’t previously been to the gym and as such don’t know what they’re missing. Or that they are still at the beginning of their journey and minimal or bodyweight is more than enough for them. But they can still achieve a healthy and active lifestyle all the same.
Running, cycling, walking, sports, jumping jacks, push ups and many more exercises don’t need any equipment at all. But when it comes to pushing yourself further and achieving more challenging goals is it enough?
I think back on this conversation with my friend and know that I probably wouldn’t have been able to go a month without the gym if the gym was available. I wouldn’t have to. But now that they were taken away, I have managed. I find that having the ability to push myself mind and body is in itself the challenge that I try to achieve, so without the full range of equipment it’s tough. But then again, the current challenge is to change into the right mind-set when I change into my training clothes. It’s enough to just simply stay active, fit, healthy, and well. It’s a different kind of challenge to workout without being able to really do my favourite exercises and somewhat out of my comfort zone.
From what I’ve seen more recently, it does seem that the gym has gone from being a luxury to more of a requirement. The gym has almost become synonymous with fitness and exercise, and many do actually rely on a gym to stay motivated. If you had adequate training equipment at home, would it be the same?
Subsequently, is the gym a luxury? Well for purely health and wellness, yes it is. However, it’s a little more complicated when you start thinking about it a bit more. The longer answer would be that it really depends on your goals.
What do you think? Would you consider the gym to be a luxury, and why?