As the season tilts toward winter and pleasant weather starts to erode, the hard-core athlete will suck it up, set an alarm for zero dark thirty, and carry on with a rigorous program of outdoor exercise.
But for us mere mortals, the winter provides an opportunity to bring exercising indoors, to the gym.
There are lots of reasons why this is a good idea. For one thing, it’s nicer to work out in a warm, dry building than in the cold snow. If you can hop on a cardio machine indoors, a little rain or sleet isn’t going to derail your workout.
Perhaps even more important, bringing your workout to the gym can get you out of your exercise rut. As a runner, I spend a lot of time over the summer...running! I know bicyclists who do the same. Spending time concentrating on your main sport can certainly optimize your performance, but engaging in only one athletic activity also increases your risk for overuse injuries.
Getting into a gym for the winter can inspire you to do the kind of cross-training that helps increase overall fitness. Maybe the free weights will entice you, leading to extra strength and increased bone health. Maybe you’re more interested in checking out some new classes such as Zumba, BodyPump, yoga, pilates—the world of fitness classes is broad and deep.
Depending on your budget and inclinations, joining a gym for the winter can become an integral part of your self-care routine. Whirlpools, saunas, and steam rooms can chase the chill out of your bones. A gym can also become a social hub—a meet-up location that’s an alternative to the local bar with its caloric beers and nacho platters. And, like a good run or bike ride, a gym workout can be the ultimate “me time” for stressed-out office workers.
Joining a gym (and going to it) will help you maintain your peak summer fitness through the holiday season and the long, dark months that follow. And you can go beyond maintenance as well: set a goal for yourself and create a plan. Whether it’s learning to swim, working up to being able to bench-press your weight, or mastering crane pose, working toward a goal will help ensure that you’ll skip fewer gym sessions.
Do It Now
While the peak time for new gym memberships tends to be in the last weeks of December (when, admittedly, there are some great deals to be had), joining in October or November will create some continuity for your workouts. Setting a routine now can help ward off holiday weight gain.
Gyms on a Budget?
Can gym membership be done cheaply? That’s the question for many of us.
If you’re already motivated to work out, and bells and whistles like fancy shampoo in the locker room or a smorgasbord of “free” classes aren’t on your must-list, check out your local community centers and YMCAs or investigate a chain of low-cost fitness centers such as Snap Fitness or Anytime Fitness, where memberships can run as low as $20 per month depending on the location—less than many a gym rat’s protein-powder budget.
Another way to stretch your gym dollars is to check with your health insurer or workplace wellness team. Both insurers and wellness programs sometimes offer gym membership offsets. For instance, one wellness program offers $20/month toward your gym fees if you work out eight times in that month.
Don’t overlook the benefits of joining as a group—sometimes gyms will offer discounts that way. So gather your soccer team, work group, or extended family together and head down for a talk with the local gym manager to see if you can cut a deal. Or check out Groupon or similar sites for deals.
And finally, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Gym memberships and fees can be flexible depending on the ownership structure. If prices seem too steep, ask for what you want and don’t be afraid to walk away and find a gym you can afford.
Miriam Wolf is a certified personal trainer, health coach, and the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine newsletter.