Jan 19, 2008

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Gym Membership

Gym memberships are a costly investment, but the good thing about them is that you can control the amount of pay off by the amount you actually use them. It doesn't really matter if you're spending $19 a month or $99 a month, what matters is how often you actually get your lazy butt off the couch and go workout.

Here are 10 ways to make the most out of that costly gym membership:

1. Go, and go often: Ok, this one is obvious, but despite having a "duh" factor, this is the most important step of all. For the past year-and-a-half, I had a $46.99 a month membership to 24 Hour Fitness. I went to the gym a total of 10 times in those 18 months. Quick math shows that I would have been better off splurging on a day pass to a local luxury gym... or buying myself fitness equipment... instead of spending about $70 a visit. Now that I belong to Gold's Gym with a $27 a month membership I've vowed to go to the gym at least twice a week. Not only does this make my gym membership make more sense to my budget, it's also helping me be more healthy, which will hopefully cut medical bills in the long run.

2. Get a Gym Buddy... Who Isn't a Close Friend: Having a gym buddy is a good way to encourage yourself to use your gym membership. But if your gym buddy is a close friend, there's a better chance that one of you will come up with a last-minute excuse on why you can't go, letting the other back out easily. After all, friends are often more forgiving about these things, especially if the friends aren't keen on going to the gym in the first place.

3. Take a Class or Ten: Many gyms offer a variety of "free" group fitness classes. As soon as you start taking these classes, your "investment" dollars are being put to work. Assuming group fitness classes, on their own, would cost $50+ a month at the local rec center, taking a class once a week makes the entire gym membership worth a lot more. Go in without any expectations, and be ready to walk if the instructor is awful or the class is really too hard for you.

4. Use Those Machines: One of the main benefits of belonging to a gym is the ability to diversify your workout. Don't be afraid of the weight training machines (I know I was for a long time). Instead, read the instructions on the side of the machine and start slow. You should pick a weight that allows you to do 15 reps (repetitions) of the same movement until your muscle feels as if it is melting and has turned to jelly.

5. Go In the Morning: I'm going to try to take my advice on this one in the coming year, as I've yet to experience the 5am gym rush. Going to the gym in the morning is great because it gives you energy for the day, helps your metabolism, and... best yet... ensures you won't come up with excuses after work about why you can't make it to the gym. Also, going in the morning makes you more aware of getting to sleep at a reasonable hour, which is ever-so important for weight loss and health (she writes at 2am after getting 2 hours of sleep last night.)

6. Buy a Bunch of Used Fitness Magazines: Fitness magazines often repeat the same information over and over again, so I wouldn't recommend them for health nuts, but for beginners they can be quite helpful. Not only do they offer advice on workouts, they also will discuss (and show photos) of proper form, which will help you make the most out of your workout and not hurt yourself... both important things if you want to keep using the gym.

7. Don't Give Up: Easier said than done... but staying on track is more than half the battle. Don't disillusion yourself into thinking you'll drop 10lbs a week. If you're eating a healthy diet around 1200 calories (for women) or 1500 calories (for men) and working out 3 times a week, you will lose weight... like 1lb per every 1-2 weeks. Even if you don't lose a pant size, any exercise is good for your long term health. It's what you can't see that's the most harmful.

8. Join a Online Health Community: Free health and fitness networks can aid in your journey. Check out SparkPeople.com, a wonderful community where you can track your diet, get fitness advice and surround yourself (digitally) with other people like you.

9. Invest in a Personal Trainer: Personal trainers are very expensive and they're not all worth their lean muscle mass in gold. Some gyms offer a few cheap personal training sessions when you sign up, so take advantage of that deal. Tell your trainer up front that you're broke so he or she will be less tempted to try to sell you expensive supplements or additional sessions. Instead, explain that you really want to learn a good basic workout (or, if you're more advanced, ask for a workout that can help take you to the next level). Get the workout in writing and take notes on any specific proper positioning that isn't obvious.

10. Eat Healthy: You know that saying "you are what you eat?" Well, it's true, and it's most apparent when you're at the gym. It's easy to tell yourself that you've worked out a ton so a good reward would be an entire pizza or slice of cake. However, you're just sabotaging your hard-earned results. Eating a diet high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber will give you the energy needed to work out. For good, easy sources of protein try egg whites. Egg beaters, which are milk-cartons of liquid egg whites, are my new best friend. Also, splurge on a good vitamin. I'm no nutritionist, but look into what sort of vitamin would be best for you. It's cheaper to buy one slightly more expensive vitamin with everything in it you need than buying a lower-cost vitamin and having to buy separate supplements for missing nutrients.


Julie the Graduate said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one up in the middle of the night!
I completely agree with all of your points - especially the part about going with someone who isn't your close friend. This summer I went the the gym a lot with a bunch of boys that I interned with - so I just knew them from work and living near them. Not only did they make me go, they made me stay a lot longer than I would have!
Great thoughts - I hope that we can both stay motivated to go!

SavingDiva said...

Great post! I'm also trying to get the most out of my $30/month gym membership. I actually signed up for a few classes that I had to pay a small fee ($15 for a spinning class), so I could get a small class. So far, I have no complaints! I've been going to the gym between 5-6 times a week, and I really feel like I'm getting into shape...

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