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Home Gym vs. Membership: Pros, Cons, and What Really Matters

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

When I moved to NYC I miraculously found myself with a spare room for my gym equipment. Considering I used to work in a gym, with the freedom to workout there when attendance was slow, I knew it would be a different experience to have my workout time in my home, and only with what I had. I learned to appreciate the benefits that utilizing one space over the other, but time and time again I find that my clients come to me struggling with which one, a home gym or a membership, is best for them. Well, here is my chance to break it down for you.

It’s tale as old as time. Sortof. You’re ready to make a commitment to being healthy, to exercise, to making real change...but not sure if you would be better off buying a few pieces of equipment to set up at home, or buying a membership to a gym that has lots of equipment at your disposal. To answer this question, I'll first weigh the pros and cons of each, then break down three important takeaways that help determine what is the best choice for you. Read on so you can start to think about whether you’re helping or sabotaging your own fitness efforts.

Gym membership PROS

More Equipment- You can literally do any kind of workout program that you like. Some spaces may even have spa amenities and group classes that add to the value.

Social Element- AKA "Tribe" mentality. Sometimes being around fitness-minded people helps you develop that mindset, and the gym could likely be the only place in your life that you feel like you and your healthy mentality belongs.

Potential Discount- Often you can snag a great deal for a membership, or some insurance companies will even reimburse some of your membership expenses for attending regularly (look this up on your insurance site!) If you're extra lucky, your work has a fitness facility in-house available to you (but we aren't all so lucky).

Gym membership CONS

Financial Burden- You're often stuck paying for a year, or cancelling comes with a penalty. If you want to make a membership worth the cost, you have to know that you'll go enough times in a month and in a year to make it worthwhile.

Time cost- For some, the added commute time just to get to the gym is a big barrier. Not only that, but you may find yourself waiting in line for the bro in the squat rack or on the lat pull-down machine to either get off his phone, or to finish his 100th rep. The extra minutes waiting add up, and can kill your motivation.

Social Anxiety- Following up on that bro that's hogging the squat rack...the anxiety or stress that it adds to your sweat session pretty much negates the whole purpose of exercising. Not to mention, if you are prone to anxiety about people staring at you while your bouncing around a gym, you’ll likely psyche yourself out of going anyways.

Home Gym PROS

Cost Efficient-You only use what you pay for, and if you’re a good bargain hunter on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, you can get perfectly good secondhand equipment for a fraction of the cost.

Location Convenience-having a workout space at home saves the time and resources it takes to otherwise drive to a location to get a workout in. It also sets your home up to be more healthy-minded, which could help lead you to more healthy decisions in other parts of the home, such as the kitchen.

Actual Judgement-Free Zone-you can wear what you want, blast whatever music you want, and bounce around as you see fit! If there are family or roommates around, though, make sure you warn them ahead of time that you are prone to pantsless workouts done to the tune of 80s Madonna.

Home Gym CONS

Takes up Space-you have to be clever and selective with the workout pieces you have and in the appropriate rooms. Otherwise the rower and Bowflex machine will be a huge eyesore in the middle of the living room.

Limited Accountability-since its you and only you, it’s important that you’re able to get into the mindset to workout on your own, or have an online coach who can keep you on track.

Are you starting to see yourself as more of a home-gym type or a membership type at this point? Well, there are three important takeaways with whatever it is you decide, before you commit to one or the other:

Important Takeaway #1: You have to know what you’re doing.

Regardless of which you choose, if you don’t know what you’re doing with what you have at your disposal, then both your time and money is wasted. There may be dumbbells ranging from 2 to 200lbs, every exercise machine possible, and 5 squat racks at the gym, but if you don’t have a solid plan and know the proper form for each exercise, then it’s all pointless and you’re going to burn out or get broke fast. Likewise, you’re also pretty much screwed if you have a bench and a few weights and workouts on-demand at home, but you don’t have a clear understanding about what the workout lady on the TV is asking you to do, nor why you’re doing them at all.

Nothing makes me pull out my hair more than hearing people say “when i go to the gym I just walk around and do a few exercises.” Granted, I appreciate that they’re doing something, but at the same time I wonder what the point even is to pay monthly to wander aimlessly without a set goal. I also have a friend who pays $100/year for a workout streaming service, but she only uses it maybe once a month. It seems that paying to have the option to work out is important, but if you’re not working towards a goal, no matter how basic, then both your time and your money is going down the drain, along with whatever goal you have set.

Important Takeaway #2: You have to be financially responsible. AKA be an adult

I know you think dumping a few hundred bucks into a new treadmill will help you stay motivated to working out. I know you think that if you’re paying for a gym membership, that you’ll actually go. That only works for a little while, though...and soon enough you are going to resent yourself for shelling out the dough for something you really didn’t need. It’s called external motivation, and it’s not what is going to make you happy or keep you consistent in the long-run. You have to put on your grown-up pants and decide what you can truly afford, and what the minimum is that you can get away with spending to make the most changes.

Investing in a used set of dumbbells off craigslist and a personal trainer to show you what to do with them, for example, would be a smarter investment than just paying for a pricey gym membership and just hoping you’ll find a good workout to do on Pinterest. This, my friend, is adulting: Getting what you want, but not getting into more debt to attain it.

Important Takeaway #3: You have to want to workout.

You are point A. Working out is point B. You want as straight and easy a line to walk to get from A to B, but each person has an individual set of barriers that can make it difficult to get the point where you eventually talk yourself out of going before you even have your gym shorts on. For some, the social anxiety of exercising in front of others is a deterrent. For others its a motivator, and they like the “tribe” mentality of being around other people wanting to be healthy. For some, getting out of the house and going to the gym is a welcomed escape, and it allows them to get into the mindset to put the work in. For others, the extra time it would take to get to the gym is a deterrent and they would rather have what they need in their living room or guest room ready to go. One of the biggest factors in keeping up a healthy habit such as exercising is minimizing barriers, i.e. excuses, not to do it. And knowing what those barriers are, and using that knowledge to your advantage, is how you’ll get the results you have been wanting. If you’re starting to piece together what may be the best type of workout environment works for you, but still not 100% sure how to get started, then let’s connect. Sign up here for a free 30-minute consultation with me, and we can determine if online coaching can get you the healthy lifestyle you want.

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