I predict that fitness gyms as we know them will more or less die out in the next decade. Back when they were the only game in town when it came to getting a stranger to yell at you to exercise, they could afford to have a few flaws. But now that the Internet can do anything a gym instructor can do and then some, those tiny cracks in the facade are starting to look like the aftermath of an earthquake.
Here’s their most obvious flaw: Gyms are expensive. During the few years of my life when I did cough up for a membership, I never felt like I was getting my money’s worth (even when they DID have fitness classes that matched my schedule). One of my big excuses for taking a “fitness walk” every day and leaving it at that (also, you can walk hung over, but that was the excuse I never admitted to) was that I needed that money to patch in an unpaid bill elsewhere.
And I did. But that was still no reason to have no functioning biceps. There’s another option, and in the past few years it has been catapulted from a sort-of viable choice for when you’re really broke to my go-to: the home gym.
Now, the home gym has been an option for a much longer time for those of you who love planning your own strength or HIIT routine, who like to write down their goals for doing X sets of exercise Y, and who can get along with a few weights and an iPod. But there’s a reason jokes about exercise bikes collecting dust in the basement are so cheesily familiar. Without an instructor, workouts tend to lack focus and intensity. Some people will do the treadmill thing and watch TV, but you never really improve your fitness much when you do that; it’s a way to phone it in, and you’d get a better workout (and more mental health benefits) just strolling around outside. For most of us, if we’re really going to sweat and get in a time-efficient workout, we need a fitness instructor–live or on a recording–to properly get it done.
Less than a decade ago, online fitness sources were few and far between; I tried buying fitness DVDs, but they got bulky to store. They were stupidly expensive, and sometimes the workout was not as good or intense as advertised, and then you were out thirty bucks.
Now all you need to do is invest in a few dumbbells, a yoga mat, and a calisthenics mat, and then fire up YouTube. There are now umpteen YouTube channels that offer excellent varieties of workouts and programs for absolutely free. If you have the money, most of these content creators have Patreon accounts and would be delighted if you would pay them for services provided; but if you’re broke, they’re happy to serve in hopes that you will donate someday. The production values are not always great, but then again I’ve paid $30 for a DVD that looked like it was recorded with a pinhole camera.
Remember how bad the music in 80s workout tapes was? Many content creators (like the massively challenging Millionaire Hoy, who could stand to improve his cueing, but hey, the guy works for free) do NOT add music to their videos. This sounds cheap, but if you’re a music fan it’s a huge boon. Open up another tab, go to YouTube, and queue up a mix based on your favorite song. this is another incidental advantage your apartment has over a gym: instead of being forced to listen to whatever garbage your instructor decides to inflict upon the class, you may now rock out and heal your soul while you exercise your body. (Another bonus is that no one is looking, so bang your head with impunity.) When I’m in a particularly terrible mood, Morrissey is surprisingly rhythmic, particularly for strength workouts.
There are some programs you can pay for; DailyBurn.com is about ten dollars a month. Which is more than the free stuff, but it’s still way cheaper than a gym, and I find it to be worth it. I also get a yoga service for about the same monthly charge. It adds up, but for a total of $20 I’m getting not just strength and cardio but the kind of variety of yoga classes I never in my life was able to access.* Between those two services, Millionaire Hoy, and Fitness Blender, I’m pretty much set–for less than I used to spend just buying coffee at the gym because I didn’t have time to make my own.
Which brings me to POST II in this series, “They Take Your Time”:
*Except when I tried bartering for my cleaning services at CorePower Yoga, which is one of the grossest gigs in the world. Seriously, yoga people, it’s not very zen to be pigs in the locker room.