Workout LocationsIn a collaborative effort with Scott over at Straight to the Bar, we will be writing about workout locations for the month of December. You can expect a new article on the matter every week.

This week I would like to discuss working out a commercial gym. There are basically 3 reasons why you would want to work out at a commercial gym rather than at home:

  1. Equipment
  2. Training
  3. Motivation

The first reason that you would want a commercial gym membership is because they would have access to more equipment than they would at home.

At home, I have a bench and some free weights; even a treadmill, now. However, while I could get full workouts in at home, it is much easier to do it at the gym where I have access to a squat rack and individually weighted dumbbells. I also do not have as many weight plates at home as I have access to at the gym.

Most people do not have any weight training equipment, or even a place to store or use it. People that like to use the machines will be even less likely to have or to be able to afford to acquire weight training equipment. Joining a commercial gym will eventually cost more than buying the equipment, but you have immiediate access to all of that equipment. You also do not have to worry about maintaining it in a safe and working condition.

Gyms may also have other amenities that you are unlikely to have installed at your home, such as saunas or swimming pools.

The second reason that you would want to work out at a gym is for training.

Most people do not know how to lift weights safely, or how to put together a functional fitness routine. You could hire somebody to come to your home to train you, but most commercial gyms have trainers on location that will usually be cheaper than hiring somebody. You always know that your trainer will be there, and they can show you the proper and safe ways to complete your workouts.

Along with personal training, there are often group classes. You may be able to learn about weight training in a group environment, or just have a group activity that is more fun than doing something along. A spin class can be a lot easier with a neighbor to talk to, and yoga is much less repitive with an instructor than with a DVD.

If you know how to lift weights, and you can put together a workout regimen (or follow one from a book), then you still may want to work out at a gym so that you can get somebody to spot you when you are tired. When you work out at home, you need to arrange to have somebody available when you want to push your limits. At the gym, most people will be more than willing to give you a quick spot on a set. Just ask them.

The last reason that you would want to work out at a gym is for motivation.

It is not uncommon for somebody to know that their weight training equipment is off in the basement and ready to be used at any time. Tomorrow seems like a great time to start. If you are paying for a gym, you will be more likely to go. That is how it works for me, anyway. Some people will pay for their membership and then feel secure that they have access to a gym whenever they want, but never actually go. That just seems like a waste of money to me.

Having people around when you are lifting can be very motivating. Seeing people that are in better shape than you will make you want to get yourself into better shape. It is easier to do a workout in the colder climates in Winter when you have a gym membership, especially here in Maine. I know a lot of people who will not go out to run at this time of year, but they will use a treadmill or elliptical machine. Knowing that they have a warm place to work out can make it much easier to get somebody to keep in shape. Even when lifting weights, it is easier for me to go to a gym than the basement because my basement can get very cold at this time of year.

A gym’s locations can also be a motivation factor. If you pass your gym on your way to and from work, then you will be more likely to stop. If your gym is a half hour out of your way, you will be more likely to skip it. For myself, my new gym is quite out of my way. However, it gives me a locker room and shower in down town Portland so that when I run in that area I do not have to drive home sweaty. I do not work very far from there, so I usually just go before work and then double back to get to work.

Commercial Gym vs Home Gym
This is not to say that a commercial gym is better than a home gym. For somebody who has the equipment and can motivate themselves to work out, a home gym can be very cost effective and even more importantly can save a lot of time in commuting back and forth.

When you work out at home, you do not have to wait for a machine to be free, and nobody misplaces the dumb bell that you want to use or forgets to wipe a bench down after sweating all over it.

The ideal situation would be to have a few basic weight training implements at home and to also live within walking or jogging distance from a commercial gym with a sauna, swimming pool, and $5 per month membership fee. When you do not want to have to wait, you can work out at home. You still have access to equipment that you do not use often enough to warrant buying and can still use the sauna or go swimming whenever you want.

The chances of that are pretty low, however. The best idea is to see if there is a local gym that will suit your needs. If not, begin by joining one anyway until you are able to accumulate enough equipment to make it worth working out at home.