My workouts, to be honest, are quite bland. I spend a few days per week running (one long run mixed with several shorter runs for speed) and maybe 2 days incorporating strength training with the same combination of moves and weights each week (I do not pay for a gym membership, so I do not participate in classes and do not have a wide variety of machines to choose from at my free fitness center through my apartment complex). I do increase my longer runs and try to beat my times for my “fast” runs, but other than that, my fitness habits are relatively predictable. I tend to notice some results and improvements on my running times, however, when my roommate was just trying out her new workout DVD for the first time (Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred) and asked me if I wanted to join, I decided to try it out. I had completed the same workout DVD when I was in college awhile ago, but that was the only time that I have ever worked out via video. The workout program contains 3 levels spanning 30 days (10 days for each level). I figured that since I had been working out consistently and felt that I was in pretty good shape, the workout DVD would be pretty easy. Well, the next day, I was feeling it. My chest and shoulders still burn, two days later! It made me realize that I do tend to neglect certain muscle groups — I’m biased toward focusing on my legs, butt, and biceps! My chest rarely gets a good workout and I tend to baby my shoulders as well. I was quite happy to feel sore the next day and will continue to occasionally join my roommate when I can for her 30 day shred.
Some of the benefits of incorporating workout DVDs into your fitness routine include avoiding a costly gym membership and waiting on machines, enjoying the comfort of your own home so that you can feel more at ease with your own pace and your body, allowing more flexibility with your schedule if you live somewhat far from a gym, mixing up your routine to focus on different moves and muscles, or not having to worry about bad weather ruining your outdoor run or bike ride. You can buy used workout DVDs online or at the store and can also use YouTube as a source of online workouts (Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred is actually on there). While I haven’t tried them, here is a list of some great workouts to try at home: 8 Great Workout DVDs to Try Now.
Working out alone is great, but if you find yourself lacking motivation or getting bored, consider inviting a friend! Having someone that you’re meeting up with for a workout increases the likelihood that you’ll do it (you don’t want to cancel on your friend!). According to a research study of 1,000 women (summarized here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2263099/Looking-fitness-boost-Workout-friend–research-shows-women-train-harder-exercise-partner.html), women burn more calories, work out longer, and spend more time at the gym when accompanied by a friend. This varies by person, however; I found that I tend to work out longer and harder when I’m by myself, for example. Working out with a friend can also bring out your competitive side, which may improve your results. When you’re ready to give up, a quick glance over to your friend pounding away on the treadmill may be just the boost that you need. And let’s face it, it’s more fun to work out with someone! If you are hoping to catch up with someone anyway, consider going for a hike or a comfortable run or bike ride with them at a conversational pace.
One of the easiest ways for me to boost my mood is by working out. Need to blow off steam from a stressful day? Try breaking into a sweat for a bit. You might have heard it before, but your body releases endorphins, which diminish your perception of pain, while you engage in physical activity. If you’ve ever experienced “runner’s high,” you have felt the affects of endorphins triggering a positive feeling in your body. Exercise also improves self-esteem, decreases anxiety, improves sleep, increases energy levels, and lowers blood pressure, among many other benefits. Any type of exercise can help, so pick something that you enjoy most!
For information on how exercise can improve your mood and help to prevent depression, check out: http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
How often do you use your gym membership? The average cost of a gym membership is $55 per month, or $660 a year. The annual cost is usually more with a start-up fee and possible maintenance fees. According to Statistic Brain, the average gym member only frequents the gym two times per month and 67% of people end up not using their membership. According to a survey from Bodybuilding.com, 2/3 of adults in the United States made a New Year’s resolution to become fit, but 73% of those people gave it up before achieving their goal. If you find that you are one of the few that do make use of your membership and find that you prefer a gym to working out outside or at home, by all means, continue your membership, since your well-being is worth the money. If you do not use your membership, consider canceling it (or motivating yourself to go more often) and spending more time outside for your workouts (biking, running, walking, swimming), since getting outdoors is beneficial for you as well. If your apartment complex, college, or employer offers a free gym membership, take advantage of that, even if it doesn’t offer exactly what you’d like. You can also follow free workouts online or on TV and learn some new workouts from friends for extra motivation. If there is a particular piece of equipment that you really enjoy, consider buying it used, which will most likely be cheaper than a yearly gym membership (my family purchased a treadmill at the Salvation Army years ago, which has been a great investment). You may also want to consider spending that money on signing up for a race every other month instead, which might be cheaper than the membership and may motivate you to work out more anyway. By canceling your gym membership, you will also save money on gas from the travel to and from the gym (unless you walk or bike).
I recently evaluated my gym membership and decided to cancel it; I was spending $45/month but only really using it for a fitness class 1-2 times a week that I really enjoyed. After going to the same class for months, I have learned how to do most of the moves at home with just a set of weights and a resistance band. While I miss the social environment of the class, I have found that I push myself harder when I’m alone and am actually getting better results. All of my runs are usually outside or at a free fitness center at my apartment complex, which only offers two treadmills, a stationary bike, an elliptical, and two weight machines, but is usually empty and convenient. I also enjoy not being tied down to a particular time each week for a fitness class. I realized that I wasn’t able to go as much as I’d like, due to other commitments. My gym was about a 10-minute drive away, so gas costs definitely added up as well.
If you do cancel your gym membership, be sure to continue to find ways to motivate yourself to stay in shape, since maintaining your health is one of the more important ways to live your best life!