This at least is the theory. But what if the equipment isn’t just daunting but genuinely terrifying? A friend of mine on her first visit to my gym took one look at the ancient Smith Machine and said it reminded her of a medieval torture implement. The crash and bang of weights can also put people off, especially when the people doing the crashing and banging are all heavily tattooed men the size of Downing Street’s front door. And although it’s true that for some training next to others brings out their competitive spirit, just as many people might, albeit inadvertently, be made to feel somewhat inadequate. As for the money being a motivator, every single bit of research suggests this is nonsense.
People who like going to the gym will do whatever it takes to find the funds to do so. People who, for whatever reason, decide they do not like going to the gym will simply not go. And if that means coughing up £50 a month for the next 18 months because they are tied into a gym contract which is harder to break out of than Alcatraz, then they will consider that a price well worth paying.
The fact is though that none of us actually need gyms to work out in. So here are five alternative ways to get your muscles, heart and lungs working.
I won’t lie to you this is tough, but if you get into it, you will find it tremendous fun. Parkour is for city dwellers and essentially involves turning your urban environment into a massive adventure playground. Let me explain. The object of Parkour is to use obstacles and the surrounding environment to move more efficiently from point “a” to point “b,” and gain greater mental and physical health in the process.
The training method was devised by a French Naval Officer at the beginning of the 20th century. Developed as a military training technique known as methode naturelle, or the natural method, it originally involved climbing, running and man-made obstacle courses which simulated the natural environment. The French special forces later adopted the programme and called it parcours du combatant, which translates as “course” or “path of the warrior”. In the 1990s, Frenchman David Belle created modern Parkour by combining elements of his father’s military training with his own skills in gymnastics and martial arts. It’s popularity increased in recent years thanks to an appearance in the opening chase scene of the 2006 movie “Casino Royale”.
Spend some time on YouTube watching people do this. If nothing else it will surely exercise your mind.
Swimming is a great way to work out if you’re recovering from an injury or have certain conditions, such as obesity or arthritis, which make other forms of exercise difficult or painful. The risk of injury during swimming is extremely low, making it ideal for those prone to injury. If you don’t know how to swim, no problem. If you can stay afloat while propelling yourself through water with your arms and legs, that’s good enough to get all the benefits of working out in the water.
Water is 12 times denser than air, which means that propelling yourself through it provides consistent resistance, safely working your muscles to strengthen and tone them. Swimming has also been shown to increase bone strength in post-menopausal women, making this workout great for helping to prevent osteoporosis.
After your swim, do some yoga positions while you’re still in the pool. The water helps support your weight as you master positions which require good balance, such as Eagle, Tree, King Dancer and Warrior III poses.
Seriously. This is a great way to get fit. If you haven’t picked up a hula hoop since your playground days, now’s the time to add it to your fitness routine. Incorporating a weighted hula hoop will tone your thighs, abs, glutes and arms — and burn about 200 calories in 30 minutes. Pick up a hula DVD or just crank up your favourite music and get your hips moving.
No, this isn’t about heels and lingerie – it’s about working out. Whatever you may feel about the explosion of the pole dance industry in recent years, classes in the highly athletic dance form have, in fact, become all the rage for women who want an acrobatic, fun workout which strengthens and tones.
The women-only classes combine dance moves with pole tricks involving suspension and stretching — the dance portion gets the heart pumping as a cardio workout, while doing tricks on the pole strengthens your upper and lower body, especially your core.
And I know I bang on about this endlessly but a strong core – your abs and lower back – means a much, much stronger body that will leave you fitter and injury free.
If you thought you outgrew trampolines, think again. Mini-trampolines – known as rebounders – are taking fitness by storm. Trampolines provide an intensive workout which you can do at home or in your garden. They’re a fun way to get your cardio in without it feeling like a chore. Keeping steady while leaping up and down will tighten your abs and improve leg power and strength –without increasing pressure on your joints.
There are all sorts of ways to keep fit outside the gym. Too many to mention here. But the main thing to keep in mind is find something you actually enjoy doing. Whether it’s Zumba classes, cycling or Parkour. I enjoy boxing and lifting weights, so for me these are not a chore, but a pleasure. You need to find something which you actually look forward to. Exercise should never be a thing of dread, or you will do very little of it.
Let us know how you get on now. Above all, remember to have fun.