I knew when I gave up playing soccer almost a year ago that I would need to fill the void with other activity. I also knew I would eventually question my need and desire to run, which mostly existed to support the sport.
And then it happened. One winter day it occurred to me that I was filled with dread about going running. To psyche myself up to run in cold weather had become a real chore, stemming in part with the challenge of keeping my "stems" warm on the warmest of winter days, never mind the cold ones.
My fitness program no longer fit.
It was easy for me to be fit in the summer with a variety of physical pursuits I enjoy. But winter has left me, well, . . . cold. I wasn’t experiencing just the occasional off day. This feeling of dread was more the norm than the exception. I realized I wasn’t walking my talk in terms of having a fitness program tailored to me. I was now in the market for a gym.
And perhaps the gym was long overdue, as my upper body has been somewhat neglected. My primary focus has been largely aerobic activity that favors my legs. My biggest upper body workout is washing and drying my hair. Hey, I have more hair than the average bear.
Now I am a proud gym member and am enjoying it tremendously. It’s amazing to me the benefits I’ve realized in just one months time when I’m lifting weights barely bigger than a hairbrush. I feel stronger and am more aware of my posture. And I really enjoy using muscles I didn’t know existed. It just feels good. What is the best part of all? No dread. I go happily and feel annoyed when I can’t go.
Choosing a gym
If you’re thinking about joining a gym or fitness centre, you need to clarify your priorities in a long list of potential features. Location, for one, is very important because you want to make this as easy as possible, setting yourself up for success.
Surprisingly, with a small gym three blocks from my home, location proved less important to me than the clientele. After test-driving a few options I learned I was clearly more comfortable in a women’s only environment.
In addition to location and clientele, here are other features to consider:
- Hours of operation
- Qualified staff
- Gym size (in both area and membership)
- Group Fitness Classes
- Locker room perks, ie: towel service and SHAMPOO
- Access to other sports, ie: swimming, racquet sports, running tracks
I encourage you to try a few different places at the time you would likely be using them before you make any commitments. Most offer a free session. Your priorities and what feels right just might become crystal clear. You can’t ignore that.
You know my reasons. Here are six more that might resonate for you.
1. You will reduce your risk of injuries, strains, aches and pains from sports as well as everyday functions like reaching, stretching and lifting.
2. You will reduce blood pressure and improve HDL cholesterol.
3. You will look better, as toned muscles do not sag. Say goodbye to underarm "wiggle wings."
4. You will have more energy.
5. You will feel better about yourself.
6. You will lose weight.
We naturally lose muscle mass as we age. We also tend to put on weight. Coincidence? As it turns out, the greater proportion of lean muscle mass we have, the better our bodies are at consuming calories. In other words, weight training is the best form of physical activity for increased metabolism and weight loss, if you enjoy it, that is. You’ve got to do something you enjoy. Remember the running story.
If you’re new to weight training, make sure you get instruction on proper form and technique. Better yet, work with a fitness trainer for optimum results.
Of course you don’t have to join a gym to increase your muscular strength and endurance. You can use your body as resistance with exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups and abdominal crunches. Or you can use free weights, resistance bands or even soup cans – slightly heavier than a hairbrush. However, most people are more disciplined when they have someplace to go, at a specific time, particularly if they have someone to go with. Know thyself.
I’m trying to convince 20 of my closest friends to join me, as I miss the camaraderie of a team sport. Then one day at the gym I ran into one of my soccer buddies. She wanted to go for a beer. I said, "No thanks. I still have to wash my hair." Lather. Rinse. Repeat.