I joined the gym a little over a year ago. I had gained a few “happy pounds,” after two years of marriage and it was time to focus on my fitness again. So, I joined the nearest gym, and started paying attention to my food habits and making healthier choices in general.
It started out great. I'd do 15-20 minutes of weight lifting and 30-45 minutes of cardio, about four to five times a week. But soon enough, going to the gym started to feel like a chore and I hated it. A sense of dread loomed over every workout session. It took a bit of time and perspective to figure out that the gym just wasn't for me. Here are a few reasons why:
1. It wasn’t working with my schedule.
I hated how crowded the gym was on a regular basis. If I wanted to beat the crowds, I would have to go right at 5 a.m. when they opened, or after dinner. I prefer to workout around 8 a.m., so the early-morning wakeup call just wasn't working for me. I was always too exhausted to go after working all day.
2. I felt like I had to look the part.
I hated having to make sure my workout clothes matched. The majority of people that workout at my gym had new trendy sportswear, or cute outfits that matched from sports bra to socks and shoes. Personally, I prefer baggy sweatpants and a comfortable tank top — and all of my socks are grey.
No one ever made comments to me, but people did look at me differently, especially those that worked at the front desk. I felt like I had to try hard to match everything. My hair seemed to get a lot of odd looks too. When I workout, I put my long hair in a weird bun that keeps it off my shoulders and neck, but it’s not the cutest. All of the girls at my gym had perfect ponytails.
3. I was in a rut.
Being at the gym was boring me. I kept doing the same thing, using the same machines, because they were the only ones available — and I stopped losing weight. I was too nervous to ask for advice about how to intensify my workouts. The gym made me feel scared to go out of my comfort zone and I wasn't challenging myself. I had to find something else, so I quit.
So what did I do next?
I went outside! I got in touch with nature. I took that hour minutes of exercise that I was spending in the gym and went for a walk, went for a bike ride, went kayaking and practiced yoga.
Outside, I don’t have to worry about who is going to judge me. It’s simple: The pavement doesn’t care. I don’t have to worry about exercising at a certain time to avoid a big crowd, there’s plenty of room in the great outdoors. I also don’t have to drive anywhere — I just walk out my front door.
I love being outside. Once I lost that fear of the gym and replaced it with enjoyment and love for exercise, the weight just fell off. A typical week of exercise for me now is one day of bike riding, two days of walking, two days of yoga and a day of something different like kayaking, tennis or hitting the punching bag.
Once I week, I will take hand weights on my walk to build and tone my muscles. I can now walk for over four miles without getting bored. To amp up the intensity of my walks, I also stop to do squats and lunges. My bike rides are more intense outdoors because I ride for longer; I actually feel like I'm going somewhere, as opposed to being stationary. It's also easy to make it a tougher ride by taking a route with more hills, or switching gears constantly.
I successfully lost 16 pounds in eight weeks and have maintained my current weight. It was the love and joy of exercising outside that helped me to achieve my goal and truly appreciate fitness.
Here are a few questions to consider if you feel like you might need a break from the gym:
1. Do you feel like you’re in a rut?
2. Does going to the gym feel like a chore? Or are you only going because you’re paying for the membership?
3. Do I like the outdoors and experiencing nature?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe you should consider quitting the gym and using your surroundings to inspire you.