December 31, 2009

Home or Gym? Where's The Best Place For You?

Exercise makes me happy!
Photo: misterwilson

If you’ve resolved to get fit this coming year then good for you. The biggest decision has been made. Admitting there’s a problem is the first step, right? Or so I’ve been told (they don’t call me the Queen of Denial for nuthin’). The second thing to consider is how you’ll go about accomplishing your goal – do you join a gym or can your fitness needs be met at home? There’s a lot to be said for both.

Gym memberships have a lot of plusses going for them. First and foremost is the variety and quality of the equipment: treadmills, ellipticals, rowing machines, Nautilus, bikes, step machines – you name it, it’s pretty much there and generally kept up to date – provided you haven’t gone the cheap route and joined something called “Gym Y2K” or “Club Rambo”. The added bonus here is that if something breaks, you’re not on the hook to repair it. Consider it to be like a fitness condo fee. Some gyms even offer swimming pools, saunas and/or tennis courts (court time/lessons are extra).

Gyms also offer lots of classes in addition to the stationary equipment. You can find an assortment of classes such as step aerobics, pilates, spinning, yoga, and zumba – just to name a few. And most gyms offer kiddie care at a nominal fee which was actually worth the entire price of membership to me to just get an hour or two of time to myself. But moms should note – you will be pulled out of class to change a stinky diaper. The Health Department never rests.

Professional trainers on staff are another great aspect about gym membership and while their fees are separate from your yearly membership, their expertise as to how to properly use the equipment or tailoring a specific fitness program to your goals is invaluable.

If this is your gym's training staff, it might be time to reassess.
Photo: Ross Harmes

If you enjoy the company of others (and believe me, I know not everybody does – especially when clad in muffin-top enhancing spandex and dripping in sweat), working out in such an atmosphere can be very motivating or in my case, camouflaging. The lion has trouble focusing on just one gazelle when it’s time to thin the herd (or in gym parlance – judge you by your size). Getting lost in a crowd while still being part of the crowd can be a very companionable experience.

Still, for others, there’s no place like home. Chief among the reasons favoring a home gym is the price. While you may buy a few pieces of equipment, there’s generally not much money invested beyond that in terms of maintenance and upkeep. Gym memberships can be pretty pricey, especially if it’s one of those a la carte places that breaks down the entire experience into bite size pieces and charges you for each one that you use.

The commute with a home gym just can’t be beat. If you’ve committed to working out every day then you’ll never have to worry about dressing up and driving to a gym when it’s right in your house. This is especially helpful for morning exercisers who can just roll out of bed and onto the treadmill. You can look like Keith Richards when you wake up and there’s no one to notice. No special clean up, traffic or travel involved. And best of all, home gyms are open 24/7.

Dog tired after a home gym workout. Woof.
Photo: gwhalin

At home, you also get to keep your equipment as clean as you want and never have to wear anybody else’s sweat. One of my biggest beefs about the gym I belong to is the unclean teen behavior exhibited by even some adults when it comes to evading their responsibility for the person using the equipment after them and wiping it down. Geez - I sure hope these aren't the same people who are packing my groceries or giving me the sign of peace (all five fingers) at church.

Private shower and dressing room (this benefit is entitled to its very own five word paragraph – that’s how special it is - but brevity has never been my strong suit). The modesty factor looms large in deciding whether to work out at home or in a gym. Given my self-conscious Catholic/New England prude/pasty-complected self, I just can’t bring myself to walk around the gym with my bodacious set of ta-tas as my only cover. It reminds me too much of the old National Geographic magazine “spreads” on the low-hanging fruit of local tribeswomen that my brother and his friends used to gather around as pre-internet teens.

Working out at home also allows you the freedom to choose whatever music or TV show you'd like to watch while you're exercising. No more forced big time fishing or duck pin bowling because that's what the TV next to the only open elliptical is playing. Where's a remote when you really need one? Oh right, underneath the couch cushion - at home!

So where will your workouts be going on? Home or away or something inbetween?


  1. Im a mix.
    I never ever EVER do cardio at the gym (Im so weird that way--yes ;) but I also do it at the crack of dawn. it's 540 here and Im done...) but the weights?
    I never do at home.

    Just cant get as motivated.


  2. I belong to a gym about a mile away. I would set up a home gym in a minute (I'm licking my chops at my son's room. He graduates this May from grad school and will soon get his own place, God willing!) but my husband is a nut about putting that much weight on a second story floor. I'm going to lobby pretty hard for it.

  3. I am so a gym person! Plus, with 24hour gyms, well, let's just say that I don't have to worry about too many others... and I get to watch whatever TV stations I want to!

  4. I hate to workout but when I do manage to do it I prefer to workout at home. I do prefer the privacy of changing and showering in my own house and I love that I don't have to leave my house, especially when it is cold out. The only downside is that I can't do exercises on the floor without getting doggie kisses all over my face.

  5. When I first started this losing weight thing, I joined a gym near my house. I did like having all the equipment available, as well as the time to myself. But, the only time I could go was 6:30 at night, so I was taking a shower at 8:30 and then eating dinner at 9PM!
    I just decided a few weeks ago to start working out at home to see how it would be - then my gym closed! It must have been fate.
    Working out at home allows me to eat at a decent hour, plus I get to help my husband get the kids to bed at night. It works for me right now - I'm hoping to develop a workout routine that gives me the same benefits as a gym workout - we'll see how it goes!

  6. For me it will be both! I like going to the gym and putting my son in the play area that he loves! AND getting some quiet time to take care of me! But I also like working out at home. I have a 30 day shred video that I love and we just got a Wii. I wore my hrm while doing that and I got a very good playout in 40 minutes! So I'm a mixer for sure! :)

  7. Great round-up of the pro's and con's!

    My ideal situation is to have both: a gym close enough (and cheap enough) to be practical, and enough stuff at home to be able to get in some sort of workout on days I just can't make myself go.

    I love the equipment options at the gym, but hate sharing! I actually don't really mind the hygiene issues, as I am blithely oblivious most of the time (though I certainly clean up after myself). However I hate to WAIT for equipment.

    At home, I love the convenience of not commuting, but I can't seem to justify the price of my favorite equipment. (Hello, precor elliptical!) So it's often sort of a "compromise" workout and requires decent enough weather for me to do cardio outdoors or I get really cranky.

  8. I loved the gym when I had one available. Now it's a 30 minute drive. Although the local high school is opening a fitness center, so that may be a possibility.

    For right now, it's me and my creativity (and my treadmill). Although I have a great 100 mile rail-to-trail right out my back door... I can't wait for spring when it's not covered in snow and ice.

  9. In addition to all the reasons mentioned for working out at home, here's another: I get to sing during my workout. And it ain't pretty! I have no voice, but I do love working out to my music, and singing along, as aerobic capacity allows!

  10. Thankfully I live in an apartment complex that has a small gym on site so I am trying to make myself use it. However, I am intimidated by all of the "gym bunnies" that are there whenever I go I have been working out at home with DVD's or doing stairs in the building (people seem to take the elevator exclusively) or I walk in place while watching tv. I am down 26.5lbs so far with 100lbs to go so it's working;o)

  11. I'm a both kind of girl. I work out at the gym 3-4 days a week and at home 5 days a week. I love m y gym and if I take my kids to school then I would just as soon go as I'm already out (and the gym is across the street from the school)
    But I love working out at home, too. Especially snow days! I have some great DVDs and I love my Wii Fit. Plus I actually use my treadmill as more than a laundry rack. ; )

  12. There are benefits to each. I would highly recommend checking out a gym several times before committing. The gym I go to is kind of a hard core facility with a lot of athletes and body builders. I like that atmosphere because I'm motivated to work harder. Some people might feel intimidated my being the oldest, least fit and least attractive person in the place-not me!

    I like the convenience of working out at home, but my favorite place to work out is with my trainer in his studio. He motivates me and he couldn't care less if I come in with grimy hair and a t-shirt that I've owned since the 7th grade.

  13. I mostly work out at the gym but I do some extra stuff at home.

    I feel that if I go to the gym, I'm going to stay for, at least, an hour. At home, I might be tempted to sit on the couch or not exercise at all.

  14. I do both, but only out of necessity. If I had an option I would stay at home. Unfortunately, my husband was not open to me installing a swimming pool in our basement. Sigh....

    I guess I really just don't like the crowds (especially around the beginning of the year!), the germs, and the inconvenience of packing and driving.

  15. Since I'm too poor to afford good cardio equipment in my home (and my knees are too banged up to run outside), I need a gym membership. There's also less chance I'll slack off during a workout when I'm at the gym. Maybe it's the get-fit vibe, but I'm always more motivated there. At home, I'm likely to cut corners and do a shortened workout.

  16. With our budget, home is the only option.

  17. I have everything I need at home, I also have a nice gym in my building that I use. Our pool is open from May-Sept.

    I found when I stopped going to a real gym I was sick less often in the winter. Germ I only have to worry about my germs.

    I also find that people are very good at wiping machines in the building gym, there is also Purell all over the place, so I am good to go there.

  18. I can't motivate myself at home. I need to haul my behind to the gym or to the track for a workout. There I'm not saying to myself after 5 mins, "I'll just put in a load of laundry and then I'll get back to my workout." Which doesn't happen.


  19. (Crabby, you're not the only one in love with a good elliptical.) I loved the variety of equipment at the gym, and the fact that it was right next door to work, but I Could Not Stand working out to music--the rhythm changes made it so hard to keep my own rhythm going (even when I didn't hate the music.) Also, I got more and more allergic to the sanitizer; I started out wiping down the equipment after I used it, but by the end I couldn't even use something that someone had wiped down five minutes ago, and if the person next to me used it I had to get off whatever machine I was on and run away to breath.

    At home I can control those things, but at home I have my stationary bike (which I bought as the cheapest possible machine when I realized I hadn't walked outdoors for three whole weeks because of pollen) instead of an elliptical, and I have no weights. I keep needing to spend money on other things instead. My yoga mat gets a lot of use, though.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  20. I've been lucky enough to maintain my dedication to fitness from the comfort of my own home. I sometimes get the urge to join a gym, but then I think about the crowds and the gym etiquette policies and I realize I'm better off at home.

  21. I work out at home.

  22. I think I would use a treadmill if I had one at home, but I actually like the camraderie of my little group that I workout with, and I love my trainers. So it's the gym for me!

  23. I like working out at home if I'm doing Yoga or Pilates. But I also like working out in the gym because of the various equipment present. I get to do a lot of different exercises in one venue.

  24. A home gym is nothing short of a brilliant idea, anytime!

  25. I now like working out at home. For the last two years, I have paid for a membership that I just didn't use. Part of being kind to myself, was writing my letter of resignation!

    I have just never gotten over the trauma of the pool boys making fun of the "Whale" swimming in the pool, But that's a whole nother story.

    Taking the baby steps to get active seems kinder in the safety of my home.

  26. I like to do a bit of both. I live in a rural area, so I can't get to the gym as often as I'd like - 3-4 times a week. Having programs to do at home (yoga, pilates, the Shred, etc.) is helpful to fill in those gaps. (I also feel weird doing yoga or pilates in front of other people.) My partner recently acquired a decent weight set and I gave him a cheap, quiet exercise bike for the holiday, so we have a decent gym at home, as well. I really need a mix to keep me interested and committed.

  27. When I go to the gym I'm forced to workout. But sometimes I just want to get up and workout in my pjs and not go outside. So I do a little bit of both... I make sure I have my membership to the university gym, but I also keep weights/yoga mats/stability ball in my bedroom so that I have quick access.

    Okay. I'm going to do a little mini workout now. You've got me thinking that I really ought to rather than just, you know, sit around in my pjs ;)

  28. I worked out at home this summer (eg. dog walking, dog running, dog walking up hills), but finally broke down and joined the YMCA since it wasn't enough to keep me in shape and I lack the motivation to do anything else at home. This is my first experience with a gym, and I love it! After getting over the initial freak out (two sessions with a trainer really helps you get over your fear of how to use the equipment), I have found a masochistic love of ellipticals and the rowing machine. Plus lifting weights is fun. And I like post-workout saunas :D

    As for motivation, it is only two blocks from where I work and I have to pass it to go home. The guilt alone of passing the building makes me go do my workout. I wouldn't be able to stick to it if it wasn't on my way home.

  29. For a while I had a membership to a gym that was in the same building as my work. My job was pretty flexible, so I could take my lunch hour early or a little later and go to the gym. I loved it - it provided a nice break in my work day. The downside was the time limit, knowing I had to get back to work, but the regular exercise and stress relief was worth it!

    Sadly, I no longer have that option and being the home body that I am, I switched to working out at home. You can't beat the convenience, no waits for equipment, no locker room worries, and now I don't have to worry about time limits or making myself presentable to go back to work, etc.

  30. Home gym is definitely for me. I've been to a gym a few times, and there was one at our school, but I've always felt self conscious in those environments, and that's really held me back in the past.


  31. Definitely a gym - I belong to a fitness center that has personal training and exercise classes. The older I get the more people I need to motivate me! Plus have met some great friends there.

  32. I prefer to work out at home because it's quite convenient for my schedule but I just dont have all the proper equipment. So what I do is work out at home twice a week and work out at the gym once a week so as to have a balance.

  33. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  34. Having a lean, fit, vibrant body truly changes your life. So, start exercising now even at your own home.

  35. Much more convinient to work out at home and you can pretty much hit all your fitness goals with the right exercises working against your own bodyweight. Gym's are an un-nessecary expense in my opinion unless you're training to enter strength or bodybuilding competitions.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)