Why you shouldn't go to the gym (what to do instead)

As a former gym junkie, it's hard for me to admit this: But the gym is a waste of space, time and money.

Don't worry a treadmill will open up in the next 30 minutes.

Why would a fitness blog make such a blasphemous statement? Because the gym, for most, is simply not working. The gym has become just another distraction that prevents a lot of people from getting in shape.

Let's explore problems with the gym
  • Travel time
    • My gym was 20 minutes away when I dumped it. That meant 40 minutes of driving every time I wanted to do a workout: 16% of my free time just getting to the gym.
  • Cost
    • $40 a month might not seem like much, but it adds up to $2400 over 5 years. Don't forget gas which could be $20+ a month.
  • "Can I work in?"
    • Plan to train in the afternoon? You better have a flexible routine or you'll be spending even more time waiting in line.
  • Other People
    • Curls in the squat rack? Guy who lounges on a bench like nobility holding forth on the merits of junk? Spitting image of Richard Simmons? Check.
  • Ambience
    • Most gyms are like the smell of a tire plant and the dense whirring of a hamster farm. This is also before entering the showers, which are basically the Twilight Zone.

Should you never go to the gym?

For a few people, the gym is a reasonable option.

Is this You?
  • You already go to the gym regularly. You made it work, congrats!
  • The gym is nearby.
  • You train in the morning or mid-day. The later in the day it is, the more busy the gym gets.
  • You live in a shoebox with 12 roommates.
  • You use the spa/pool/showers or other amenities.

Alternative to the gym

For all the negatives of the gym, sitting on your ass is worse than all of them combined. The whole point of skipping the gym here is to find an exercise solution that works.

There are a million things you can do for exercise that don't involve the gym, but here we'll focus on home bodyweight workouts.

Bodyweight Training

This is a very effective, quick, and easy form of exercise. Bodyweight exercises get you into great shape and help develop an awesome physique.

You're going to need a very expensive and unique piece of equipment for this one
But I'm overweight and out of shape

Even better. The heavier you are the more effective bodyweight training is. Forget benching 30lb dumbbells at the gym, you're going to do 250lb push ups.

Absolute Beginner Bodyweight Workout

The simplest way to start is to pick 4 bodyweight exercises and do the following:

  1. Do each exercise for 10 seconds
  2. Rest 15 seconds or more as needed.

Repeat until you've finished the 4 exercises. Rest for 1-2 minutes or more.

That's it, you've completed your first circuit. Now do 2 or 3 more and you're done with your exercise for today!

Keep in mind this is a simple starting workout. If you are completely sedentary, this might be very taxing and you'll have to rest more, and do less at first. On the other hand, if you're in somewhat good shape, this workout might be too easy. Always meet challenges at your own fitness level, that's what you'll build on.

What bodyweight exercises to do?

This will greatly depend on your physical fitness, strength, bodyweight, and additional equipment. For example, a pull up bar will open up a whole world of great back exercises and hanging movements.

For a comprehensive guide on bodyweight training, I highly recommend Convict Conditioning. It's extremely in-depth and well written, and has exercises and routines for all levels.

Strength Builders

  • Push Ups
  • Squat
  • Plank
  • Body Row or Chin up/Pull up

Cardio Exercises

  • Jumping Jacks
  • High Knees
  • Mountain Climbers

Corrective Movements

  • Glute bridge
  • Split Squat/Lunge
  • Bird Dog

Before you cancel your gym membership

Think through whether the gym makes sense for you. Whether at home, or in the gym, find a way to get your daily activity, and stick to it.

Have you had success training outside the gym?
Is the gym essential?

Keep the conversation going in the comments.

Mike Kabbani

In the last 12 years I've helped thousands get their dream body and live life to the fullest. Come join the revolution.