Home Gym vs Gym Membership

When it comes to getting in shape, there are a million ways to approach it. Two of the most popular choices are to either get a gym membership or to invest in a home gym. Both of these are strong options and for a lot of us, the ideal place is to have a blend of both, but that’s not always an option.

If you’ve been weighing the options between getting a home gym or spending the money to join a local gym, there are few things you should know about the pros and cons of each so you can make the best decision.

Home Gym Pros

The biggest difference between a home gym and a gym membership is that you’ll have to pay your expenses up front to get all the equipment. A gym membership often costs less up front, but you’re simply renting the space and the equipment and never get to take it with you. However, if you decide to do bodyweight exercises or use light weights, it shouldn’t cost much at all.

Weather doesn’t matter as much

If you live in a place that gets snow, you know how hard it can be to make it to the gym on those freezing, snowy days. Sometimes even the roads are closed making getting to the gym even harder. The benefit of having your own gym at home is that you don’t need to worry about the weather since you’re already there. The only time you’d have to worry about it is if you have your home gym in an area that doesn’t have climate control (like a lot of garages, for example).

Listen to your own music

Listening to your own music is one of the best features of a home gym. No shade to commercial gyms, but a lot of them have questionable music or just not my preferred genre. Of course, at commercial gyms you can just bring your own headphones, but it’s nice to have the option.

Don’t need to worry about gym hours

Some gyms have weird hours. If you’re a person who likes to fit in a good workout before you head off to your job, it’s nice to be able to wake up and just workout at any time you want.

Home Gym Cons

Home is for relaxing

Sometimes the nice part about a gym membership is that you have to leave the comfort of your home to go workout. That can be a good motivator, especially since most of our homes tend to be a relaxing environment.

Equipment can be wildly expensive

Everything you buy you’ll have to move around. The benefit of a gym membership is that it’s up to to the gym to maintain, store, and move the equipment.

Not enough weight variety

Typically, a gym membership will give you more equipment variety and options when it comes to machines, weights, and options to use. If you’re just looking to stay active, that’s not really a big deal. However, if you’re into things like bodybuilding, that can be a huge hindrance to your progress.

Gym Membership Pros

Keep in mind, not all gyms are the same. There are CrossFit gyms, huge commercial chain gyms, local gyms, yoga studios, and so on. The average gym membership is $30-$50, but some smaller ones can run much higher.

Better options

Most gyms have more equipment than you could buy to fit in your home. They’ll have different machines, bands, chains, weights, and so on that would take up a ton of space in your home.

Maintenance and cleaning

It’s nice to not have to worry about cleaning any equipment or keeping it maintained. The staff at the gym have to do that and you just come in to use it. Things like squat racks have to be

Gym Membership Cons


Some smaller gyms can be expensive, depending on how big the city you live in is. It’s a recurring charge every month and depending on how tight your budget is, sometimes it simply doesn’t make sense. Some people are better off financially to just buy a cheap set of weights from a garage sale and start that way. I’d never sit here and say someone HAS to have a gym membership, especially if it’s going to put you in a tougher place with your money.


If you have anxiety or don’t like to be around a lot of people, the crowds at a gym, especially during the busy hours, can be overwhelming. If you’re just starting to work out, being around a ton of people and feeling like you’re taking up space or getting in their way can be enough to keep people out of the gym forever.

How to decide

If you’re still on the fence, one good way is to try and do bodyweight exercises at home. If you find it hard to get motivated when you’re at home, get a guest pass/trial membership at a gym. Most gyms will give community members a free day (or even up to a week) to test out the space and see if it’s a good fit. You’ll want to do this before joining any gym since it can be hard to tell if you’ll like it or not before trying it.

Before You Quit Your Fitness Plan, Read This

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The hardest part of any fitness plan isn’t the lifting and the diets.

The hardest part is staying consistent. Actually following through with your plan until the end.

We all start out with high hopes. We go grocery shopping to prep, we get out our favorite fitness outfits, maybe even splurge on new shoes…. but two weeks in we’re stuck.

This is where the excitement falls off, the pounds aren’t falling off as fast as they were, you’re sore often, and you’d rather go back to your old habits.

This is when you need to call in the reinforcements.

This process will help you analyze what you’re doing and get extra help where you need it.

Do you even like it?

I have always been a strong believer in doing workouts that bring people joy. I love lifting weights. It’s where I excel, it makes my body feel good, and it’s something I can stick with.

If I had to run, however, I would quit all the time. Running doesn’t bring me any joy and I would avoid it at all costs.

Look at your current plan. Is there something about it that you hate doing? Something that you find boring? Something that you dread doing? Then simply stop doing it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you get to just stop working out. For everything you take off, you have to find a replacement. If you don’t run, then do you like hiking? Or swimming?

What is your end goal?

Just working out for the sake of working out is not something most people can do. Yes, once you’ve gotten in the habit, it’s so much easier to keep it going, but building the habit requires more than that to keep you going.

You need to spend the time to find your greater WHY.

I’m not saying you need to find your life’s purpose (although it’s never a bad idea to spend time reflecting on that), but you need to find a reason to stay active.

Maybe you have an upcoming vacation that requires you to be active.
Maybe you’re trying to get off some medication.
Maybe you have an age milestone coming up.

There are a lot of reasons, but just going to the gym to “feel good” is rarely a good enough reason for most people. I trained a lot of people when I worked at a gym, and although it sounds nice to have that as a reason, it’s rarely enough.

Going to the gym and your diet is no easy feat. You need a stronger purpose to pull you through those hard times when you want to throw in the towel.

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Put a carrot at the end of the stick

The problem most people fall into is that they reward themselves before they finish a program. They buy new shoes, new workout gear, a fancy watch that calculates their calories.

Instead, you need to start putting these things after you finish.

Humans are simple creatures. We love rewards after hard work.

If your boss is going to give you a raise after a project, you’ll work hard on that project. If he gives it to you beforehand, you’re not going to work as hard on the project as you would if you got it at the end.

This is why trophies are given at the end of games. You need to prove yourself first, then get your reward.

Pick something you want really bad (whether it’s fitness related or not). Make that your reward by following through with your current goals.

If you don’t hit your goals, you don’t get the prize, it’s that simple.

I have found through the years that combining a deeper why with a fun gift is a great combination to keep people focused, motivated, and excited to workout. With some of my clients, if they were low on motivation or feeling extra tired one day, I’d make them visualize the thing they wanted. What it would be like to own it, use it, look at it. Really picture it.

It sounds materialistic, yes, but sometimes, when motivation is low, it’s hard to feel connected to that deeper “why”. Visualizing yourself playing a video game you want is much easier for our brains to imagine than something like climbing a mountain when you’re still 100 lbs. overweight.

Fighting the external forces

This part is hard to write, but it needs to be addressed.

Sometimes the hardest part of sticking with a fitness routine is the forces around you pushing you to quit.

Sometimes this looks like an unsupportive friend, family member, partner, spouse, co-workers, or someone else you’re close to.

And frankly? I don’t have any answers for this. All I can do is share my experience.

In my early 20’s, when I first fell in love with the gym during college, I used to work out at midnight. I’d go to 24-Hour Fitness, lift for an hour, and then soak in the hot tub/sauna for about 30 minutes. That means I’d be done and sleeping by about 2:30 am. My mother hated this. It’s not even like I kept coming home at that time and would wake her up (a valid reason to be annoyed), she just thought it was unhealthy.

She’d repeatedly tell me for months about how bad it was to work out at night. It took years and research for her to finally stop bringing it up.

The only thing I could do was power through and keep going. I had a gym buddy at the time who was always waiting for me, which was a huge reason I was able to make it. I had someone to be accountable to.

This is me extending my sympathy to people who have someone like a spouse who doesn’t support their new healthy lifestyle.

Just keep in mind, that a lot of these fears stem from the fact that they’re worried you’re going to get more attractive and leave them or find someone else.

If you’ve been in one habit or routine for years, switching it up out of nowhere is making them nervous.

I do have one huge tip though: NEVER TELL YOUR PARTNER THEY SHOULD JOIN YOU.

Nothing sets off arguments like a spouse telling the other one they could lose some weight or that they “should” go to the gym. DO NOT BE THIS DUMB.

If they want to join on their own, great! But never ever suggest it. Instead, encourage them to start putting time into a hobby they want to do and commit to helping them make time for it.

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Track your progress in multiple ways

Just tracking your progress by the number on the scale is a horrible way to get a bigger picture.

There are a million reasons that your body could have a different scale number than what you think it should.

Instead, keep track in a variety of ways. Maybe you get a calendar and put a big X through the days you drink enough water or stretch. That way you create a nice long chain throughout the month you don’t want to break.

Take pictures of your body. Pictures are SO helpful. Even if the scale doesn’t seem to be moving, you can visually see how your body is changing.

Measure parts of your body. This way you know what’s growing and what’s shrinking. Even if you can’t see the gains, measurements don’t lie. For me, it helps a lot to see that I’m gaining size on my little chicken legs, and that’s something the scale can’t tell me.

Try all these things before you throw in the towel on your new fitness plan. Never forget that the mental strength is the most important strength of all.

What helps YOU stay on track? I’d love to know in the comments!

Conquer Your Life By Fixing Your Sleep

Sleep is monumentally important in achieving any health goal, and yet it’s one of the least talked about topics.

Talking about sleep isn’t as sexy as doing squats to get those #bootygains, probably because most people realize they don’t prioritize their sleep as much as they should.

If you’re working hard in the gym and not seeing the scale budge in the direction you want it to, it could be your sleep that’s the problem, especially if you know you already locked down your nutrition.

Not only does bad sleep keep you from gaining muscle, but it can also make you fat (this article from RFS explains it well).

Life gets in the way: school assignments keeping you up late, health issues of you or a loved one, work that you need to finish so you decide to stay up all night…

However, for a lot of people, it’s not just one-off problems that keep them from sleep.

After awhile, getting bad sleep turns into a habit.

There’s conflicting science on whether you can “catch up” on sleep during the weekends, but whether or not it’s true, we all know it’s better for your daily productivity and happiness to get quality, consistent sleep every day.

Let’s break down the causes of bad sleep and then we’ll go over some ways you can fix it.

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We don’t sleep like we were designed to

There’s conflicting studies on how our ancestors used to sleep, but for the most part, we don’t sleep like other mammals. If you have a pet or you’ve ever been around other animals (except for cats, they are all wild throughout the incredibly early hours of the morning), you know that they start to wind down when the sun sets.

Most of the animal kingdom goes to sleep when the sun does and rises with it in the morning.

Humans do the opposite. We’re neurotic messes that stay up far too late binging the latest Netflix show or go out to the bar until the early hours of the morning. Then we wake up to a screaming alarm clock and have to drink so much coffee just to survive until the traditional afternoon crash where we complain how tired we are and add more coffee into our bodies.

Look, I’m all for having fun nights out. They’re a part of balance. I don’t even want to add up how many nights I went out. They’re priceless memories that are worth it every time.

That doesn’t excuse the other 6 days of bad sleep, though.

Insomnia is not found in cultures that live closer to how our ancestors did. They get quality sleep unlike a lot of Westerners.

That’s a huge factor, especially considering between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. We might claim it’s natural, but it’s obviously not. We’ve created this.

It’s not so much about the specific length of sleep, but the quality of it.

Technology and sleep issues

We’ve all heard the rants and raves about technology, so I’ll just link to articles that dive into this better than I can.

This article dives into blue lights and why it’s so detrimental to our health.

If you don’t want to read that much, the biggest takeaway is that our bodies are cued by light. From the article, “All it takes is one night of artificial light throwing off your sleep to alter CLOCK genes and, in turn, affect gene expression.”

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Low-quality snacks before bed

If you’re someone who suffers from indigestion or heartburn, you know the struggle of having heartburn keep you up.

Most people also have desert with dinner and there’s a lot of studies that show how much sugar can impact someone’s sleep. It’s the same for refined carbs, eating fast food for dinner, or anything else unhealthy before sleeping (including alcohol).

Other factors

Sleep is generally the sum of our entire lifestyle. If we’re stressed, we get bad sleep. If we eat bad food, bad sleep. If we don’t exercise, bad sleep.

My whole life, I’ve been one of those people who never got enough sleep. Ever.

Throughout high school I’d stay up on my computer until far too late then get in bed and listen to music for hours. I just never got tired at night. Then on weekends I’d sleep in until about 4 am. I’d constantly be pulling all-nighters for either school or fun.

Then in college it didn’t get much better. I’d stay up all night on my computer or out partying.

I didn’t actually start getting quality sleep until I started exercising consistently and making it a priority. That’s why I’m so big on helping people fix this. When I think of all the bad grades I had, getting on academic probation in college after my first year due to sleeping through classes, how much my work suffered through the years due to my lack of creative energy… I realize how different those could have been if I just had made sleep a priority.

The more and more people I talk to, the more I realize how many people have this issue, too.

Why it matters

Imagine a life where you’re well-rested.

You have time for the gym every day.

Your work gets your full, creative energy.

You’re able to spend quality, focused time with your family or significant other.

You’re actually able to start chipping away at those big goals you have.

See, lack of sleep becomes a good excuse. Just notice how many people around you are always saying how tired they are. Everyone’s always tired, busy, stressed, and overwhelmed.

But not you. You’re someone who wants energy back in their life so you can live a life you love. It’s cheesy-sounding, but it’s true. Having the energy to do the things you want to do extends outside just your gym gains, it bleeds into your whole life.

How to fix your bad sleep:

The most important part of this article is actually applying these things. It’s nice to say you’re going to do them, but if you even committed to one of them it would help. So many people read articles like this but don’t change a damn thing in their lives.

If you even applied one of these to your life, you would be surprised at how you feel every day.

Yes, there are some factors such as getting a better quality mattress, buying black out curtains, and so on, but I wanted to focus on factors you could do right now without having to buy anything. I’m also going to stay away from the obvious factors like starting to cut out caffeine in the afternoons. The general rule is to stop drinking it 10 hours before you plan to go to sleep.

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Start saying no

If fitness is a priority for you right now, it’s time to start saying no to things.

I have a ton of friends who want to lose that “extra 10 lbs” but they never say no to a night out. They go out every night on the weekend and even once or twice during the week. They never, ever say no even though every day they say they are tired and that they need to quit drinking.

Get up earlier

Yes, earlier. In that sleep study article I linked to above about our ancestors sleep, there was one common thread amongst tribes and how they sleep across the world: they’re up before the sun.

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Get quality time outside and get natural light in the morning

Yes, you should sit outside when possible. We weren’t designed to sit in offices under horrible lighting all day.

On top of that, actually spend quality time outside. Go camping. Actually, did you know camping can help reset your bad sleep cycles? Seriously. When a researcher sent people out camping to see how spending time outside would reset their internal clocks, he saw that it only took a few days to get it back to normal.

The researcher said he set his own internal clock by “hiking in the morning and by waking up and sleeping at the same time every day”. I’m sure your brain is already thinking of excuses, “Oh, that’s nice but I don’t live around mountains to hike.” Okay, well take a stroll around your neighborhood for 5 minutes.

Install blue-light reducing software

As a fellow technology addict, I understand how hard it is to go cold-turkey and just quit your technology completely at night.

Sure, it’s the best idea, but it’s not always realistic.

Thankfully, most new iPhones have the blue-light reducing feature built in and Flux can be installed on computers to reduce it at a certain time in the day.

Read at night, leave your phone out of your room, and get a real alarm clock

A book?! What is that archaic thing?

I know, I know. It sounds impossible to just read when there’s so many fun apps to play with, Tweets to retweet, and blogs to read… But you’d be amazed at how fast you might be able to fall asleep with reading.

When I play on my phone at night (even with turning on the blue-light reducing software), I stay up an extra two hours every single time. If I read, it’s about 30 minutes before I fall asleep.

Shut down your phone and leave it away from your bed. That way, you don’t feel a pull to use it at night.

Use something else besides your phone for an alarm clock. Get a real one. That will remove the temptation of browsing all night. If you have a technology addiction, the first few days are the hardest, but it needs to be done.

Along this line, also avoid TV at night. Too many TV and Netflix shows are so good and addictive, you’ll stay up all night watching when you should be sleeping.

Create a shut-down ritual

Technology is a problem, but so are our own brains.

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system (also called GTD), especially his emphasis on doing a daily brain dump to get out all those to-do’s rattling around in your head.

Every time I meet other people, I’m shocked at how seldom they write things down. HOW DO YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING?

If you’re a person that stays up late thinking about all the things they need to do the next day, you need a shut-down ritual at the end of your day.

Basically, when you decide you’re done with work (which should be at a set time every day), you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and get everything that’s been bugging you off your mind. Sometimes these are to-do’s, sometimes you just need to rant about something, sometimes it’s goals you know you need to put more effort into… Whatever it is, get it out and get it on paper.

If it’s something that’s really, really bugging you, create a plan on how you’re going to tackle it.

I know this sounds simple, but it’s one of the best things I started doing.

Instead of tossing and turning all night where my mind keeps me up trying to solve problems, I now get it out of my brain before I get in bed.

Also, SERIOUSLY stop checking your emails and messages into the night. Unless you’re on some kind of last-minute work crunch, stay away. I’ve spent too many nights dealing with heavy emotional texts or messages from my boss with to-do’s and it wrecks my sleep every time.

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Create a night time routine

With children, most parents create a night time routine. For example, brushing teeth, reading, and turning on a night light.

Yet as adults we’re just expected to be able to lie down and go right to sleep? Nope.

I’ve found that by starting a night time routine, I am able to actually get ready to sleep. It’s telling my body that it’s bedtime.

Everyone is different, but if you’re looking for a plan, mine is: shut down electronics. Get out a good book. Make some relaxing tea. Take my ZMA supplement. Put on my lavender moisturizer. Brush teeth. Get in bed and read until I fall sleep.

Switch careers/jobs

JACKIE DID YOU JUST SUGGEST PEOPLE QUIT THEIR JOBS IF THEIR BOSS IS UNREASONABLE AND DEMANDING AND EXPECTING TO HEAR FROM YOU AT MIDNIGHT?! Uh, yes. Yes I did. If your job seriously is taking that big of a toll on you, it’s time to think about an entire lifestyle change.

Recently, I went out to San Francisco and got a taste of that life for two weeks. I stayed up until about 9 pm working and was in the office every morning at 7 am. I haven’t been that much of a sleep-deprived and emotional mess in a long time. It was to the point where even a family member said I looked like death when I got home.

Sure, that kind of work could transform my entire life, get me to network with powerful people, and obviously could fill my bank account, but it simply wasn’t worth it.

My priority is my health. Yours might be different.

I had too many family members and friends suffer from not taking care of their health and some paid the ultimate price for it.

This got a little heavier than I intended when I started to write this, but the work you do every day plays one of the biggest roles in your overall happiness and health.

A lot of sleep problems come from having a lack of purpose in life, too. We use technology to distract ourselves from our overwhelming lack of purpose or feeling a daunting feeling about not pursuing our deeper goals. That’s another post for another time.

(Also, if you have a spouse that won’t support you quitting your job so you can regain some sanity, it’s time for therapy and then divorce. Okay, rant done.)

Sleep is the by-product of your entire life.

When you feel at peace, it’s much easier to sleep. When you don’t, it’s hard to sleep.

Take care of yourself first, and watch it start to fall into place.


Tips to Start Working Out When You’re New to the Gym



Starting a workout can be daunting when you’re still trying to learn your way around the gym.

There’s muscle heads all over the weights section and you feel so awkward and out of place. Plus, they’re intimidating. It’s hard to lift next to someone curling 30 lb. dumbbells when you’re there with your 10 lb. weights trying to not hurt yourself.

At least, that was my experience.

I felt like a tiny little delicate toothpick in this sea of muscle trying to not get in anyone’s way, so I know how awkward that beginning can be. Not to mention, I made every single beginner mistake possible, which helped when I was trying to guide clients to avoid the same mistakes.

How beginners approach the gym can make or break their gym habits from then on, so let’s discuss how you can do it right.

Find someone who can show you the ropes

This isn’t always easy, because finding someone reliable to work out with is a borderline impossible task, but if you can find someone who can go with you even just a few times to show you the basics, that can be a huge help.

An alternative to this is to hire a trainer. Trainers are rarely cheap, but if you want to force yourself into a commitment and stick with it, it’s a good idea. A lot of big gyms will give you one free training session to test the waters. Be ready for a heavy pitch at the end, but at least it’s a way to get you going.

Commit to the small

While most beginners want to start off with the “best” program available (and it’s a good intention!), the problem is that most of those programs are extremely complicated for a beginner.

Through the years, I’ve discovered that most beginners rarely stick to a program that requires them to spend an hour or more in the gym. Once someone is too sore from a strenuous program, they quit. Instead, focus on simple movements that build up your stamina as you go.

My first program only had about three exercises, which I followed for two months. Then, I went to a program with about six exercises for a few months. That’s how I finally stayed committed. Before that, I’d make it complicated, get sore or injured, quit, and do it all over again in a few months.

Learn one substitution for each muscle area


For example, if the 20 lb. weights you need for a dumbbell curl are taken, you can go to the rope curl.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a good way to start. One awkward part of starting in the gym is working around people, asking for weights, and waiting your turn. When you can bypass that and get right into another exercise, it won’t get in the way of your flow.

I was also a little more awkward starting out than most people might be. Imagining asking some dude who was 250+ lbs. when he was done with the 25 lb. dumbbell was just too much for younger me, so I kept it simple. You might not be as awkward as younger me was, so do what works for you.

However, the substitution trick helps no matter your experience level because sometimes equipment will be taken or broken and you’ll need to switch it up.

Mentioning that, my stair climber broke at my gym and I’m heartbroken, you guys. Heartbroken.

Find off times and off seasons

After working at a gym, I can tell you the busiest times: First two weeks of January, two weeks before any local college’s spring break, before summer, and before Halloween.

Those were always the times that the cardio machines would be packed, we’d need extra staff on hand, and it was just a zoo overall. From there, after work hours were always crammed until about 7 pm.

When you’re starting, going into a gym where you have to wait 10+ minutes for a bench can be daunting, so if possible go in the off times. When I was first starting out, I started going to 24 Hour Fitness at 11 pm because I had almost everything to myself.

Do not ego lift

This is the top mistake I see new lifters make: they want to impress that hottie in the gym, so they lift way beyond capacity and hurt themselves or make some other silly mistake.

I’ve ego lifted a few times in my life and I certainly did not forget them because they all ended up embarrassing. Having to crawl out from a weight you are failing at lifting is a horrible feeling, especially when you were way off.

Those are my biggest tips for any new lifter. Don’t be scared. Go get it.

– Jackie