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

Expensive

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.

Crowds

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.

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

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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