If you’re anything like me, the thought of a chain fitness club incites nothing but negativity. Every time I drive past L.A. Fitness (the one national gym I devoted months to as a member), I am traumatized by the large, glass windows and the ease with which I can gaze through them. I am reminded of the sales people who haunted me for the first few weeks, untiringly offering me pamphlets, opportunities for personal training, a fitness assessment and dinner interruptions via evening telephone calls. I recall the angst, impatience and strangers’ sweat that accompanied my membership, and that were all more present than my workout motivation during that trying trial. I shudder with each drive-by, pressing my foot to the accelerator until that massive fitness center and every other chain around is no more than a memory. But once I’ve escaped the chains, where does that leave my workout?
Despite what the national clubs may imply, choosing not to join one doesn’t take away the opportunity to exercise. There are still plenty of options; the first of which is your home. With the right equipment and motivation you can turn your living room, basement or spare bedroom into a fitness Mecca. Make sure you have what you need both for strength training and aerobic exercise. If you can’t afford to get the best of the best or anything at all, use what you have around you. Soup cans and your own body can help with lifting, adding weight and resistance to your routine. The outdoors is the best treadmill around but your stairs (when run up and down) aren’t bad either. The television can help you distract yourself or focus yourself, depending on whether you’re looking for a sitcom or teacher. And the other members of your family can enable you to work workouts into your daily schedule. But if you find you need to leave your neighborhood to obtain the proper motivation, don’t fret. There are still more possibilities.
Chain fitness centers aren’t the only clubs in town. There are privately owned studios, many of which specialize in yoga, dance and Pilates, the YMCA, community centers and at your work/apartment complex facilities. Their smaller sizes and often lower fees automatically make them a better choice, but those are not the only reasons to join. A survey of 10,000 people found that these gyms overall were cleaner, had better locker rooms, were less crowded and did not have as many difficulties with fees or contracts. If you’re looking for a place to go to workout, these may be your best bets. But do remember that chains have some benefits that they won’t, such as child care, spa services and personal training. The key is finding the location that most inspires you to exercise, which means finding the spot that offers you all of, but not more than, what you need.
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