We Heart It

I have a gym membership. But do I use it? Rarely. I like going to the gym, I admit that, but it isn’t always super convenient to ride three trains out of the way of my normal commute just to sweat a little bit and pump some iron.

I sweat just fine on my walk home from the train, thank you very much. So why do I need to spend all my fruitful hours hovering over a machine to make sure I’m next in line to get it? Isn’t there a better, cheaper, more meaningful way to get fit, stay in shape and be healthier?

Yep. And the answer lies in skipping the gym.

We all know there are ways to get fit – and stay fit – without ever stepping foot into the sweat-filled gym that’s 15 blocks and four avenues away from your apartment complex, but do we ever actually take advantage of all the methods laid out before us?

Allow me to be the first to admit it: absolutely not.

It’s all well and good to pretend like we’re really going to pop in that fitness DVD, but nine times out of 10, we’re really just going to lie on the couch – feet up – and watch reruns of “Parks and Rec” before we ever trade our sweats for leggings and the bowl of extra-buttery popcorn for a Pilates mat and a fast-paced workout before dinner.

So what can you actually commit to that will work to keep your mind and body razor sharp?

Give these tricks a whirl and see how you like it.

Give alternative workouts a try.

Ditching your gym membership might be liberating as all hell, but it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to notice a slimmer, healthier body in no time. You still have to work for it. Only now, the work you put in comes in heaps of different forms.

Now that you’re no longer limited to the elliptical, the treadmill, the row machine and the free weights, you can explore dozens of other opportunities and methods that people use to feel great about their bodies and to look even better.

Aside from the usual suspects (a yoga room membership, Pilates classes, spin classes and a year-long membership to CrossFit classes), seize the moment and step outside of your comfort zone.

Join a TRX class that meets twice a week; take a swim class; try Zumba; work on your black belt; sign up for that Beyoncé dance class you’ve been eyeing for months.

The further away from that narrow gym box you walk, the faster you’ll find yourself at a workout routine and regime that you’re actually excited about.

Use your love of video games to your advantage.

Trade all those hours you spend playing “Call of Duty” with something that stimulates your body as much as it does your mind. Game makers have tapped into what makes people happy and use it to their advantage. The icing on the cake is that it’s working for sales – and for users.

You can work up a sweat playing tennis, chasing rapids, building gorgeous arm strength, rowing from sea to shining sea and give your body a total makeover — all sans bulky gym equipment, overcrowded locker rooms and long wait times – just to work up a sweat.

The best part? You’re at home, so squeezing time for a workout feels like less of a daunting chore and more like something that’s actually physically possible.

Spend less time with your friends drinking and more time being active with them.

Between the buzz of your day-to-day routine, finding time to catch up with your friends always centers around “grabbing a drink” on your way out of the office. Unfortunately, all of those calories stack up – fast.

No one is saying you shouldn’t feel the freedom to have a good time with you friends when you’ve gone a few days (or even weeks) without catching up, but what we are saying is that it doesn’t always have to happen when you’re packed in a crowded bar.

Broaden your horizons. Increase your options. Try to go a few weeks without seeing a friend and then plan a day to jog together one morning before brunch.

Use the time to catch up on work, life and who’s dating whom, and then celebrate the friend-fueled workout with a delicious, guilt-free stack of fluffy pancakes.

Or, if running isn’t really your thing, use that time to walk the length of your city, to explore a new neighborhood, or to stroll, slowly, through a park. 

Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.

It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But between balancing a professional life, remembering to buy toilet paper when you run out, running all your errands and maintaining some semblance of order in your personal life, knowing what you’re going to be eating next – and where it’s coming from – gets lost in translation more often than we’d like to admit.

Planning ahead, even if it’s just by a day, will help you get your life together in more ways than one. First, you’ll spend less. By knowing exactly what you want, you’ll pick up less sugary treats at the store and stay focused on the game plan.

Secondly, seeing your meals etched out on paper will make you more inclined to pick healthier plates.

You’ll be more likely to include veggies, a starch and a hearty protein instead of just circulating your entire meal around microwavable Annie’s macaroni and cheese.

Create your own full-body boot camp.

When you’re at the gym, you’re (unfortunately) a slave to everyone else’s schedule. Which means that if the machines are mobbed, your 30-minute workout just got a hell of a lot longer.

But when you’re doing it at home and on your own terms? You don’t have to wait around for anyone – and you don’t have to drive yourself crazy thinking about who’s watching you, how many germs are on the machine and whether or not you’re using this thing right.

Plus, when you’re on your own turf, you have the freedom to get creative.

Get outside.

Yes, winter is coming, and yes, it feels as awfully terrible as it sounds, but guess what? Getting outside, even if it is just for 15 minutes every day, will keep you happier and, in turn, healthier.

After all, a little air never hurt nobody.

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