8 Reasons a Gym Membership Is Not Always the Solution

Is The Gym For You?

gym membership woes
Getty Images/John Fedele

Let’s face it, gym memberships don't fit everyone’s needs. Despite your best efforts, a membership card or the loss of your monthly dues, won’t necessarily yield instant motivation or fulfillment. In a perfect world these factors would instantly change your mentality, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Living a healthy, satisfying lifestyle doesn't go hand-in-hand with a gym membership. Living a healthy, satisfying, lifestyle simply comes down to you.

1. Cost

Gym memberships don’t usually come cheap. Paying hundreds of dollars, especially if you live on a tight budget, will only increase your stress. This stress can yield loss of motivation which can manifest itself not only in your physical appearance, but your daily outlook, your mood and your general contentment.

Solutions: Even if you can’t afford a gym membership, you can find excellent alternatives to help you reach your fitness goals. One alternative lies in your surroundings. Work out outside. Nature doesn't charge by the hour. Mountains remain open for hiking, beaches wait for a sandy session, and trails anticipate the weight of each step. 

2. Self-Motivation

People often go to the gym alone. The decision to get off the couch and head to the gym is yours. How hard you work remains dependent on your own willpower. These solo sessions can prove difficult, and holding yourself accountable doesn't always produce the best results.

Solutions: Instead of going to the gym alone, try joining various fitness groups - walking clubs, running groups, hiking groups, cycling clubs. None of these groups meet in the gym. They meet at a park, at a beach or on a road. They find times to work with people’s schedules. They motivate each other.

They hold each other accountable. You don't have to feel alone in your fitness journey. 

3. Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety isn’t just found in the bedroom. It's a very real part of daily life, including life at the gym. Whether you fear your ability in a class setting, or shy away at the thought of sweating in front of others, perceived embarrassment can be detrimental when trying to find a gym routine.

Solution: Videos, DVDs and the internet can swoop in to save the day (and the body). In this, you can find comfort in your solidarity. With thousands of websites and videos on the internet, countless more provided through different phone apps, and DVD sets at reasonable prices, you never have to step into a gym again. The instructors act as your trainers, the participants your peers, and your home, your own personal gym.

4. Monotony

The gym is a fixed workout environment. The machines don’t change, the faces usually stay the same, and the fatigue which accompanies monotony can easily set in.

Avoiding boredom requires knowledge, planning, and creativity. Even still, the struggle endures. Step 1- Do cardio. Step 2- Lift some weights. Step 3- Cool down abs. Repeat. When you feel stagnant, your drive falters and our will reflects it. Monotony finds itself the deciding factor between continued progress and plateau.

Solution: Instead of getting a gym membership, try to find a place that reflects what you love. Join a yoga studio, a CrossFit box, Kung- Fu, Tai Chi, Zumba or even hip-hop classes. The routines vary daily and they're led by certified trainers, which enables you to focus on what interests you most.

5. Intimidation

Sweaty, scantily clad, muscular men and women. Sometimes this is all you can see when at the gym. When you compare yourself to those you perceive to possess qualities better than yours, a very real feeling of intimidation can set in. Working out should be empowering, stress relieving and positive. Intimidation shouldn't derail your goals, and yet it remains a very real reason why the gym doesn't bode well for everyone.

Solution: If the gym contributes to feelings of self doubt, avoid the source of your anxiety altogether. Again, workout in your backyard, your living room or your hotel. Find others who share your feelings and find a safe place where you can give it your all.  Go ahead and sweat heavily, struggle, and succeed without comparing yourself to others. Exercise with like-minded people and hold each other accountable. If you stay the course, even outside of the gym, one day your intimidation will fade away.

6. Lack of Knowledge (and Funds for a Trainer)

Developing fitness knowledge takes time, especially since information on health is constantly evolving. Without proper knowledge, you can risk injury, or simply fail to achieve optimal results. If the cost of a gym membership already weighs heavy on your wallet, hiring a trainer to help you learn the proper skills may be completely out of the question.

Solution: If you can’t afford for someone to train you personally, use all the free resources that surround you. Technology is an amazing thing and knowledge exists at your fingertips. Thousands upon thousands of videos flood the Internet with more popping up everyday. Sites want to teach you. People dedicate themselves to expanding your knowledge and motivation, without looking for a payment in return. You can look up specific styles, specific muscle groups and weekly workout itineraries. While the amount of information available may overwhelm you, you can find solace in social media. Reach out to friends near and far who can make suggestions or guide you in the right direction. Through the Internet you can connect and learn whatever you desire. 

7. Diet

A gym membership alone, a DVD, some workouts - none of these things deliver your best self if your diet isn’t working providing you with a stream of high-quality nutrients. When the two factors work against each other, or when you assign more importance to one than the other, your results can fall by the wayside. Sure, working out may help you maintain a certain weight, but it won’t help you progress. The age old saying may seem tired, worn or cliche, but it still rings true - "Abs aren’t made in the gym, they are made in the kitchen." This doesn’t simply apply to abs, but your body as a whole. If you eat poorly day in and day out, if you consistently take in high calorie counts, that hour in the gym will fall short, as will your results, and in the same breath, your confidence. In addition, the need for a healthy diet doesn't stop at food, but remains intertwined with beverage consumption as well. Sodas, juices and energy drinks explode your calorie intake, not to mention alcohol. Aside from the calories found in alcohol, if you find yourself hungover more often than not, you will most certainly feel more inclined to skip gym sessions. This isn'tt to say your diet or your exercise has to be on point all the time, every day. Life is short and you should live, indulge, taste, drink and enjoy, but it's in balance and moderation you'll find success. Once both fall into place, so will your results.

Solution: If your workouts are on point, but your diet's still a hot mess, try using a food diary for at least a week to get an honest assessment of how much and what you're eating. Once you've assessed your diet, start making small changes and talk to a dietician if you feel you need a more structured game plan. 

8. Self Love

The previous seven factors are valid, important reasons a gym membership may not be for you. However, the real reason comes down to the simple truth that if you don't love yourself, it doesn't matter what results you get, they won't yield total happiness. Even if your self-love comes with struggle, even if your love is a work in progress, without the desire for self-acceptance and compassion, the reflection in the mirror will never be enough. Your results will not be met with accurate eyes, but with eyes that are shrouded in self-criticism. Faults will highlight themselves more than the progress, and comparisons to others will blur your vision. Self-love is the most important factor, the biggest lifestyle change, and the one element in life that is for everyone. 

Solution: This one has to come from you. You have to make the decision to make peace with your body and to lift up rather than criticize your efforts and achievements. 


If you do want to own that gym membership, choose one with a variety of fitness alternatives. Many gym memberships terrace their prices based on the frequency of your visits. Opt for two or three days a week at the gym and then search out options. Save money, stave off boredom, surprise your muscles and add excitement to your routine. 

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