What I Learned About Fitness from NOT Going to the Gym

With gyms closing, and in some cases opening and then re-closing, across the country and around the world, it’s sure to affect everyone a little differently. From those folks who welcome an excuse not to work out to those whose whole lives seem to revolve around the gym, gym closings have rocked our worlds.

Gyms being closed has affected people in various ways across the board, and it’s interesting to learn some of the perspectives of those impacted by the strange new world we live in. We thought it might be a thought-provoking twist to check in with some of our very own BioTrust coaches to pick their brains a bit and see what their experiences have been like.

What Our Coaches Learned NOT Going to the Gym

Coach Cristina’s Thoughts: A New Daily Routine

When you don’t eat, some say there’s a condition called “hangry” that affects your mood. Could the same hold true for not being able to get to the gym?

I know for me, if I don’t at least break a sweat first thing in the morning, it can wreak havoc on my whole day. Even if it’s just taking a walk, I need to get the blood flowing or I get… angry.

There are certain things in our daily lives that are part of our routines, and when something or someone creates a roadblock, thereby prohibiting us from something that has become habit, it can completely derail other aspects of our lives. For some folks, this could be your morning cup of coffee, making your bed, or even getting five minutes alone in the bathroom. For me, it’s a workout.

Yet just because the gym is closed doesn’t mean I can’t get a good workout. I may even be able to get a better one. I think the pandemic is really proving who is a man/woman and who is a mouse when it comes to being consistent with physical activity. (I think it is also testing some relationships, but that’s for another article.)

For those of us who are diehard gym goers, it isn’t just about access to equipment, or even the specialty classes, sauna/pool, etc. It is about the camaraderie and the social support. On one hand, I really enjoy this, but when I am crunched for time and have to meet work deadlines, I kind of just want to get in, do my thing, and get out.

Speaking for myself, when I make the effort to get dressed, find childcare, and sit in traffic to get to the gym, I feel obligated to spend a certain amount of time there to make it worth my while. I am not sure if it is because of peer pressure, the thought of someone else judging me for how long I spend in the gym, or if it’s all in my head.

Having to create my own at home workouts has been kind of a sweet deal if I am being honest. I am trying things I may not have tried otherwise—one of which is yoga. I never had the patience for yoga before. Until now.

I am getting outdoors more for physical activity and involving my children more often. We have located hiking trails and secluded paths, some even in our own neighborhood. We are roller skating and riding bicycles, shooting hoops, and scoring goals. Things I guess I never really made the time for before. And having my children being more active is a huge bonus.

I am making use of things that have been collecting dust in my garage that I neglected because of my hefty gym membership. I am able to break up my workouts into short bursts of activity, which has been very helpful not just for my physical health, but also for my mental health.

Bottom line, I am not sure if I will renew my gym membership, as I have found that I have everything I need at home, and maybe more.

Coach Sue’s Thoughts: Have to Adapt No Matter What

Long, long before lockdown, I moved to a rural area, and the closest gym was at least 30 minutes away. The gym was in an old historical building, in the dark basement with, let’s just say, some rather dated equipment and little in the way of fresh air. It was a pretty big culture shock as my previous gym had been the amazing office gym at a well-known fitness company. (It was seriously state of the art and a fantastic place to work out.)

I knew I would have to adapt no matter what. But instead of wasting all that drive time to hang out alone in a dark basement for up to an hour, paying a pretty significant fee to boot, I decided it would be easier and more convenient to just get my exercise in at home.

It was challenging at first to develop the new workout routine. But over the years, my workouts have changed, evolved, and I’ve had the opportunity to try new things. I’ve built up a pretty sweet home gym with a set of floor mats, adjustable weights, a kettlebell, a Swiss ball, some resistance bands, a pullup bar, and a bench. No matter what type of workout I’m doing, I have pretty much everything I need. (And I can always fit in a quick bodyweight HIIT or sneak in an exercise snack or three if I’m battling deadlines.)

Even after I moved back to a bigger town that had several quality fitness facilities, I just couldn’t imagine spending ~15 minutes in traffic each way. I knew I could use that time to get in a better workout in my home gym and have a few extra minutes for a cool down (often by walking my dogs) and stretch.

I love going to a gym from time to time for a change of pace and to enjoy the camaraderie with friends. But honestly, working out at home allows me to be super-efficient with my time, save some serious money (as all my gym equipment is paid for), and still get a great workout in anytime I want! (I do, of course, make sure my workouts are scheduled, so the day doesn’t get away from me.)

Once lockdown hit, a lot of my friends and coworkers discovered the same thing I had known for several years. A gym is nice, for sure, but you can work your body well with or without one. And it’s so nice to have the added flexibility. You don’t need a lot of (or really any) equipment, and it doesn’t take much space, and you can still get in a great workout. (I have to admit, though, that I do still miss an occasional sauna, steam room, or hot tub to soothe sore muscles.)

Coach Stef’s Thoughts: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

It’s a classic case of “you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.” Yes, there may have been some times in the past when I “dreaded” a workout or didn’t feel like “dragging” myself to the gym. But, who knew I would one day be willing to drive two hours just to get in a gym workout?! It’s true. As a fitness competitor, my lifestyle is my “part-time job” and the gym is “my office.” As it turns out, it’s not quite as easy or simple as I thought it would be to “work from home.”

However, I do have to say that I surprised myself a bit. There were a couple of weeks when there were no gyms open—anywhere—and I had to expand my horizons or give up (and we all know that wasn’t an option!). So, my boyfriend and I were forced to improvise and create workouts with the equipment we had on hand.

So, what did we do during these gym-less weeks when we still had to get in five days of lifting and seven days of cardio—no matter what?! I learned that where there’s a will, there’s a way. I used to say I “couldn’t” work out in a garage or a sparsely equipped gym. I used to think I “needed” all the fancy bells and whistles and had a lot of reasons (excuses) why. But, in reality, we figured it out. Here’s what we did:

  • Got creative—I used to have a pretty narrow view of what “worked” at the gym and the exercises that I needed to do. This limited selection of equipment and facilities made me find other ways to work my muscles.
  • Partner workouts—there were some stretches and some exercises that were best done with a partner for added tension, stability, or stretching
  • Incorporated more stretching into the workouts—this was great for my body as it seems stretching used to always be last on the list. Now, it became a real part of my workouts.
  • Band work—I used a lot of bands in varying strengths to create the proper amount of tension for resistance training workouts. You’d be surprised how hard those innocent-looking bands can be to maneuver!
  • Lacrosse ball—I started working out the knots and tension by rolling strategically on a lacrosse ball, and this has helped me with injuries and tender spots, allowing me to get better workouts.
  • I added more cardio—so I got a little leaner in the process because finding a treadmill or walking outdoors was often the only option.
  • I focused more on the muscle—learning to connect (mind-body connection) and intensely squeezing the muscle through the range of motion.
  • Worried less about my outfit.

And, what this time away from the gym ultimately made me realize is:

  • The time and money spent going to a gym are well worth it for me.
  • I appreciate my gym workouts more now than I ever did.
  • It takes so much more dedication and commitment to try and fashion a home workout than it does to push yourself at the gym.
  • I really learned to appreciate the choices and variety of equipment offered by a fitness facility over the limited choices of my at-home workouts.
  • Atmosphere means a lot more to me than I thought it did.

Coach Tim’s Thoughts: Better Shape Than Ever

About three kiddos ago, I was a full-fledged gym rat. I literally spent more time at the gym than I did anywhere else—including home. Of course, much of that time was spent training clients, but any free time I had, I was putting in the work myself.

Even after having our now four-year-old daughter, the gym was still my second home. Since the lion’s share of my work is done remotely, I would spend about half my day at the gym.

So, when gyms were shut down and heavy restrictions were put in place, at first, I admit that I had a bit of panic. And I know there are many other fellow gymgoers who can relate.

Not only were our gym doors closed, but parents like us also had to learn how to navigate all kinds of unfamiliar life territory—like working from home, home schooling, being stuck at home, and the like.

In short, the days of hour-long workouts were a thing of the past, and all the familiar gym tools—dumbbells, barbells, machines, cardio equipment, and such—were out of reach.

Fast forward a few months, and I’ve now canceled my gym membership, and even though I don’t have the pictures to prove it, I’m in better shape. Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned:

  • Most of us—even those of us who love training hard—don’t need to go to a gym to get and stay fit. You certainly can if that’s your jam, but it’s not essential.
  • Most of us need very little equipment to get and stay fit. My father-in-law let me borrow his rowing machine, but I’ve learned that I’m just fine with one kettlebell (although I’ll be expanding my kettlebell collection).
  • All of us need accountability. There were days I felt like “I didn’t have time” to workout, or frankly, I just didn’t feel like it. But back in March, I made a promise to my team and followers that I’d put out daily workouts. So, even on the days I wasn’t feeling it, I couldn’t let them down.
  • Most of us don’t need much time to get and stay fit. Some of my daily workouts were less than 5 minutes, and I rarely worked out for more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Most of us don’t need to exercise for 30 – 60 minutes at a time. Many of us will benefit from disrupting our otherwise sedentary days with “exercise snacks” (ranging from 1 to 10 minutes or so) baked in throughout the day.
  • Most of us will do best with full-body workouts (rather than body-part splits). This is something that I’ve preached and practiced for a while.
  • Most of us will find the most success (from a weight-management standpoint) with metabolic conditioning, interval training, and resistance training circuits.