I have been a lot of people in my life. From the guy who spent 6 days a week in the gym for at least an hour each day, to the guy who hasn’t been in a gym for over 2 years. And for most of my life, I’ve been the former. Staying fit required that gym membership. The basketball courts, the sauna, the ritual. It took a move to a new state that had 330 days of sunshine a year to finally break my gym membership religion. But even after leaving an ideal climate for working out outside every day, I’ve stuck to my guns.
I have been able to stay fit without a gym for the last 2 years. It’s saved me a ton of money, but it’s saved me even more time. I’d like to share my experience of staying fit without a gym so you can be inspired to dump that financial drain yourself if you feel so inclined!
Why I Quit Gym Memberships
It’s true, gyms are awesome. Even at this very moment, we are considering getting another membership at the YMCA. There’s one very close to us with a DOPE outdoor pool. But as of this writing, I am not yet a hypocrite. So I’ll continue.
As I mentioned earlier, we moved to a city with 330 days of sunshine a year – why did we need a gym membership? We could mountain bike, hike, go ski, go run, or work out in our garage. And that’s what we did. We quit our gym memberships and decided to see if we could pull off a gym-less life and not blow up like a balloon.
The truth was, it was easy. It felt great freeing up that $60-$90 a month. Yeah, $60-$90 a month isn’t much. But for many of us, it’s a heck of a lot more than that – Lifetime Fitness, Equinox, etc. Now, this post isn’t about how much you can save on ditching your gym membership. So I won’t go into numbers here. What I’d like to do is simply throw out some ideas on how to stay fit without having to punch that barcode scanner every day.
It sounds stupid, but one of my favorite things to do to stay fit is go for a hand full of walks a day. Sometimes my wife and I will do this early in the morning before both of our work days start. Most times, I will sprinkle in laps in my neighborhood during the work day to flush my mind and recharge. I always throw on a podcast if I’m by myself and it makes the time both educational, entertaining, and productive.
And some of the best walks are long, multi-mile walks on weekend mornings in the sunshine. Walks are an incredible way to stay fit. They give us much of the benefits of exercise without a lot of the wear and tear on our bodies. Walks are a big part of my routine for staying fit outside a gym. And the best part is, they’re completely free.
I’ve gone into detail about the financial aspects of creating a really inexpensive but effective home gym. I bought a used 55lb kettle bell from Facebook Marketplace about 5 years ago for $45 cash and am still using that exact same kettle bell today. It’s amazing. I can do cleans, squats, suitcase pickups, rows, etc. Kettle bells are a quiver killer for your home gym setup. If you don’t have a room to dedicate to a gym and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars outfitting a gym with squat racks, plates, barbells, dumbbells, etc then you can’t go wrong with getting some kettle bells and learning some technique on YouTube to make sure you’re safe – I recommend Mark Wildman’s channel.
Kettle bells not only keep you muscularly fit, they are very good as dynamic, multi muscle exercises that keep you from getting injuries related to over/under training symbiotic muscle groups.
My road bike is a hand-me-down $200 bike from my dad. I take it on long road rides for exercise and I also use it as our second vehicle. If you’re considering becoming a one-car-family, I’d encourage you to read our story about our last year as a one car family and definitely get a bicycle. If not for exercise alone, we are able to grocery shop, go to the library, or even the hardware store. And I can ride to/from work when needed. If you need some inspiration, definitely check out Mr. Money Mustache as he is famous for riding his bike to the grocery store even in snow.
My second bike is a mountain bike named Bruce that I paid $1,650 for 3 years ago. While that might seem like a lot of money, many of the bikes you’ll see out on trails are upwards of $5,000 to $7,000 if you can believe that. And renting a mountain bike in prime places like Moab or Sedona can be $100 a day. Anyway, I’ll stop justifying my purchase and mention that picking up mountain biking as a 26 year old has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is without question my favorite thing to do for exercise and the best part is – it’s also completely free aside from maintenance every now and then.
I don’t run. I hate running. You don’t need to love running in order to justify not having a gym membership. Nor do you need to love running in order to stay fit outside a gym. My neighbor runs every single day. She is a beast. But I hate it. And it’s okay if you hate it too. Moving on.
I never really understood why we spend our entire childhoods playing soccer, football, baseball, golf, or hockey only to completely stop when we are no longer forced to show up to practice on Monday. While this particular way of staying in shape can require a partner (Football, soccer, or baseball), you can easily grab a basketball and head to an outdoor court at a park and get some exercise in. My brother in law who lives in Oklahoma City does this as one of his main ways of staying fit. He walks to the court near his house, hoops it up for an hour while listening to music or a podcast, then walks home.
Playing sports is a great way to make friends and stay dynamically fit – It’s one thing to run, one direction, for long periods of time. It’s another thing to cut, move sideways, kick or throw while moving. Dynamic movement is good for our bodies. Heck, go get some discs and pick up disc golf!
Wow, I sound like I’m promoting my used sports goods store.
Yes, I could outsource our yard work to a kid for $25 bucks an hour. But then I’d be robbing myself of the health benefits of getting my butt outside and getting some fresh air and dynamic exercise in! As someone who works for a living at a computer, there’s nothing like packing up for the day and heading outside to get some sun, fresh air, and move my body around. Within the last 6 months, we’ve painted the inside and outside of our home, built a compost bin, and built a raised-bed garden.
I think we get a little lost when our staying fit box can only be checked by a formal Zumba class that we paid $30 to attend. Being active and moving our bodies should be the goal.
A Call to Comment
What are your favorite ways to stay fit outside a gym? What does your gym membership cost you? How far away is your gym from your house/office? What are the things your gym provides that you feel justifies the expense?