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Why I decided to quit the gym and get fit on a budget

For years I didn’t have the time to go to my local gym, but kept paying £59 every month for the privilege. Then I figured out strategies to get fit, access to some of the best trainers on the planet and exercise on my own terms…but at a fraction of the cost. I didn’t think it would be possible, but it is.

My job in BIG TIME professional services involved demanding hours, travel and little downtime. Like many of my contemporaries, I mindlessly joined a local gym, taking advantage of a generous employee discount rate.

The problem was, I only ever went once or twice max, mainly at the weekend. During the week, I might be working late, travelling to a client office, perhaps staying overnight. I didn’t feel like I had much time to pack my bag, schlep to a gym, get changed, put my stuff away, wait to use the various machines, shower, change, get my stuff and travel home. And as for regular classes – forget it, my schedule was far too unpredictable.

When I did get the chance to go, I kept asking myself “what am I doing here?”. Getting on a treadmill, staring into space felt like such a waste of time. I had an induction session with a trainer who designed a program, but it felt terribly generic. Trying to make up for my absence by going at weekends for longer felt like I was taking one step forward and one step back again – simply not enough to feel any progression. The area I lived in (central London) was transient so there was no sense of community pulling me back. Given the amount of money I was shelling out it didn’t feel like value for money. Surely there must be a better way to get fitness back into my life?

Paying a lot of money every month in the hope it would somehow motivate me clearly wasn’t working.

So, I resolved to build fitness back into my life instead of trying to outsource it.

There wasn’t a single lightbulb moment, but a confluence of different factors. First, I started walking, running and cycling WHENEVER I POSSIBLY COULD – be it to work, getting groceries, or up the stairs. I found a sale copy of EA Sports 2 for PlayStation. I unearthed an old set up dumbbells and barbell and set it up in our communal basement. My wife borrowed a DVD of a very well-known home fitness program from colleague.

Since then I have realised the possibilities are endless. No longer trapped by what I thought was a prescribed path, I feel lucky to have taken my fitness into my own hands and be intentional in everything I do. Knowing that part of the money saved ultimately contributed a small amount towards our first property was liberating.

I had always thought I would one day re-join a gym and make full use of the facilities. But the likely time horizon keeps getting pushed back. Maybe when the kids are out of nappies? Maybe when they are teenagers? Perhaps if we reach that elusive financially independent status? Retirement? Or perhaps never? I honestly don’t know.

Let me make one thing clear: this site is not an ‘anti-gym’ blog. Gyms are a great place if you DERIVE VALUE from them – i.e. if you

  • visit regularly,
  • take advantage of the variety of equipment, expertise and motivation on offer,
  • use it as a social hub or, even better, feel a sense of community or belonging.

It is definitely not an anti-PT site – I have gained a lot of value from trainers and continue to do so, and would encourage anyone to get some sessions with a personal trainer to explore your goals and options. This isn’t even an anti-spending money website, which may come as a surprise.

In essence, it is about being INTENTIONAL. And occasionally poking fun along the way.

Be under no illusions – I am most certainly NOT a fitness expert. I’m just a dad who has tried out loads of different fitness options and found what works. And I hope to share as much of my experiences and ideas as possible.