Phew! Now thats done it.

There it is, out in the open for everyone to see……. I hate the gym….. It was a long while before I realised this and I had fought my aversion to them every January for about a decade.  Now lets be clear when I say gym I mean one of those places that have row upon row of alien looking machines that emulate cycling, running and rowing as well as ingenious contraptions that several people can use at the same time with little pegs to adjust the weights.

I do however love working out and working on my core strength – strange as that may seem when I can’t stand the gym.

So why am I writing a blog about it?  Wouldn’t it be better as a fitness coach to shut up about these things… keep quiet and hope no one notices.  Well in a way this is a little ‘coming out party’ for me – to be honest and open about what I love about fitness, and I do really love it, but to acknowledge that there are things about fitness that I don’t like and to reassure others that this is perfectly OK.  I also want to let you know that there are other ways to exercise and train – perhaps you need the gym for what you do and making peace with that is within you too.  I did, it worked for me.  I wanted to share some of my story and hopefully help others to look beyond the gym and find what they love.

In the words of Michelle Seager:

Feel free to Do what you love and Ditch what you don’t

So what is it about the gym, why have I loathed it ever since my first encounter.

My first experience was not a happy one, I realise now that the induction sessions that I went through at multiple gyms were all wrong, they assumed too much of me and my knowledge and I did not want to correct them as I would feel an idiot for asking too many questions. This has changed a great deal now and the arrival of ‘Personal Trainers’ has helped a great deal with this, more about that later. At the time though I was given a rudimentary overview of how each piece of equipment worked and left to simply get on with it. Before anyone shouts at me, I know this is no longer the case for many gyms and induction sessions are taken very seriously. Back then, left to my own devices I had no structure to my training session and I could not understand how to use/work half the equipment. I was also using the gym initially to supplement my rugby training and frankly this type of exercise bored me silly. I would rather be outside and pushing tyres up a hill (a nod to my coach at the time) rather than push the same weight in an air-conditioned gym. Membership lasted less than 3 weeks and I resorted to playing 7’s and running round the local parks in the off season instead.

My second experience came a few years later, now on the larger size of life, having stopped playing rugby and taken up eating instead. I was also desperate to shed a few pounds before my wedding. This came hard for me, exercising had been a way of life but work had simply got in the way. I hadn’t laced my boots or trainers up for a few years. This time the induction was much better and I felt comfortable asking questions, probably because I didn’t arrive looking like an athlete – well not a very fit one…. I was still in rugby shorts and an oversized T-Shirt!  This experience was so much more about me and my body image. A few years on and a few pounds heavier I absolutely loathed myself and when confronted by my ‘jiggling’ body in front of those big mirrors I couldn’t stand it.  It took all of 3 sessions this time to quit the gym and I felt an utter failure…. This started my decade of the ‘join & quit’ gym routine I think my longest participation was 6 weeks. Of course I paid for 6 months every time!

How many of you reading this recognise this pattern?

I know I am not the only one who has experienced this pattern of behaviour or hate the gym. Yet breaking away from this cycle seems to be the hardest thing to do.

It took me years to realise that I simply didn’t like going to the gym and then a few years after that to stop the cycle of behaviour. Training for 3 weeks in January before giving up. The main problem I saw was that I didn’t think anything else really counted and if I didn’t pay a gym I wouldn’t do the work.  Which, lets face it was rubbish as I didn’t go to the gym anyway!

My personal journey is behind how I coach as well as how I exercise. I now concentrate on exercising in ways that I love as I know that doing anything that I really hate will not be sustainable. I have also made peace with my body and learnt to love its curves and wobbly bits because I can see through those and recognise how it enables me to achieve the challenges I set myself. I am grateful for my past gym experiences and understand that I never failed at doing any of it, I simply learnt. It may have taken me some time to put that learning into practice but thats ok.

What can you do?

So here is what I have learned and what you can do to get the workouts you want without the frustration of the gym.

Learn to love the gym

OK…….. I really did say this, and it’s no joke…. having said all the above I actually learnt to love it.  With help. This help came in the wonderful vision of my Personal Trainer – I was training for an event and I knew I would have to step back into a gym to get myself really fit to achieve my goal.  I feared it, I knew that I didn’t want to do it but a chance conversation with a friend and PT was all it took for me to walk through the doors of a gym again.  It was more than that. I now had someone training me. I no longer needed to know how to work all those machines, in fact I hardly used them working with free weights and TRX (these are just brilliant) instead. Having a workout designed just for me was perfect and I didn’t need to figure it out for myself. I learnt so much from my PT, she was not only my teacher she was also an inspiration. I look up to her and trust her implicitly.

If the fear is based on not knowing what to do or in not having someone to encourage and push you then a PT is a great option.  Do your research; find a PT that you connect with, someone that epitomises your values and knows how to serve you to achieve your goal.  I did, my PT Catherine Jasat stood with me all the way. Noticing how I responded to certain exercises and even noticing when I was not myself. Talking to me and working with me to realise my full potential.  Or find a gym that offers a more personal touch, one that ensures you have dedicated PT support not just whilst you are at the gym but every day.  Real Life Fitness in Cheltenham is a gym that offers just that.

Take the gym outside

Trapped inside a room when the sun was shinning is just another reason for disliking the gym. I was fortunate as my PT loves outdoor sessions and takes great pleasure in taking her clients outside. There are gyms and fitness programmes now that offer so many opportunities to be at ‘one with nature…..’ at the same time as getting a fantastic work out. Options include bootcamps, military fitness, and classes hosted by a number of PT’s some where you can bring your babies in buggies and others that simply rock core fitness. Search the internet for your area and you will find a number of options for you to delve into. If you are looking for inspiration and an idea of what you can do then give Brawd Health or MissFit Health a follow – these guys really know how to do outdoor and indoor fitness…. Seriously what is not to love about what they do.  I really wish they were on my doorstep.

Photo’s from my outdoor workouts! You do have to ignore the strange looks from dog walkers as you carry kettle bells and swing from the trees by your feet… Pictures thanks to Catherine Jasat.

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Ask yourself do I need to go to the gym

We don’t all need to go to the gym. Work out what you want to achieve from your exercise routine – flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance are three of the five components of fitness that you get from a gym style session. It is recommended that you have at least 2 of these sessions a week for a healthy body. However you can do these workouts in other ways if you get creative. Running, Cycling and Hill Walking can provide strength enough for daily health as well as yoga and pilates classes adding that extra strength and flexibility.  There are also many options for creating your work out at home.

I have one caveat about the home workout though – As with the first foray into going to the gym without a clue, this also holds the same problem. A workout trying to achieve significant gains in muscle strength or flexibility can end up in serious injury if you don’t know what you are doing is wrong. Always get advice and guidance from professionals first – YouTube and DVDs can be your friends but again, question everything through the filter that knows the capabilities of your body first, if you are not sure then seek a professional to help you.

Go and have FUN

There is no substitute for having fun when it comes to ANY exercise – if you really love the gym and all that I have said means nothing to you then great. I am really and truly happy for you.  If you currently hate the gym, or any of your exercise routine for that matter, think carefully about what it is that you don’t like. Then get curious about what you could do instead, what would give you the same workout or better that is more fun.

In fact working out with friends and finding a new social scene can be bigger than the physical gain that you get from doing the exercise in the first place. I am all about the secondary gains from your exercise routine and would probably go further and suggest that these gains are actually the real reason you get out there in the first place.


Whatever you love to do, do it. If like me you want to avoid the gym unless you really need to, then ditch it!


You can find lots of information and inspiration to live fitter over on my Facebook Page or sign up to my newsletter for your weekly motivation for ‘Living Fit’. When you are ready to create you Fit Life then give me a call. I’d love to support you find your motivation for exercise and build a healthy lifestyle.