“How do you guys stay in shape?” It’s the question we’re asked almost every time we’re at a meetup. Or, whenever we talk about a life of full-time travel in general.
I love going to the gym. I just do. Ever since I moved out to Arizona nearly 12 years ago and lost 50 pounds in restaurant weight, I’ve been in love with the gym. It’s one of those environments where I just feel comfortable.
My gym membership is totally worth it. And as full-time digital nomads, that fact hasn’t really changed.
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean all gym memberships are worth the cost, though. After all, we are just now coming off of New Years Resolutions time, when gyms see a bunch of new faces for the first couple months of the year.
But once May rolls around, invariably, the gym environment will return once again back down to the diehards who go and gym it up every day.
Certainly – as a huge believer in getting rid of expenses that don’t contribute anything positive to your life, don’t buy a membership to a gym if you don’t intend to use it. Like, no shit Sherlock. Don’t use it? Don’t pay for it.
For me? I use the hell out of my Planet Fitness membership as we travel the country. We are there almost every day that we’re around one and only take a day off when I feel like I need one. For me, it’s money well spent.
Why my gym membership is worth it
I’m reminded of something I’ve written before on the blog about why I love going out to restaurants so much. Yes, it’s food that I don’t have to prepare or clean up, and the lazy bastard inside me loves that part.
But my love of the restaurant experience goes a bit deeper than that. It’s not just about the food preparation.
It’s about the restaurant environment. I like being in an environment where the majority of the people around me are happy. They are smiling. Talking. Drinking. People are having a good ol’ time, and that’s exactly what I like to surround myself with as much as I can.
People having fun.
And, it’s similar with going to the gym. I like the gym atmosphere. I like being in a place where everybody is there to do pretty much the same thing – workout. Some might want to lose weight while others only want to pack on muscle or strength train. That’s fine – whatever your goal, you’re still there, working out among the rest of us. I feed off of that stuff.
I’ve tried working out at home or in small community gyms, and I just can’t do it. I don’t have the same drive and determination at those places (especially at home). I get distracted. It’s just too quiet for me to get a good workout. I’m not at a fine restaurant eating over-priced and undersized portions of food I can’t pronounce. There, I appreciate the quiet.
But, not at the gym. At the gym, I want commotion. I want loud music. I want to see people busting their ass at the squat rack or free weight area. Hell, watching someone blaze up a #10 incline on a treadmill is seriously inspiring to me. I need that shit to help keep me focused.
At home or in a small gym, there’s virtually none of that. It’s a way, way different atmosphere that I just can’t get myself to thrive in.
Of course, there’s also the equipment. Gyms have a wide variety of free weights, machines and cardio units at-the-ready. The occasional line for a machine is well worth the cost of having access to a stupidly-awesome number of machines and exercises that just wouldn’t be possible at home. At home, it would feel like a chore to setup some “do-it-all” machine for each exercise.
At a gym, I just gotta walk up and start using the equipment. The time I don’t have to spend preparing the equipment keeps me focused and mentally fixated on what I’m doing. No thinking necessary. I just go without a second thought.
The ability to use dumbbells in 20 different weight increments one minute, then immediately switch to a smith machine for another set of more controlled weight training and finish by pounding through drop sets on one of the machines is the kind of flexibility that I’m looking for and willing to pay the price to get.
But, there’s also an element about getting naked that I appreciate.
Living in an Airstream, I also love the shower facilities in a gym and generally use the showers there after every workout.
We do have a shower in our Airstream, but the showers at the gym are bigger and nicer. It’s super convenient to just jump in the shower after a workout and get that taken care of. When we aren’t camped out in a campground with public shower facilities this flexibility is even more wonderful. Instant hot water?
My biggest gym pet peeves
Okay, I couldn’t possibly write an article about the gym and not dive into what I don’t like about the gym. There isn’t much that I don’t like, but there are a few things.
For example, I hate it when people sit on machines for several minutes texting on their cell phones. Not only is that inconsiderate of your fellow gym-goer, but you’re completely distracting yourself from your workout. Your workout won’t be nearly as effective if you’re distracted. Count on it.
Closely related, I’m not a fan of having to listen to people’s conversations (even over the music blasting out of my earbuds) while I’m trying to work out. The gym isn’t social hour. Talk outside. Talk in the locker room. You’re at the gym to work out. So, work-the-F-out, please.
I’m always amazed at people’s inability to rerack their dumbbells in the correct place on the rack, even when the rack is clearly marked with the weight. The rack is marked with each weight for a reason. The 30-pound dumbbells should be put back in the 30-pound spot on the rack, not in the 15 or 20-pound spot. Are numbers that hard?
Lastly, people who play their music out loud, rather than through earbuds, viciously annoy the heck out of me. I get super annoyed because that behavior stems from pure and utter selfishness. Apparently, that person believes that the music they listen to is so unbelievably awesome that everybody must also listen to their music. It’s that good.
But in the end, I can overlook these pet peeves and still go. I still love being there. The environment is so enriching that the negatives just pale in comparison.
What say you? Are you a gym-goer who loves the gym environment, or are you the type of person who can summon up enough focus and motivation to work out at home?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.