Around new year 2017 I made a pledge: To quit the gym and get fit.
I know this sounds like a slightly odd inverted new years resolution, but for around 5 years I had been a committed gymphile (not sure that's a word but there you go). My physique hadn't changed radically except for slightly better arm definition and on occasion slightly better pecs. But for the effort I was putting in, not to mention the money, it wasn't really worth the return on investment.
And what's happened since I've quit the gym? Well, I've drunk a lot of beer, eaten a lot of cheese and done some very half assed exercise regimes.
The result. I'm about the same as I was when I was going to the gym.
The response from many gym go-ers will undoubtedly be, well you weren't putting enough effort in at the gym or else you've been quite good with your self motivation.
Neither of those statements are true.
I used to go to the gym three times a week and put in an hour at a time – working hard on each set and making sure every minute in there was put to good use. I walked out of the gym dripping with sweat every time I went. Literally. Every. Time.
So my self motivation post gym has been good? Well. I used to run home from work on a weekly basis (about a 5 mile run). Aside from that and some runs around the park. That's it.
So why do I think you should quit the gym?
First of all, if you're one of those people who does about 2 hours, 4 times a week in the gym and posts selfies on Instagram of you in gym gear – this does not apply.
If you're one of those people who goes for the social and seems to know everyone in the place and is full of tips and stuff… Probably doesn't apply to you either.
I'm talking to the other 90% of the population – the people who go because they feel like they should. The people who when they get to the gym just go through the motions and do a few sets of this or that, or worse still just SIT on an exercise bike.
You've probably been sat at a desk all day eating cake and you're watching the calories tick up on the digital display, waiting til it gets to the same number as that Krispy Kreme so you can go home.
Or, you've got to lose a stone so you can go on that beach holiday/get in that wedding dress/eat more cake on your birthday.
Or you saw a photo of Kate Middleton in a bikini on holiday somewhere glamorous again and decided you hate your flabby body and you really should do something about it.
Don't get me wrong these are all noble reasons to get exercising – and exercise you definitely should. But in the gym? Not necessarily.
The gym is made for those body sculptors – the people who have actual fitness regimes and programs and have an end goal. And they will get to that end goal because, well, that's what they really really want. When they're not in the gym they're planning their next visit to the gym and ACTUALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO IT.
Is that you? If it isn't do yourself a favour and cancel your gym membership now.
What do I do now then?
Cancelled it? Saving yourself £60 a month already? Go you! Have a doughnut.
I'm joking don't have a doughnut, that's a terrible idea.
First things first – it's your diet. Hate to break it to you but that's probably why you're a bit flabby around the edges. If it comes in a packet and has ingredients that you don't really understand – avoid it. If it claims boldly on the cover to be packed full of minerals and vitamins and to make you at least 6 times more attractive to the opposite sex – avoid it. Those 'healthy' breakfast bars and cereals or those low fat thingumyjigs. Swerve it.
So what to eat? Eat natural food. And not loads of it either.
Also drink water. Don't go crazy, 2 litres is the recommended amount – about 4 pints of water.
But, you know when you're thirsty? Have some water.
When you're taking in decent fuel for your body and not pumping it full of additives, you won't have to work so hard to process it. This makes the exercise bit relatively easy.
My routine was this.
Every day I'd walk to the nearest tube station, which is about a fifteen minute walk away. I'd then get to my very sedentary work, get to lunch and then on my 45 minute lunch break I would walk as much as possible. Some days that was 5 or 10 minutes. Other days it was my whole lunch break. And then when I got home I'd either walk back home or I'd go for a run.
Total active time daily was around 1 hour 30 or more.
To amp up any exercise regime it is often a good idea to have fun while you're doing it.
I've recently discovered parkour. Yes, parkour is famous for the people doing backflips and jumping across roofs but at it's foundations it is simply a way to get from a to b in a slightly more interesting way. I'll be honest, I'm not backflipping or rolling yet, but what I am doing is jumping onto things, pulling myself up walls or trees or doing press ups and sit ups in the park.
Basically, I'm doing resistance exercise. Trying to use my body for the things it was meant to be used for – climbing, jumping, lifting. But… Without paying a hefty monthly fee to do so.
Ways to get free exercise
There are plenty of ways you can exercise and not pay a penny. Parkour, for me, is a good one as it literally involves running outside and when I get to a bench I jump on and off it for a bit. Or if I see a tree or a fence I climb or vault it.
If you live in the country – or a smaller city nearer the country – good for you. You can probably run up hills, climb trees, swim in the sea or a river and so all kinds of free things.
In the big city it can be harder.
Running is a good start but some people find this can impact on their joints, especially without proper warm ups.
The simplest one is walking. Just walk as much as possible, as fast as possible and do it every day. Supplement it with some exercise outdoors and if you can do maybe ten or twenty sit ups and press ups too, you'll find some good results.
Taking up a sport is probably the best way to stay in shape. Football, volleyball, dodgeball, cycling, tennis, yoga, pilates, swimming, gymnastics, hide the sausage… OK maybe not hide the sausage, but basically anything that keeps you moving and having fun.
Actually yeah maybe hide the sausage.
However you do it, get some exercise and crucially, don't do it at the gym. Unless you NEED a weights rack to sculpt those tight buns of yours, you're only wasting your money.
Am I talking total rubbish? Well, put me right in the comments section below…
by Oli Lynch