Now, I wholly accept there are far more organic, adventurous and exciting ways to build and maintain fitness and health than going to the gym. Fell-running, rock-climbing and free-running are three quick examples which spring to mind. I would like to claim these much cooler and more invigorating activities as part of my weekly routine. But they are not. And the gym is.
I first used a health club gym at the age of seventeen while studying for my A-levels. Ironically, this gym used to be a thriving squash club (which I used as a child). All twelve squash courts have now been replaced by extensive gym facilities. Such is the demand, there is now a second, more exclusive health club on the other side of the car park.
Since my A-level years, I have been involved with numerous sports teams and clubs. These days, I like to ski and paddle board, cycle and run. Rugby and skiing are close frontrunners, but the greatest physical activity constant in my adult life has been, and remains, the gym. Looking back, I have been a member of Fitness First, David Lloyd, Esporta, Virgin Active, CrossFit and Nuffield Health clubs.
I have always justified a gym membership. Here are seven good reasons for a gym life:
- Maintaining general physical fitness
There is no better environment to focus on particular areas of fitness, for example strength or flexibility. The gym also provides you with the mechanisms to switch areas of fitness or body parts.
- Training for specific sports and events
Excluding the pub sports, most high level athletes will use the gym for physical performance gains. For the rest of us, the gym is a designated place to go to prepare our bodies for all other physical pursuits.
- Keeping a positive body image
We are all invested to some extent in our body image. As we get older, regular gym attendance will help us to look and feel better. It supports our self-identity and how we define ourselves.
- Social mixing (and a social outlet for many)
As more of us work from home, a consistent opportunity to mix with people is not to be underestimated. Many people forge strong and lasting friendships born in the gym.
- Mindfulness and total well-being
This is my favourite reason. We lead busy lives and too often don’t allow time for self-reflection and investment in our mental well-being. Resting between exercises and stretching are wonderful for this.
- Positive use of leisure time
Many of us use pubs, cafes and shops, social media and television in our leisure time. Moderating these vices is generally encouraged. Aside from the real addicts, more gym time is positive.
- Accessibility and availability
From late teenagerhood to our autumn years. From early morning to late evening (and sometimes even 24-7). From city to city. It never rains in the gym.
A regular retreat to exercise, train for sport, look and feel better, mix socially, unwind, reset, and take a hot shower when your boiler breaks! In multiple contexts, gym life is a good life.