Thursday, April 7, 2011

Get Fit Without a Gym Membership: No DVD Required

Gym Memberships are a Rip-Off
Way to die young #8: Lift, Repeat

Imagine you are a Native American hundreds of years ago. You are chasing a boar for dinner. You exert yourself physically in grueling ways to make sure your tribe doesn’t go hungry. You and another tribesman carry the kill home. You are physically exhausted at the end of the hunt but, it was worth it. By today’s standards you are a very lean, physically fit specimen. Now I come in with some news for you.

I try to explain the concept of a gym to you. “Here is some meat, don’t worry how I got it. Eat it. Ok now, please step on this machine and run at a brisk pace until I tell you to stop. Now come over here and lift these heavy items with handles 10 times. Now again, ok, once more--good. Now lift these, like this. See?”

Before our time of domesticated fitness, peoples’ physical activity was driven by purpose or recreation. It is now a chore or a punishment. It is predictable and monotonous. Our bodies were designed to adapt to different physical stressors. It was common to move a cumbersome log or stone and to run barefoot while enjoying recreational activities with other humans. Not until we figured out we could manipulate our own musculature did gyms come in to rake a profit. But what the modern fitness mentality did was take the emphasis away from functionality and instead focused on aesthetics and strength.

Some even took domesticated fitness a step further by partaking in extreme regimented weight lifting. Body builders have very impressive physiques and most (I say most hesitatingly because some are actually very weak and bloated) can lift very heavy weight. But can these massive humans climb a tree, swim a channel or escape a predator? Probably not. That is because they have designed their bodies for unilateral strength movements and size instead of functionality. A perfect example is their use of weight belts. If they had sufficient core strength, they would not need such a device. This is why you hear of so many of these types of athletes “throwing their backs out.” Even a typical gym-rat whose bench press exceeds his body weight can pull a muscle putting away the dishes.

It is possible to attain a physically fit body without a gym membership. I do understand the convenience of a gym, but it should not be your only outlet of physical activity.  Sometimes the weather doesn’t permit outside physical activity and we have to do the best with what we have. Weight training can be a great supplement to any fitness regimen but it shouldn’t be the core of your fitness routine. If you are going to get out of breath, why not have some fun while you are doing it?

Playing group sports, doing yard chores, or moving various items can challenge your body in ways that a gym can simply not duplicate. You can even make your own gym with various stones and logs if you are willing to be a little adventurous. The challenge of gripping and lifting these asymmetrical shapes will prove a constant challenge. Or, just try to emulate a day in the life of a hunter (only during exercise, of course). A park can be the perfect place to enjoy your new fitness habit. It is also more beneficial for physical and mental health to engage in outdoor physical activity as opposed to indoors.

To be profitable, gyms must bank on the fact that the majority of those whom enroll will never use their facility. So why not cancel your dusty gym membership, toss that P90X DVD and let yourself have some fun for once?

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