Why Go to the Gym?

During a discussion on another site, someone mentioned in passing that “many – if not most – people join a gym to lose weight”.

This made me think a bit.

Do I hear gymgoers talking about losing weight or wanting to lose weight? Some.  But I also hear gymgoers talking about getting stronger, or faster, or increasing endurance — and I’m glad I’m not the only woman talking in these terms!

And, occasionally, I hear discussion of wanting to gain weight, or rather, to gain muscle.  Here’s the thing, though: So far, at least at my gym, the people I’ve heard talking about bulking up are men.  Thin men.  Because men are supposed to be big and strong, and women are supposed to be thin and dainty.

Does one have to join a gym to do this?  Of course not.  You can do a lot of strength training with bodyweight alone and a few dumbbells.  Putting on Springsteen and dancing in the living room can be as aerobic as you’d like. If you mostly walk everywhere that can keep you in good shape too!

What the gym often provides is more and varied equipment.  This can help keep you interested and let you try new activities.  It’s also less costy than buying and maintaining specialized equipment. A membership at a gym with a pool is a lot cheaper than building a pool, especially when the weather doesn’t support swimming outside year-round.

In my case, I mostly save time.  At home I’m working each leg individually, so it takes at least twice as long as at the gym — and often more because I can push the resistance up on the machines higher than with my ankle weight.  This lets me do fewer sets for the same amount of muscle tiredness.

Do you belong to a gym?  Why/why not?

28 thoughts on “Why Go to the Gym?

  1. I go to two gyms – my work one, which is small with very little equipment, and a weightlifting-specific gym where the only equipment is free weights and heavy weights.

    At the work gym, I do some cardio (on the treadmill), some light freeweights and I occasionally go out for a jog around where I work and use the showers afterwards. I also see the personal trainer there, and we concentrate on free weights, pressups, etc – not machines.

    At the other gym, I powerlift (i.e. I concentrate on squats, bench press & deadlift). I only started powerlifting 6 months ago, but I love it and hope to compete someday.

    I originally started going to the work gym to lose weight, but I gained 7lbs within 4 weeks and have decided I want to bulk up / get strong instead.

    You’re totally correct in that the ASSUMPTION is that women don’t want to bulk up. For example, a while ago I decided I wanted to start with sports nutrition so I’d build muscle and get stronger. So I sent off for a catalogue from a company, telling them I’m a lifter and that my goal is strength. Guess what I got back? A “women’s” catalogue which focussed on toning and fat loss, and even included an article on fitting in to your wedding dress.

    Yes, because ALL women only want to be princesses, and nothing else. For pity’s sake.

    I go to the gym to get strong, and lift heavy. If that makes me bulkier, then so be it.

  2. I used to belong to a gym when I was about 17,18. I did start going sort of to lose weight, but when I started, that goal kinda dropped as I actually PUT ON weight, but my clothes fit better. as I didnt really see the results I wanted, I kept going because it made me feel good. It relaxed me and I had more energy. Funny, I wasnt too bothered by becoming a smaller size at that age. I was more or less the same size I am now (at 23) and NOW I would like to be thinner. anyway, i did stop because I couldnt afford it, and then I was ashamed at my lack of gymgoingness so I didnt return. I kinda regret that.

  3. Yes, I go to a gym. It’s pretty small and I don’t interact much with the other folks there. Once I was in the locker room and two women were talking about losing weight, but they didn’t engage me in the conversation.

    It wasn’t until I let go of the idea that exercising was a tax I owed to the world for being fat, that I started going to the gym. I’m building up my arms and my endurance (at different times). I feel healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. Also, in the six months I’ve been going, my weight has stayed exactly the same.

  4. yes i go to a gym (though my membership is currently out) i swim 2-3x a week 1 mile at the local community center…i joined a gym because swimming is like the 1 aerobic activity (besides dancing at jam band concerts) i can do and actually enjoy.

    I love the feeling of stroking through the water…i am very tall and it suits me. Plus they have child care and in this day and age free child care for 2 hours while is swim and soak in the hot tub is awesome….

    I am hoping to work myself up to taking some of the free classes…..i know i don’t want water aerobics (I’d prefer to swim laps) but I’d try Zomba or yoga.

  5. My MIL bought a family membership to the YMCA for us for Christmas last year.

    I didn’t go for a couple of months, until I was mentally ready for regular exercise again. I had always enjoyed weightlifting, and the computer program is far less judgemental than a face-to-face trainer would be, so I’m doing that.

    It’s kind of like meditation for me—instead of doing it to get it over with (like I have exercised in the past), I practice being mindful and present for each movement.

    There are several different training regimens for different desired results. Since I don’t really have a goal, per se, I’m completing each beginner’s course to learn about all the machines and exercises. It’s fun!

  6. I won a gym membership in a prize drawing once and told them to please award it to someone else.

    The junior high locker room was enough to make me never want to step inside a formal gym again.

    And when discretionary funds run to ‘I think I might be able to scrape up enough money to see the new Harry Potter film and even get a small soda’ then gym memberships are not in the cards at all.

    As for the reasons other women I have known over the years have chosen to go to the gym, they range from, yes, losing weight to toning muscle to physical therapy after an injury or surgery to a way of relaxing after work to body building. In fact, the reasons often overlap.

    I don’t think there’s any single reason most of us do much of anything.

  7. I was in a locker room once when a little girl asked me why I went to the gym. I said “To get stronger.” “Why?” she asked. “In case I ever wanted to move something big, like a sofa.”

  8. I do not go to the gym. I find it a bit claustrophobic: even nice gyms seem crowded and unhappy to me. I read in a Geneen Roth book ten years ago that it seems ridiculous and sad to think of a dog on a treadmill, so might it also be ridiculous and sad to think of me on a treadmill (that is, unless I actually liked the treadmill: no judgement of others, here, just an explanation of where I am).

    So, I invested in good raincoats, sturdy winter boots that are easier to walk far in, and so forth, so that I can happily walk outside whatever the weather.

    I like to get exercise outside, whenever possible, or doing something playful (ice skating) or for a purpose beyond the movement (heavy yardwork).

  9. I’m lucky that the university I work for gives staff and faculty a free membership to the student gym, and release time to use it during working hours.

    I go because they have weight machines I could never afford, the ones that feel like “fun” to me, the leg machines that I can lift huge amounts of weight on.

    I started going because my posture was getting worse. And I’ve seen a great improvement in about 8 months of going. I didn’t forsee that in addition to standing straighter because my back is stronger, I’d also start to strut from the feeling of being stronger. And I haven’t lost an ounce.

    I also enjoy going to show the college students there by my presence that fat people can be strong and active, and don’t have to pursue weight loss. I’ve had a few conversations about this with some of the students there, and feel very good about the possibility that a size acceptance message might, maybe, someday get through to at least one of them.

  10. I go to a gym because the equipment I like to use is not in my budget, and, if it was in my budget, would not fit into my living space, namely: squat rack / power cage, olympic bar and plates, bench, Concept II rower… The only negative of my current gym is that it doesn’t have a decent heavy bag, but one can’t have everything.
    That said, if & when I get a bigger living space, I fully plan to buy all of the above (and sandbags, and dragging/pushing sleds), set up a garage or basement gym, invite serious people to train there, and blast the music as loud as I wish. :)

  11. I have a family membership to the YMCA. My daughter takes karate classes, and goes to their summer camps.

    I like working out, but only when I am not focusing on losing weight. I like to to feel strong, and weight training does that for me. I also like yoga, and pilates, and am thinking of trying a spinning class.

  12. No, for the simple reason is, when you don’t have transportation, trying to get to one is a little difficult.

    I thought about joining Curves, but decided not to because they’re focused too much on weight loss and not working out just for enjoyment; that the founder is a very conservative Christian with some ideals I do not believe in ,and having to do a 30 minute rotation doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer to stay on one machine.

  13. I love going to the gym, but I hate when I see weight loss messages there, as I have no interest in weight loss and when I see it conflated with exercise, it makes the exercise seem less appealing.

    What I want is to be faster, to have that quick burst of speed that would allow me to get open more often when I play pickup frisbee. I’m working on being able to bench press my body weight and know there’s small muscles that need working with weights and machines I don’t have at home. Some days I want to run outside, but other days are cold, or my knee hurts and I’d rather use the elliptical. Some days I want to run intervals on the treadmill so I can push myself up to a faster pace.

    Personally, I kind of want to bulk up. I find it really satisfying and being athletic, but slow and klutzy, weight lifting is the only physical persuit where I feel like I really have / can build a talent for it. Plus lifting heavy things is REALLY satisfying.

  14. The first time I joined a gym it was because I wanted to lose weight. (My roomate joined the same gym, and in her case it was because she wanted to bulk up). Then I discovered that I feel a lot better when I’m getting regular excercise, so I’ve stayed part of various gyms since, even after I stopped trying to lose weight. I do also work out at home, I buy workout dvds and do them in my living room. But I get bored if I don’t have a lot of variety in my workouts, and part of that is taking the drop in classes at the gym, or using the equipment there I don’t have at home.

  15. The use of the gym at school is included in campus fees, so I take advantage of swimming there a few times each week as well as going to the hydraulic machines when it is rainy and blah out and I start to feel lethargic. I also am using the assisted pull up machine (you stand on a bar that pushes you up by I believe 5-90lbs. and makes pull ups that much easier- I can’t do them unassisted yet). For the first few weeks after term ended I felt the lack of gym going, but now I uppose I have adjusted :( .

  16. I don’t use a gym, even though I currently have 2 available to me for free, at my apartment complex and at school. I have used various cardio machines at the apartment gym and I’ve come to the conclusion that walking outside is the only aerobic exercise I really like. For some reason, walking outside feels like time alone with my thoughts, but walking on a treadmill feels more boring than doing nothing. Taking a walk is something I’m okay with doing every day, and I find that walking every day has a much stronger positive impact on my mood than more intense gym workouts 3 times a week.

    I have also just started strength training this summer with bodyweight exercises and dumbbells. I think the fact that I can do it in my own living room makes me more likely to keep at it, especially since I’m not going to have either of the free gym memberships for much longer. And I definitely appreciate the privacy.

  17. I go to the gym a lot. A LOT. I go nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. I tend to work out 2 or 3 hours a day. It’s not something I do to lose weight or even to “get fit” (whatever that means). It’s just a hobby. I like it the way some people like to knit.

    One issue I actually have sometimes when reading FA sites is that there seems to be an underlying assumption that while HAES is all well and good, people who work out as much as I do might be a little… off? Obsessed? Nuts?? Now, I’ll cop to being quite off my rocker in a lot of ways, I just don’t think my workouts have anything to do with it. Most of the time, I don’t have any particular goal in mind and I don’t get massively depressed or anything if I can’t do it. And like I said, there’s no real plan. I just show up and do whatever seems fun at the moment. Call it “intuitive working out”

    It’s an awful lot of time, but to me it’s just the same as watching TV for 2 hours (or playing video games or web surfing or shopping) might be to other people. Working out is just what I do when work is done and the family are off somewhere and I’ve got some time to kill. In summer, I might choose to garden or hike instead, but in colder weather the gym almost always wins out. I can certainly see how treadmilling or climbing stairs to nowhere might bore the pants of a lot of people, but I feel the same way about reality TV, so I guess that’s just proof that people really are different.

    And just in case anyone’s curious, even working out as much as I do… yep, still fat :-)

  18. I do not go to a gym, I just walk on my own. I am trying NOT to get back to compulsive/obessive exercise, which hastened the progression of my arthritis & has worn down my body a lot over the years, & to learn that 20-30 minutes of moderate walking daily really IS enough to give me the health benefits of exercise & that I no longer have anything to prove to anyone by trying to exercise harder or longer than the next person.

  19. I don’t go to a gym. I despise them. I hate the look, I hate the smell, I hate the equipment. I don’t know why, but gyms just suck the life out of me.

    I realised a couple of years ago that I need exercise to be fun for me to do it regularly. Soon after, I found dance classes and I LOVE THEM. I’ve tried reggaeton (my favourite!), dancehall, hip hop and I’ve just started samba.

    I do think I should start lifting weights, because my arms have no strength whatsoever. But until someone can make weight training fun, I know I won’t do it.

    • I don’t know if this would make it fun, but the only time I like lifting weights is while watching TV. Popping in a DVD of a favorite show or watching a rerun of “House” tends to make the time go by much faster.

  20. Hi… I recently came across your blog when I was googling low-impact exercises those of us our size could do.

    I’ve been trying to find ways to get my heartrate up without causing myself a heart attack… but I’m struggling to find them because just going outside to walk isn’t an option 8 out of 12 months in the year… Reason being, going outside the heat is so intense that I get far too near passing out for comfort. So I’ve been trying to figure out ways I can get my heartrate up in my apartment, but am kind of struggling.

    I’m unable to jump (jump rope or jumping jacks) much due to size (and because the last time I tried it, my downstairs neighbors rushed upstairs to make sure I was still alive… and when they saw I was, expressed concern with the thickness of their roof/my floor and doing jumping jacks on it. =\ ) so other than walking circles in my living room, I’m pretty stuck.

    I tried throwing the radio on and dancing but again we ran into issues with how loud it was with me bouncing around on the roof above the lower-neighbor’s heads. I really hope you have a thought or two… I want to get moving but I’m not really sure how to go about it.

    Thanks for your time, and I hope to hear from you. And thank you for your blog. It’s nice to actively SEE there are more people out there my size who are still LIVING their lives. :)

  21. Pingback: Aerobics at Home « Living ~400lbs

  22. As a self-employed writer, my income is variable, to say the least! However, I am an enthusiastic swimmer (it’s cardio that doesn’t HURT, for pity’s sake). This requires a gym membership.

    To ensure I can always HAVE that membership, and because I am a early bird, I took a job opening the gym a couple of mornings a week and working the front desk. It’s a low time investment that ensures my access to the pool and free weights.

    Here’s the interesting part: I get a LOT of heavy women who see me swim or work out and ask me how I got into what I do — what do I like, how does one improve one’s swimming… you name it. I tell them, though in one case it was a slender woman who was asking me questions and I cracked, “But take this advice for what it’s worth — exercise advice from a fat lady and all.”

    Her response was brilliant, “I’m thrilled to take advice from someone who has proven she is strong and just swam a MILE.”

    I know, accepting fat should mean one doesn’t apologize for it. I think I probably judge myself far, far more harshly than other people judge me, and this lady’s comment proved it.

    • To ensure I can always HAVE that membership, and because I am a early bird, I took a job opening the gym a couple of mornings a week and working the front desk. It’s a low time investment that ensures my access to the pool and free weights.

      I thought of you when I put in the bit about how a gym membership is cheaper than building a pool. ;)

      And yes, woman, you ARE strong and in good shape. I can understand someone who doesn’t know you assuming you’re out of shape, because people do that — but someone who’s seen you lift or the distances you swim shouldn’t make that mistake ;)

  23. Pingback: Monthly Roundup (Nov & Dec) « Living ~400lbs

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