For many of us, going to the gym has all the allure of going to the dentist. It's a painful chore instead of an uplifting treat. At first, it's tempting to write off our aversion to gyms as sheer laziness, but doesn't the gym itself share some of the blame? What's so enticing about "sweatin' to the oldies" in some overheated aerobics room, jockeying for an available elliptical machine, or trying to read Regis and Kelly's lips on a ceiling-mounted TV while pulling a hamstring on the weight machine? Thankfully, it doesn't have to be this way.
Sports clubs are the country clubs of the fitness world. Much more than just a place to work out, they offer loads of amenities that make membership not only beneficial to your mind and body, but actually enjoyable. In addition to well-stocked fitness areas, many sports clubs have expansive facilities with large lap pools, racquetball and squash courts, full-service spas and even indoor climbing walls.
Sports clubs generally aren't exclusive. Membership is more expensive than a bare-bones gym, but you're paying for the extra services and your overall comfort. That said, many sports clubs now offer low introductory rates, even waiving the standard registration fee.
If you're still convinced that gyms are a joke, keep reading for our top five reasons to join a sports club.
You’re a Beginner
According to the IDEA Health and Fitness Association, a fitness training organization in San Diego, 37 percent of sports and health club members are exercise beginners [source: DeFranco]. A lot of people remain overweight and out of shape simply because they don't know where to begin. And with scads of TV and Internet advertisements for the latest fad diets and exercise regimens, it's hard to sort the facts from the fiction.
By joining a health club, you not only have access to the right equipment, but to certified personal trainers who can help you choose the best exercise plan for your fitness goals. A trip to the sports club means something very different for someone who wants to lose 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) and someone who wants to train for a marathon. A personal trainer can teach you the right way to use treadmills, cycles, strength training machines, free weights and other exercise equipment to maximize results and avoid injuries.
A nice perk of most sports clubs is that they offer free introductory consultations from staff trainers. Depending on your membership level, additional personal training sessions are either included in your monthly package or added for an extra fee. Make sure your personal trainer is experienced and certified by major certifying organizations like the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America and the American Council of Exercise. Some sports clubs, like the Equinox franchise, have their own certification systems.
If you're still unconvinced, read how sports clubs can be the perfect motivation.
You Need Motivation
It's 6 a.m. on a Tuesday morning in February and you face the following choices:
- Stay in your warm, comfortable bed until 7:13am
- Get up, eat four waffles and watch morning talk shows
- Get up, get dressed in two layers of thermal underwear and a face mask, and go for a three-mile (4.8-kilometer) run in below-freezing weather
Let's face it: Exercise is seldom the first choice. There is always something you would rather be doing (eating, relaxing, watching TV) or something you need to be doing (working, running errands, going to school). Lack of motivation is one of the top exercise killers, but joining a sports club can help.
First of all, most of us associate value with money. When something is free, it's easier to dismiss as unimportant. But when we pay for a monthly sports club membership, we are motivated to get the most value out of the investment. If anything can get you out of bed at 6 a.m., it's the thought that you're wasting $30 by staying in.
Another great motivation to exercise is to sign up for a class at a sports club. Classes like aerobics, spinning, yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and every combination thereof (yogalates, yoxing, spinlates, etc.) give you a scheduled time each week to get down to the club and work out. Added benefits of classes are instructors who can motivate you to work harder and a group of classmates to provide encouragement and even a sense of community.
If you can afford it, a personal trainer provides excellent motivation. Since you're paying extra, you're more likely to show up for sessions -- and it's harder to hide at the back of the class when you're the only student.
The next reason to join a sports club: everyone else!
To Meet New People
In magazines like "Cosmopolitan" and "GQ," sports clubs and gyms always rank among the top 10 places to meet eligible singles, along with the grocery store and the Laundromat. But even if you're not looking for a date -- or you worry that you don't look your best in a full-on sweat -- sports clubs are a great way to meet new friends and even find new business opportunities.
Sports clubs attract people with similar values and interests: staying active, keeping fit, personal improvement, participation in sports and classes, and more. Signing up for a group class is a great way to meet people who live in your same town who make similar lifestyle choices. Chances are you have other things in common -- education level, hobbies, kids and family -- that can form the basis of a solid friendship.
Sports clubs also provide excellent professional networking opportunities. For city-bound executives, a trip to the sports club has replaced the golf course as the spot of choice for meeting clients [source: Nayer]. And who knows, the guy you meet in a pick-up basketball game could turn out to be a future business partner.
Sports clubs are also surprisingly good places to find a job. If you're unemployed, try to hit the gym when working people work out, in the early mornings, during lunchtime or evenings. Membership in a sports clubs sends some resume-friendly messages: you can afford it (so you're not desperate), you have a solid work ethic, and you're committed to self-improvement.
Keep reading to learn about the mental perks of getting in shape.
To Build Confidence and Improve Your Mood
Regular exercise does more than improve your physique. According to the Mayo Clinic, breaking a sweat at a sports club or gym can also help reduce anxiety, alleviate chronic depression and boost self-confidence.
The mind and the body are not separate and distinct entities. What we commonly consider purely mental states -- happy, sad, carefree, anxious -- are also the product of complex chemical interactions in the brain. Endorphins, for example, are neurotransmitters that produce a feeling of well-being and can even function as a painkiller. The pituitary gland releases endorphins during vigorous exercise, which explains the experience of a "runner's high."
For people who suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, regular exercise has been proven to alter body chemistry in such a way as to ease symptoms and improve overall mood. According to researchers, vigorous aerobic exercise -- the kind you experience in an aerobics, kickboxing or spinning class at the sports club -- is the best kind for boosting your mood [source: Landers].
Self-confidence is a critical component in overall happiness. If you feel like you're overweight, or not looking your best physically, that can drain your self-confidence. Regular trips to the sports club, even if they don't result in dramatic weight loss, can improve your self-confidence simply by setting and reaching small goals and overcoming physical challenges [source: Mayo Clinic].
Sports clubs aren't all about hard work. Our top reason to join a sports club is pure indulgence.
One of the greatest advantages of sports clubs is that most of them offer a long menu of non-exercise amenities unheard-of at your typical gym or fitness center. If you're feeling stressed from work or home responsibilities and the endorphins from the StairMaster aren't cutting it, it's time to hit the spa.
Massage services are standard at most sports club spas. Choose from Swedish, deep tissue, aromatherapy, hot rock and sports massages. But massages are just the tip of the iceberg. How about some skin treatments? Seaweed wrap, mud wrap, zesty lemon cucumber scrub or cellulite-fighter wrap? Rejuvenating facial, micro-dermabrasion facial, anti-oxidant facial or men's facial? If yoga class didn't stretch away enough of your stress, try the sauna (dry heat from hot rocks) or the steam room (wet heat from steam) and melt away those worries.
Exercise is a great self-confidence booster, but so is a complete makeover. Many sports club spas include laser hair removal services, tanning beds, teeth whitening, and even a make-up consultation. Special bridal packages offer a nine-month pre-wedding package that bundles weight loss and body sculpting classes with skin care treatments and even ballroom dancing lessons. It might not reduce the stress of wedding planning, but at least you'll look great in that dress.
Keep reading for lots more exercise and fitness tips.
Studies have found sexism still abounds in sports. HowStuffWorks looks at five roles that reinforce sexual stereotypes throughout pro sports.
- DeFranco, Renee. "10 Things Your Personal Trainer Won't Tell You." SmartMoney Magazine. Dec. 28, 2007. http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/rip-offs/10-things-your-personal-trainer-wont-tell-you-22331/
- Landers, Daniel M. "The Influence of Exercise on Mental Health." Research Digest. Series 2, Number 12. https://www.presidentschallenge.org/informed/digest/docs/199712digest.pdf
- The Mayo Clinic. "Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms." http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043
- Nayer, Melanie. "Working up a sweat." The Boston Globe. June 19, 2005. http://www.boston.com/jobs/globe/articles/061905_gym.html