Gyms reopening: 7 women (including a personal trainer) on why they’re giving up the gym for good

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With an ever-growing number of home workouts and different ways to keep fit at our fingertips, many women are shunning the gym for good. Here, seven women explain their decision.

Gyms may be reopening on 12 April, but many women are vowing not to return. Instead, they’re sticking to their new fitness routines that they’ve developed during lockdown which have left them feeling more positive than ever about working out. Gyms being forced to shut their doors for three lockdowns has opened people’s eyes up to the joys of running, the ease of low-impact bodyweight exercises on our joints, the impact that outdoor walks have on our mental health, and the convenience of online classes at the click of a mouse. Brushing shoulders with sweaty people in overcrowded gym classes has lost its appeal.

Seven women told Strong Women exactly why they’ve decided to shun the gym for good in favour of their home workouts.

“I can’t imagine being close to other people in a sweaty environment and I’m getting better workouts outside of it”

Antonia Austyn, 24, a senior account executive, used to go to the gym four times a week to either run 5km on the treadmill and lift some weights, or do a quick run followed by a HIIT. Now, she runs three times a week and does one or two HIIT sessions with weights, with a break from intense exercise over the weekend.

“If it wasn’t for Covid-19, I’d never, ever have stopped going to the gym. I was pretty much dragged away kicking and screaming because I’d relied on it for so long and didn’t like the thought of running outdoors. But being forced to leave the gym has changed my life.

“Before, I could only run 5km on the treadmill before needing to stop, but now I can run 13km and I’m about one and a half minutes faster per km – which I think stems from pushing myself to run faster and for longer outdoors, without even knowing it.

“I also feel stronger because I can dedicate more time to weights sessions at home, instead of rushing off to get a train back from the gym or having to cut my workout short because of commuting.

“I can’t see myself going back to the gym. At least not until the vaccine has been around for a while. I’m a type one diabetic and have to be even more careful with social distancing, so I can’t imagine being close to other people in a sweaty environment. I know gyms are kept hygienic, but I’m also getting better workouts outside of it.”

“I don’t need to worry about the pressure of seeing other people with beautiful physiques and how it affects my self-esteem”

Davina Gordon, 40, a digital marketing manager, used to visit the gym three or four times a week to use the treadmill, cross trainer, various other equipment (“just for a go”) and free weights. These days, she enjoys working out from home, particularly with Joe Wicks.

“During the first lockdown, I did PE With Joe. I loved his enthusiasm and zest for life. I loved that I just needed to pull on my workout clothes and head to our living room. With a toddler setting up camp on the exercise mat, it wasn’t always straightforward, but it set me up for the day. Plus, I didn’t feel judged for my less than perfect physique, which I felt I would be if I were at a gym. 

woman squatting with a resistance band around her legs and following an online workout on a laptop
Gyms reopening: “I don’t need to worry about the pressure of seeing other people with beautiful physiques and how it affects my self-esteem”

“Before Covid-19, I would join a gym, partly because of the novelty, but also hopelessly wanting to get a body that I’d be happy to stroll around in while wearing a bikini. I lack self-discipline but I’m very idealistic. When I wasn’t seeing results, I’d give up and cancel my direct debit.

“I no longer see the sense in paying a company to work out. There are so many online workouts for every ability. I feel more comfortable at my home and on my mat. I don’t need to worry about the pressure of seeing other people with beautiful physiques and how it affects my self-esteem. I like to do things on my own terms, and that makes me more likely to stick to routines.”

“Being online worked better for my clients”

Lauren Slater, 29, a personal trainer for over seven years, has gone from weight training and powerlifting as her main forms of exercise, and training clients in gyms, to training at home and teaching clients online.

“It was Covid-19 that cemented my realisation that the gym was no longer my bag, and that in retrospect, it hadn’t been for quite some time. When the first lockdown began, I started teaching three weekly classes on Zoom and these form the majority of my own training. I always enjoy coaching, so teaching the classes makes doing the workouts alongside my attendees so joyful. I also got myself some gymnastics rings so I can still hang upside down in my garden.

“I love the convenience of training at home and I’ve been surprised to discover that despite not owning any weights, I’ve gained quite a bit of muscle this year as well as noticing large improvements in my strength.

“I assumed I’d return to the gym after the first lockdown, but being online worked better for my clients. They found it easier to fit training into their schedules, they saved money on gym memberships and they felt more comfortable training at home than when they did their squats next to a large, grunting bloke with lingering eye contact. Working online also allows me to train clients across the globe, which isn’t something I ever imagined for my business.” 

“I didn’t go to the gym enough to warrant the cost, which made me feel guilty”

Natalie Trice, 46, a confidence and visibility coach, went from twice-weekly gym visits involving cardio, weights and a swim in the spa, to daily hour-long dog walks and paddle boarding in the sea during summer.

“I’d been thinking about leaving the gym for a while, but once we went into lockdown the first time I knew it was time to quit and not only save money, but save myself the headspace of not going. I knew I didn’t go enough to warrant the cost, which made me feel guilty, and I didn’t enjoy it either. I’ve vowed not to go back again.

“My village is full of steep hills, so every day I walk for an hour with my dogs to the top of the village and soak in the view. I feel stronger and fitter each time, and am way fitter than I was this time last year. In the summer, I’d also go to the beach with my sons and take out the paddle boards. I love being outside and this year has made me realise how valuable fresh air and vitamin D is.”

“I saved time and money”

Jessie Patrick, 25, a senior PR account executive, previously went to the gym and did group training sessions four or five times a week. Her routine revolved around high-intensity strength and resistance training and cardio. Now, she prefers low-impact training such as pilates and yoga.

“I quit the gym when the first lockdown ended as I was happy to continue working out at home. I found myself saving time and money, and felt my fitness level was at its peak thanks to my new routine. Even though I had lighter weights at home, I managed to work out just as hard by doing higher reps. This led me to embrace low-intensity workouts, which are just as effective as my old gym routine.

“When Instagram Lives became a thing, I took part in lots of these on top of my own routine and I also discovered a lot of online platforms. I now do more low impact training such as pilates and yoga.

“My new routine is easier on my joints and works on my flexibility and mobility, so I feel more mobile and less stiff. At first, I worried that low impact meant low effort, but this hasn’t been the case. If anything, low-impact workouts require you to grit your teeth and work through the burn.”

woman exercising with resistance band at home
Gyms reopening: “The stress of running late to a class is gone”

“The stress of running late to a class is gone”

Rochelle White, 34, a founder and creative director, has gone from visiting the gym four times a week to do a mix of weights, cardio and Les Mills classes, to a new routine of dancing followed by cardio, bodyweight and weights sessions at home.

“When gyms reopened for the first time, after lockdown one, I made no attempt to go back. I’d gotten into a good routine of waking up at 5:30am and doing home workouts five days a week. I’ve made good progress working out at home and can mix up my training. I’ve gotten back into dancing and have taken a lot of online classes with dancers from the US. I’ve even done a twerking workout!

“My new routine means that I don’t have to de-ice the car, pack a shower bag or lug around gym kit. Plus, the stress of running late to a class is gone. When I’m finished, I’m motivated for the day ahead and it helps me to have a clear focus. As a business owner, I wanted to keep a routine during the first lockdown so I could look forward to the weekends and break up my time. Now, thanks to my new home workout routine, I’m smiling, laughing and feeling happier every day.”

“The gym is such a faff, you have to go online, book it and then drive there”

Charlotte Balbier, 43, a business and lifestyle mentor and consultant, used to go to the gym between one to three times per week for group classes, yoga and body pump. Now, she runs outside four or five times per week instead.

“I quit the gym when the second lockdown happened. I started running again and remembered how much I used to enjoy doing it. I love that it’s so instant – you just pop on your trainers and go for it. The gym is such a faff, you have to go online, book it and then drive there. You can never find a parking spot and it’s all so time consuming.

Running is so much easier and not to mention free. I like to run alone – just me and my headphones. I’m not a fan of running in groups, although I have joined a local running group. Although it’s nice to see friendly faces at the gym, I prefer my new routine. I also feel healthier as I like to be outside.”

Read more from Fighting Fit: Lockdown Lessons While WOFH (working out from home)

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