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How to know if you should quit your gym membership

Having a gym membership is a bit like being in a relationship.

It’s a commitment. You hope it’s going to be long-term. You hope it’s going to improve your life and your wellbeing. But, like some relationships, knowing when to cut your losses can be hard.

Lockdown has changed everybody’s relationship with fitness. Our normal schedules and routines have been completely upended, our motivation seems to come in dramatic peaks and troughs, and the gyms keep closing.

So, if you have fallen out of love with the gym – it is OK to quit. And it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to make fitness part of your life anymore, or that you have failed at anything.

Sometimes the strongest thing you can do is to recognise and take action when something no longer works for you. And quitting the gym could be just the thing to help you fall back in love with fitness that works for you instead.

But how do you know if it’s time to quit the gym, or if you’re simply going through a lockdown induced slump?

First of all, you need to think about how going to the gym makes you feel. Obviously, getting out of bed on dark winter mornings to go and run around often feels hard. But if you are really dreading it, or frequently hitting snooze and not going at all – it might be time to re-think.

Do you still look forward to going to the gym?

‘If going to the gym is no longer enjoyable, viable or worse still causing you anxiety, its definitely time to quit,’ says personal trainer Lisa-Jane Holmes.

‘Whilst its unrealistic to presume everyone bounces into the gym full of excitement and anticipation and loves every minute of their workout, if you’re dragging yourself there and counting down til you can leave, spending money and barely going due to time or distance constraints, or you feel uncomfortable when you’re there, then it’s time to move on.’

There is definitely a difference between feeling a bit unmotivated about working out, and actively not enjoying being at the gym.

If you are filled with dread when your alarm goes off in the morning, or if you’re finding excuses not to go after work – these could be signs that your heart is really not in it any more.

‘If you’re unsure as to whether it’s just a blip or it’s time to leave, then question your motivation,’ suggests founder of Glam Fit Studios, Jenna.

‘If you have lost the desire to become fit altogether, you need to leave immediately. If the motivation is still there, then try an alternative – like maybe a PT or group classes – before you leave, to avoid giving up completely.’

Are you going to the gym less frequently?

Of course, it is completely normal for your gym attendance to go up and down.

Even with the best of intentions, your plan to hit the gym three or four times every single week isn’t always going to work out. And that’s completely OK. You’re not Dina Asher-Smith.

But, if you have noticed a significant and persistent drop-off in attendance, this could be a clear sign that it is time to quit.

‘If you have moved from going three or times a week and reduced to once a fortnight, it could be time to think about other options,’ says Jenna.

‘When people think about fitness they automatically think “join a gym” and will attend as often as possible. But, without a plan and regular progress you will struggle to continue going after the initial motivation wears off, usually around 6-8 weeks.

‘It’s important to think outside of the box with your fitness choices as well as finding something you enjoy to keep yourself fit and healthy.’

If you have hit this wall and suddenly realise you haven’t been to the gym in the last month, try figuring out a new, sustainable fitness plan that actually works with your schedule.

And if that doesn’t work, quitting the gym could be your best bet.

Is your gym a negative environment?

‘The time to quit the gym is simple – if you aren’t enjoying the gym environment, you simply do not have to go,’ says personal trainer Hannah Lewin.

‘Not every workout will be your best and you may not skip to each session – but if the thought of visiting the gym is filling you with dread it may be time to look into cancellation options.’

For many, traditional gym spaces can feel intimidating, unwelcoming and even hostile. So it’s important to remember that this isn’t the only way to stay fit and healthy.

‘If you haven’t built any friendships or acquaintances that you enjoy mingling with at your gym, or if you feel like the people surrounding you are “not your people”, it could be a sign that you should quit,’ adds Jenna.

Lisa-Jane says that if the environment itself doesn’t feel right any more, or if nothing can motivate you to go, then you should strongly consider quitting.

‘Gyms are not for everyone, but that doesn’t have to mean fitness isn’t,’ she explains.

‘Outdoor training, running and walking, team sports, and not to mention the huge variety of home workout options now available (both on demand and live fitness content) mean that keeping fit and active is less reliant on a gym environment than ever.

‘Of course, if you lift heavy weights or train with certain equipment this can be more challenging without a gym, but the home fitness equipment market is booming and there are alternatives for a lot of activities that were once only possible in a gym.’

The benefits of working out at home

Brits are saving an average of £100 a month compared to going to the gym.

44% say they now prefer to exercise at home for convenience, value for money and ease.

Over a third feel it’s easy to access different apps, workouts and motivation at home.

New research polling 2,000 adults, showed that following the on-and-off closure of gyms and leisure centres since March, the alternative set-up of exercising at home was relaxing, quieter, and more enjoyable.

32% also prefer the option to choose to exercise when it suits their calendarb.

Almost seven in ten have continued to exercise at home since the first lockdown and are keen to keep up this habit – with 39% admitting they want to keep going for at least a year.

Do you feel guilty about paying for the gym?

This year has been financially tricky for so many people, with so many of us losing our jobs, taking pay cuts or worrying about our financial stability. Quitting the gym for financial reasons is completely valid, too.

If paying for the gym every month feels like an expense you can’t afford at the moment, then quit. You can workout at home for a fraction of the cost, and it isn’t worth causing yourself additional stress if money is tight right now.

But, even if you can technically afford the gym, if you don’t feel like you are going enough to warrant the cost of your membership, that can cause all sorts of guilt as well.

Who needs a monthly reminder that you’re not doing what you said you were going to do? Cancel that direct debit and free yourself of that unnecessary guilt.

‘We often join a gym with huge, and sometimes unrealistic expectations e.g. this will be the time you achieve that fitness goal, or the time that you actually start using your membership and it doesn’t just becoming a forgotten direct debit,’ says Hannah.

‘These expectations can be hard to meet, and confidence crushing when they don’t happen.’

Luckily, fitness without a gym membership is more possible than ever.

‘There is a myriad of equipment available for home workouts (and more readily available again as 2020 comes to a close) as well as an ever expanding selection of workout apps. Many PTs (myself included) made the transition to online this year so you can still workout out safely from home,’ says Hannah.

‘As a personal trainer, I personally think gyms  are important and can offer a lot more than just exercise equipment, but we need to recognise that the environment isn’t right for everyone.’

Why quitting the gym isn’t a failure

Quitting the gym doesn’t have to mean giving up on fitness. There are so many different ways to be active, and the most important thing is finding the thing that you enjoy, and actually want to do.

When you find the thing that you love, you will probably find that your motivation is boosted and you are actually being active more regularly.

‘Leaving the gym does not have to equate to “becoming unfit” in fact all fitness junkies often move around gyms, seek out new challenges and try new classes,’ says Jenna.

When quitting your gym don’t think about it as quitting fitness. Seek out a new alternative – boxing, dance, running outdoors, cycling, hiking or a yoga class. You could even switch gyms, join a health club or start swimming.

‘There are hundreds of variations you can choose to keep fit – the bottom line is if your gym is no longer serving you – quit.’

And remember that we are living through a pandemic. If your motivation is on the floor right now, that is completely understandable.

If you need to quit the gym and not immediately find an alternative way to keep fit, that is fine too. Taking time to rest your body and focus on your mental wellbeing is equally important at the moment.

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