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Maybe You Shouldn’t Sign up for the Gym!

Updated on June 12, 2019
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I am in my 70’s and have exercised at least sporadically almost all of my life.

I’ve belonged to many gyms over the years. At one time, I had memberships at two gyms, one near my house and one farther away. That more distant one was often convenient when I was heading home from visiting customers, but in retrospect the expense was frivolous and I soon dropped out.

Advantages of a Gym Membership

You might think that an advantage of paying for a gym is that the expense of the membership motivates us to go more often. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be true.

It certainly was not true for me. Excuses are easy to come by: I’m too tired, I don‘t have enough time for a full workout, I just ate.. I’m sure you’ve thought most of those things and more if you ever had a gym membership.

The one period where my wife and I did regularly turn up at a gym was when we met friends there. It wasn’t the exercise that kept us coming, it was not wanting to disappoint friends who were expecting us.

But things change. Schedules change, so you can’t be there at the time your friends are. Or you move, which is why we stopped going to that gym.

Still, gyms do have equipment that you could never afford at home and wouldn’t have the space for anyway. The gym probably has knowledgeable staff also, so their advice can be a motivation.

Advantages of Exercising at Home

There’s no membership fee at home, right? If you have the space, you could use the money you save to buy one of those fancy home gyms. Surely you’ll use that!

Sadly, probably not. If you are fond of yard sales or perusing personal for sale sites, you may have noticed how often used gym equipment pops up. It seems that motivation for exercise is hard to come by.

You would think that the “No time!” excuse would disappear at home with that fancy equipment. It usually doesn’t and there’s a good reason for it. Those do-everything gyms can require some time to get ready to use. That’s especially true for the compact models that save you space by folding up like a large metal origami piece. Even if you have room for one that’s always ready to use, there’s probably something you have to do with cables or pins, so the no time excuse can still be deployed.

Is There a Better Way?

I think there is a better way, and it can be very inexpensive.

Most of what I do at home is simple walking mixed in with push-ups, pull-ups and some core exercises. I don’t need any equipment for this, but I have purchased a few small items to add variety or to challenge different muscles.

I abolish the no time excuse by keeping one simple rule in mind: something is better than nothing. That is, if I only have five minutes before I have to run out the door, I can still do something. Maybe a few push-ups or pull-ups, or just squeezing my hand eggs a few times.

Nor am I compulsive about how many reps I must do. If I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I probably won’t be able to do forty push-ups. My motto on that is “Fifty is nifty but twenty is plenty”. That’s just another way of saying that something is better than nothing.

But let’s say that I feel great, have plenty of time and am ready for a full workout. What might that look like?

Circuit Training

I am lucky to have enough space to walk inside. If the weather is good, I’d rather walk outside as I can walk faster and there are hills to add some extra challenges. Walking indoors, I have to avoid furniture and stop to turn around much sooner than I’d like. It isn’t a great workout at all, unless I spice it up.

The first spice I add is this step stool. I can do a few sets of step ups as I come to it or twist quickly to avoid it or jump over it. I can flop down, grab the handles, and do a few push-ups. These little things can pump up my heart rate and burn some extra calories.

 The Step stool used as an obstacle for my walk.
The Step stool used as an obstacle for my walk.


Speaking of push-ups, I get a deeper chest workout with these bars. I do flat hand push-ups also, but I like to alternate as I return to this area of the house. So on one pass, it’s flat hand and on the next, the bars.

How many? Something is better than nothing, so often I don’t count at all, I just do them until I don’t want to anymore. If that’s ten, fine. Anything is fine.

The Push-up Bars
The Push-up Bars


At the far end of the house, I installed this pull-up Bar. When I’m not grunting away on it, we use it to hang the shirts I’ll be wearing to work.

Pull-ups are hard. I seldom can get beyond ten and doing just four or five is not unusual. After several circuits, that might drop to one. But, something is better than nothing!

This inexpensive pull-up Bar is easy to install and doubles as extra hanger space!
This inexpensive pull-up Bar is easy to install and doubles as extra hanger space!

Miscellaneous Stuff

For part of the circuit, I carry hand weights or squeeze the little egg shaped hand exercisers I found on Amazon. I can toss up that exercise ball and catch it as I walk. Again, it’s all just to add some extra effort and burn more calories.

Therabars are for wrist and elbow strength. I bought a set when I had a touch of tennis elbow. Exercises with these fixed that and I still use them to prevent a recurrence.

Hand weights, squeeze balls, Therabars and a medicine ball
Hand weights, squeeze balls, Therabars and a medicine ball

If You Don’t Record It, It Doesn’t Count

No, that’s not true, but as I’m wearing my Apple Watch anyway, I may as well tell it what I’m doing and let it track my steps, my heart rate and my calories. I’m not obsessive about that (because something is better than nothing), but it is nice to have “proof“ of my workout.

A recent short exercise session as recorded by my Apple Watch
A recent short exercise session as recorded by my Apple Watch | Source

Work Hard or Not, Something Is Better Than Nothing

Below is a 15 minute circuit workout recorded on my Apple Watch. This report comes from the iPhone Activity App. The high heart rate for this session was 145 BPM.

Most people my age probably shouldn’t work this hard. The general rule of thumb is to subtract your age from 200 to get your maximum suggested heart rate and to only reach 70% of that during sustained exercise.

I don’t usually push myself that hard. Regular exercise is more important than trying to be an Olympic Champion. My joints are old and a bit of arthritis is present. I’m not going to hurt myself by pushing too hard.

Something is better than nothing. Fifty is nifty but twenty is plenty. I can live with that.

A fifteen minute circuit recorded on Apple Watch. This is the detail from the Activity App on my phone.
A fifteen minute circuit recorded on Apple Watch. This is the detail from the Activity App on my phone.

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