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Should You Join a Fitness Club?

Updated on October 1, 2017

Fitness Has to Start Somewhere

For about fifteen years, I had deluded myself into thinking my daily activities as a bookseller kept me fit enough. After all, I carried heavy boxes on a daily basis and got intensive workouts whenever we had to set up and tear down exhibits. For a few years after we moved to Templeton, I had walking partners and we walked several times a month for about two miles each time. I started a garden, and that provided some exercise. The idea of exercising for its own sake without accomplishing something else (such as work, produce or socializing) at the same time was alien to me.

My husband, on the other hand, has belonged to Kennedy Club Fitness for several years. He loves to swim, and he joined the Aqua-Aerobics Class in Atasacero at the very first Kennedy Club. They had a warm pool that was friendly to his arthritis. His goal was to lose weight and get more healthy before his two hip replacement surgeries. He made a lot of friends and really enjoys the club. He'd been after me to join for a long time. My internist also swims there, and she and my husband had been conspiring to get me to join, too.

I had joined reluctantly, feeling a great deal of pressure from my doctor and my husband. I decided to join and give it my best shot. But after a stress test, my doctor wanted further testing before giving me a green light, because she'd had to stop the stress test. It was about a month before I was actually able to start using the membership.

The Fitness Club I Tried

Kennedy Club Fitness, Paso Robles, street view
Kennedy Club Fitness, Paso Robles, street view | Source

The Path to Fitness is Long

The first night I went to the club I had no idea what to expect. It was before I had my first stress test, and I had only been cleared for one activity — the Chi Ball Class. I had no idea what a chi ball was, but felt I needed to start somewhere. Sylvia, the instructor, was very helpful at making me feel at home and told me not to worry if I didn’t do everything just right or couldn’t keep up, or had to leave early. She said to do the best I could and not to worry which hand or foot was doing what when, but just to keep moving.

What Sylvia didn’t know was that I am spatially challenged. It’s really hard for me to follow someone else’s body movements and imitate them — especially if we are facing each other. I felt like I was trying to keep up with the movements of a magician. Just where was that ball? Right hand? Left hand? But I did keep moving as much as possible. I also did get tired and leave early. I decided that class was too advanced for me.

Actually, I’d had my real workout before the class started. I thought I’d take a shortcut and go in the front door facing the street — the door that shows in the introductory picture of the club. I parked very close to it on the street. That’s when I discovered it was locked. I was supposed to enter the door at the end of the ramp in this picture. It wasn’t the only way in — there were also stairs.

Getting into the Club

My First Look at the Entrance Ramp
My First Look at the Entrance Ramp | Source
I could also use the stairs as an alternate route to the entrance.
I could also use the stairs as an alternate route to the entrance. | Source

Meeting My Guide and Learning to Use the Equipment

When you first walk into a totally new experience, it can be very intimidating. To me, a fitness club was alien territory. The lounge was fine. That’s where Jeff started my first of three orientation sessions, which are free to new members. First we went into a conference room where we got acquainted and discussed my goals so that he could plan our orientation and reassure me that I could do this. Only then did he begin to introduce me to those frightful looking machines — and to me they did look frightening. We started with the more familiar machines, such as the exercise bike. Then we went on to the Nautilus equipment, such as you see in the picture.

The first night he showed me how to use the first half of the Nautilus machines. The second night we used some more, and Jeff showed me how I could also use less intimidating equipment to substitute for machines that didn’t seem to be compatible with my body. The third night we reviewed.

Jeff wrote down on a chart the settings I should use for each machine as I was learning to use them. There was always a seat adjustment, a weight setting, and sometimes a third adjustment. At the end of each session he put this in a file where it could be accessed every time I come in. So the first night I came in on my own, I was able to go to the file, pick up my chart, and have a reminder of what to do. When I couldn’t remember something, other members helped me out, and Jeff told me I could always ask anyone in a black shirt (other Kennedy trainers and employees) for help if I got stuck. That first night convinced me I could get through a session without a trainer at my side. The problem was I just didn't enjoy it. I had to force myself to come. I could see the hard part would be just keeping at it.

I haven't used this machine in so long, I've forgotten what it was supposed to do for me. But I did use it and the trainer did show me how to use it. When  I no longer saw my trainer, I pretty much ignored the Nautilus equipment.
I haven't used this machine in so long, I've forgotten what it was supposed to do for me. But I did use it and the trainer did show me how to use it. When I no longer saw my trainer, I pretty much ignored the Nautilus equipment. | Source

How do you like your exercise

Would you rather work out at a gym using their classes, machines, and pool, or some other way

See results

Keep Track of Your Increasing Fitness

2021 Fitlosophy Fitbook: Fitness Journal and Planner for Workouts, Weight Loss and Exercise, Black Single (12-Week)
2021 Fitlosophy Fitbook: Fitness Journal and Planner for Workouts, Weight Loss and Exercise, Black Single (12-Week)
No matter how you prefer to get your exercise and become more fit, it's important to keep track of how you're doing. It's easy to get discouraged when it seems that you're not making progress. This handy fitness journal helps you set your goals and record your progress. Keep track of your workouts, your weight, and what you eat. If you're not reaching your goals fast enough, you will probably detect how to correct the situation by seeing what you need to change. Each journal records twelve weeks of meals and activities.

Salinas River through Larry Moore Park

This is a portion of the Salinas River as it runs through Larry Moore Park in Paso Robles, California, in winter. Is it any wonder I'd rather be here than inside a gym on a treadmill?
This is a portion of the Salinas River as it runs through Larry Moore Park in Paso Robles, California, in winter. Is it any wonder I'd rather be here than inside a gym on a treadmill? | Source

Fitness Club vs Outdoor Exercise

By now you have probably picked up on the fact that I'm not a gym type person. I'm not against exercise. In fact, I enjoy exercise -- just not for it's own sake. I love to walk -- just not on a treadmill. I prefer to walk my neighborhood and check out the flowers and trees my neighbors are growing, or to go to the Salinas River Trail in Larry Moore Park and see what I can shoot with my cameras. I like connecting with nature.

The treadmill, however, only connects me to a machine, and the sights are only other people working out and the big screens on the walls to watch -- and listen to if you have brought your earbuds. I much prefer the outdoors, where I can discover new lambs or video the pigs in a rural area, or walk through the neighboring vineyards.

The reason I let myself be pressured into joining the gym, though, was that no one thought I was doing enough of this walking, except me. I could also ride an exercise bike at the gym, and, best of all, I could grasp the handles on the treadmill and know if my heart was working hard enough, but not too hard.

This offered a certain measure of safety and satisfaction because I could try to do more in the same amount of time each visit. The visits, however were not very frequent after the first month or so. I got sick for a couple of weeks. Then The holidays came.

I took a leave of absence that lasted a long time. First it was the holiday preparations I needed time for. Then I got the flu. Then I had a lot of work to catch up on that was urgent. I could always find an excuse for keeping my membership dormant, because the truth is, I'm still not a gym type person. However, my dormant membership still forced me to exercise more -- just not at the gym. I told myself that if I wasn't going to Kennedy Club, I must go out and walk for half an hour instead. So I did, or I felt guilty.

By the time I wrote this, I not been to the gym in a week or two. I felt very guilty. It was almost spring again and I wanted to walk. I wouldn't have time for that if I went to the gym. Nor would I have time to pull all those ornery weeds that were growing in my gardens -- another form of exercise I actually enjoy. After reinstating my membership, I only used it about six times in several weeks. I knew I was wasting the money, thus my guilt.

Finally I decided to apply the rest of my membership to my husband's membership, because he does use it. Doing that was an admission of defeat. But it would not have been fair to my husband to keep the membership and not use it. He didn't pay for me to have good intentions, but to work out.

Hubby Loves the Fitness Club

It has done wonders for him. He is a regular (and class clown) in the aqua aerobics class. He has consistently attended since about 2002. He began because his arthritis in his hip joints was so bad he could barely walk. He needed a hip replacement in both hips, but we couldn't afford it until he could get on disability and Medicare. He loves swimming and always has. (I hate being in water unless it's my shower.)

Swimming allowed him to exercise without hurting himself. It also built up his cardiovascular system so that he would be stronger and better able to face the surgery when the funds became available. Swimming at the gym helped him lose the weight he needed to lose before surgery.

My husband is also a very social animal. He made friends in the class and some of those friendships extend outside the class. For him, the Kennedy Fitness Club really is like a club. It has a lounge, a snack bar, and sociable people. As a retired person, the club is somewhere to go every day and interact with people he's gotten to know -- not just while exercising, but also after the class. I never know when he will be home for lunch, because he can lose track of time when he gets started talking.

My husband actually looks forward to his exercise at the club every day and only misses class if he has to travel to tend to a property he manages or if he is sick. He normally takes his class and then swims laps for a while. Occasionally he uses the exercise equipment, but not often. He is just he sort of person who gets his moneys' worth from his membership.

Do you prefer what the gym has to offer?

Or would you rather get your exercise here?

So, should you join the fitness club?

If you are more like me,you probably shouldn't waste your money. Although I occasionally saw someone from church when I went to the club, we usually didn't have time to speak more than a few sentences to each other. Although I could watch a bit of TV (I don't have one at home) it was more a way to keep boredom away than something I really wanted to see. I had to fight with myself to make myself go. It was OK when I got there, but more like taking medicine than enjoying a dinner date.

Perhaps it would have been different had I gotten involved in a class like my husband did, but I wasn't tempted by any of the classes. They all looked like torture sessions to me. If I'd had a friend to talk to on the next treadmill that I could look forward to seeing each session, I also might have been more motivated to go. But I didn't. The only time I have available is when most people are fixing or eating dinner.

If you're more like my husband, you should get the membership, because you will probably get your money's worth. If you love one of the activities the club offers, like swimming or racquetball or exercise classes, it would be just right for you. If you have a friend to go with or meet there, you will have even more to look forward to.

If you need to build up strength before a medical procedure or have difficulty with other kinds of exercise, the gym is a safe and helpful place for you to be. There are always trained and caring people to help you if you fall, have a heart problem, or get into another situation you wouldn't want to be in alone on a hiking trail somewhere.

Only you can decide. If you're not sure, most fitness clubs have 30-day trial periods before requiring a longer membership. Maybe trying it is the only way you can really decide.

Before you join, though, see your doctor, especially if you are no longer a spring chicken. I never suspected I had high blood pressure until I got that pre-gym appointment with my doctor. I had a diagnosis and started treatment before I got the green light to join, and I also had guidelines on how much to stress my heart.

Whatever you decide about the method of exercise and the place for it, be sure you do exercise. Your heart, bones, and brain will thank you, since exercise strengthens all three. You will also be a more content person, since exercise can do more than a therapy session for depression. Find something you enjoy and stick with it. You won't be sorry.

Would you get our money's worth at a gym?

Do you think a fitness club membership is right for you?

See results

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