Tom Nikkola

Tom Nikkola

This past week, I delivered a lunch and learn on The 3 Habits of VIGOR(ESS) Health to about 75 people at a local corporation. During my talk, I took a few minutes to implore the group to join a gym.

As I drove home that afternoon, I thought about all the gimmicks that sell people on the idea of exercising from home. While it’s possible a small percentage of people could get fit working out at home, the odds are against you.

Interestingly, I get requests all the time to add an at-home option to my programming for VIGOR Training. I won’t do it.

I want those who invest in my training program to have the best chance of success. I know that if they go to a fitness center, they significantly improve their odds of success compared to exercising in front of their TV set.

False Advertising

Contrary to what the advertising for the latest at-home fitness app, gadget, or equipment might say, working out at home is not the best option if you’re interested in long-term health and fitness.

Unless you work for a health and fitness company, you probably don’t live in a fitness bubble.

Instead, your career, home life and circle of friends could actively work against your wellbeing.

That’s why I always recommend joining a gym or fitness center.

If it’s impossible to get to a gym, that’s one thing. If it’s inconvenient or makes you feel uncomfortable that’s another.

I’ve written this article specifically for those who have a gym within a 15-minute drive, are not currently members, and might be tempted to just workout at home.

Here’s why you should join a gym.

1. The gym is not your home.

Though home is where your heart is, it’s also where your snacks, television, distractions, and bad habits are.

Your home is a place of comfort. Exercise is not comfortable. If you try to do the uncomfortable while staying in your environment of comfort, you’re destined to fail. 

You need somewhere other than your home to put you in the mindset of health and fitness.

Think about it this way. Let’s say you need to do some shopping.

You could either shop online at Amazon or, or go to a Target store.

Would shopping online or going to a store get you to spend more money?

Of course, you’re going to buy more if you go to a Target store than if you shop online.

When you go to Target, you put yourself in a shopping mindset. 

When you order online, you do so in the midst of other activities, like doing the laundry, watching a show, or killing time in a pointless meeting.

It’s no different with going to the gym versus working out at home. 

It’s too difficult to let go of everything else at home to focus on your workout. When you’re at the gym, you’re there to get fit, and that’s it.

2. A fitness center changes your circle of influence.

If hanging around your home leads to poor food choices and a lack of exercise, get out of it whenever you can.

If you hang around people who make poor food choices and don’t exercise, get around different people.

No matter how motivated you feel, your environment will change you more than you will change your environment.

Most parents of teenagers understand this principle well. It’s why most parents are so suspicious of who their kids hang around with. 

It’s not that they don’t trust their kids. It’s that most parents have enough wisdom to understand the impact others have on their developing children.

The effect of other people and other cultures on us never goes away. 

The more time you invest at a fitness center, the greater the impact others at the gym will have on you.

Get around some people who are healthier and fitter than you are. Even if that means you’re in worse shape than anyone there. If you keep going, that won’t be the case for long.

3. A gym has the equipment you need.

I’ve helped a handful of VIGOR Training members figure out what they needed for a decked out home gym. But these were for men and women who’d been consistent with exercise for years. They also had a significant budget to work with.

Don’t believe what you see on TV. Two pairs of dumbbells, some tubing, and a television aren’t enough. 

At a minimum, I recommend you have access to:

  • An Olympic barbell
  • Weight plates
  • A variety of dumbbells, up to at least 50 pounds
  • A bench
  • A squat rack
  • Some bands or tubing

To maintain strength, movement, and mobility, you need to sit and stand, bend over and lift stuff up, press and pull. Exercises like the deadlift, back squat, chest and overhead press, row and pull-up, and some rotational movements form the basis of all other exercises.

To master those movements, you not only need good equipment. You need enough weight that you can continue to increase your resistance as you gain strength. Compared to a fitness center, buying your equipment for home can be pretty expensive.

The next time you go to the gym, consider the space and the cost of the equipment there. You get access to it all and pay less each month for the membership than one mid-weight dumbbell costs.

A fitness club membership for $30-$100 per month is way more cost effective than spending $10,000+ for what you’d need in your home.

4. If you pay, you’ll be more likely to play.

People don’t value what they don’t pay for. 

This is one of the reasons I hate the idea of giving away a free month of VIGOR Training to try it out (though I do offer it on occasion). I know that people don’t value what they don’t pay for.

The more you need to stretch your budget to pay for the membership, the more likely it is you’ll use it.

The same goes for investing in a training program or a personal trainer.

When I was personal training, my hardest-working, most-disciplined clients were those who saw their personal training sessions as a significant expense. Those who were wealthier, and could easily afford the training, tended to not take their training as seriously.

I understand that a fitness club membership could stretch your budget. Maybe something else needs to go, like cable TV, alcohol, or dining out.

When you consider all of the money you spend in a given month, beyond food, clothing, and a roof over your head, your body and mind deserve to be taken care of. If one of them goes, it could easily limit your earning potential, and make the roof, clothes, and food more difficult to afford.

Getting and staying fit ought to be a nonnegotiable, which is why I believe a fitness club membership is a necessity, never a luxury.

Don’t wait for “Monday,” or “Next month,” or “The New Year.” Your health is too important to wait for the right time to get started. Now is the right time.

Read more: The Nonnegotiable Approach to Fitness (and Life)

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