Should I Join a Gym?
May 28, 2014 7:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to exercise more, mostly for reasons like getting my appetite up and sleeping better -- I don't have any "fitness goals," this is more about making exercise part of my routine. In the past, I would just go running outside, but I've never kept up with it well and summer in DC is not the best time for running outside (swampy, "code red" days, etc). Should I try to commit to running outside and doing my usual "weight baring" exercises at home, or should I join a gym?

Either way, any recommendations on a (similarly low key, not-goal-oriented) exercise regime? I'm generally in pretty good shape because of a lot of years of being fairly active, but I've barely exercised for months. Weight and health problems that could come up w/r/t exercise aren't an issue.

If I should join a gym, any recommendations on which to join? I'm in Alexandria, VA, and I want to be able to drive easily to the place and park right in front of it, so that I'm more likely to go. Money is also an issue (I need this to be less than $50/mo, and the lower the cost the better). I also want to be able to just go and do my thing wherever I work out, I don't want it to be a social commitment or have a meat-market or macho feel at all. So, very low key would be best.

If you recommend joining a gym, what's the etiquette for working out in one? Any particular things I should bring (or not bring), wear (or not wear), do (or not do)?
posted by rue72 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I used to go to the gym, but now I prefer working out at home using Fitness Blender videos. Some of these are tough to do if you don't have a lot of space or if you have neighbors below you.

They are usually pretty fun and there are so many that you can always find one that fits your mood or time requirements.
posted by hellogoodbye at 7:47 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know what your schedule (or comfort level) is like, but summer running in DC can be tolerable in the evening.

A gym membership in DC proper less than $50/mo will be tough. I have the most pared down membership possible at WSC and it runs about $65/mo. I'm not familiar with the gyms in the larger metro area. General etiquette at the gym would be to wipe down equipment you are done with, re-rack any weights appropriately, and to not sit forever on equipment you aren't using at the moment (or at least offer to swap back and forth with another person). If you don't go at peak hours (the couple hours immediately after work), there shouldn't be an enormous crowd. Most places will ask you to bring your own lock (some may have them available for purchase).

Another alternative may be to look into local pools. I used to go to one at a local high school in NoVA. Just show up, pay, and swim. I want to say it was about $5/visit (with the option for monthly passes). There tends to not be a lot of interaction between swimmers. Etiquette there would simply be to try to position yourself in a lane with people around your speed so people don't have to constantly pass you or vice versa.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 7:52 PM on May 28, 2014

I don't know your area, but there's a Planet Fitness in Alexandria, it looks like. I like mine. It's not at all fancy, but it's cheap and the treadmills work and it's open late and the experience is very consistent and pretty much the opposite of macho. My gym bag is getting steadily more elaborate as time goes--at first it was just socks and shoes and leggings and a t-shirt but now I've got shower stuff (even though I still *usually* come home after and shower here, that means I always have it if I want to run errands after) and fancy expensive socks and a succession of attempts at sports bras that are never quite right and this by itself has become part of the hobby.
posted by Sequence at 8:09 PM on May 28, 2014

I've been a member of WSC, Gold's, and currently Crunch. The good thing about attempting to join a gym during the summer is that it's out of season to join a gym so they might cut you a deal. And the YMCA is usually a reasonable option.

That said, I don't know what you like to do but there are so many groups doing free outside exercise classes during the summer that you don't need to join a gym if you don't want to. One friend teaches free yoga classes at a church on Mondays. There are free yogalates and Pilates classes in the Golden Triangle on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lululemon has free yoga classes in Dupont Circle on Wednesdays. There are also free classes at Lululemon Georgetown and Athleta. There are tons of free fitness classes at Yards Park. And there are tons of running clubs. So you have a lot of great options.
posted by kat518 at 8:39 PM on May 28, 2014

If you can prove that you're an Alexandria resident (driver's license, lease, etc), you can be a member at their recreation centers for as little as $100/year.

The recreation centers are not full on gyms - they don't have early morning hours, aren't large, don't really have locker rooms, and are like the size of something you'd see at a hotel. But they have your basic treadmills, ellipticals, weights, etc. I started going to one before I joined a "real gym," and it was a great sort of "transition gym" - for less than $10/month it was absolutely worth it. Some of the rec centers are newer and others are older, so check if there's one closer to you and if you can browse see the facility.

There are lots of gym etiquette suggestions on the internets, but I think the most common ones are (1) wipe down after you use something (from a wipe dispenser thing), (2) don't talk on your phone, (3) and don't compare yourself to others.

Good luck! Feel free to drop me a line if you have more questions about the rec centers or Alexandria in general - I run around outside too, so I totally get the wanting to avoid the swamp grossness. I know there's also a YMCA near Potomac Yards, but I don't know much about that - but it may also be worth looking into.
posted by raztaj at 8:41 PM on May 28, 2014

I can't tell if they have a $200 summer membership to the Y where you are. Even though it's a bit more than $50/month (expires at the end of August, here in NYC), maybe that's all you need to get you through the heat? Or maybe that's all you need to figure out if you'll go to the gym?
posted by unknowncommand at 8:54 PM on May 28, 2014

I've had some success (by which I mean consistent daily-notwithstanding-break-days exercise for several months as of this post) working through Convict Conditioning and using Habit RPG (previously) to keep me honest. I log my sets in a spreadsheet so I get the one-two punch of real and fake numbers going up to satisfy all my extrinsic motivation needs. So far it's cost about $20 total for a pull-up bar off Amazon, plus the cost of the book if you want to buy it.

I do supplement the CC stuff with cycling for running errands and, occasionally, commuting. CC itself doesn't really seem to include cardio.
posted by valrus at 9:06 PM on May 28, 2014

Maybe you could get a cheap treadmill on Craigslist, and just run at home until it cools down (assuming you have air conditioning).
posted by three_red_balloons at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2014

I'd go with an exercise group rather than a gym. If you don't have a direction other than "get fit" you might get on better with a game to play or a set of exercise directions to follow than going in and staring at the running machines and the stationary bikes and wondering where to start.

I'd go with something vaguely fun, not too competitive and mildly social. Badminton or volleyball could work. It's more fun to interact with the other players than it is to simply stand in a group and ignore everybody except the group leader while you take a spin class. With luck getting on well with the other players will lead to coming back regularly so that you can socialize with them.

But I would also keep the running and weight bearing exercises on your schedule for as often as the muggy heat of DC cooperates. No reason not to have more than one arrow in your quiver.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:34 AM on May 29, 2014

Fitness is a matter of trial and error until you find something that clicks for you and you will stick with. It might be a gym. You should look into trial memberships. Then you should try whatever services they offer -- classes, etc. Just look at it as a test.

Ratty old shorts and a t-shirt is fine. Wipe down the equipment you sweat on. Common courtesy is all you need. If you have questions just ask. Most folks in gym as very friendly what with riding the constant endorphin high.
posted by dzot at 6:22 AM on May 29, 2014

If you do want to try a gym, do you have access to a work or school/university gym? Those, like community or county gyms, also tend to be cheaper than commercial gyms.
posted by NikitaNikita at 2:39 PM on May 29, 2014

Fairfax County Recenters might be an option, especially if you technically live in Fairfax County--membership is cheaper for residents. Lee District Recenter is in Alexandria (but outside the beltway). The county recenters are enormous, with pools, rows of equipment, free drop in group classes, and so on. Membership is on a 15% off sale right now, 561$ per year, which is just under 50$ per month, there are also 4 month memberships, 20-use passes, and day passes.
posted by anaelith at 9:03 PM on May 29, 2014

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