September 13, 2010

Workout Whereabouts: Home, Gym, and Beyond

Many folks are shocked to find out that most bene-fit workouts - particularly our Boot Camps - don't use any fancy equipment outside the participants' own bodies.  How can you get a good workout without lifting heavy weights or slogging up a stairmaster, they might ask.  The answer, of course, is that basic calisthenics and high-intensity cardio are often better done outdoors amid fresh air, natural (soft) ground, and sunshine.

However, as well-rounded bene-fit trainers, we also acknowledge the usefulness of both equipment and the gym environment.  For some folks, slinging a kettlebell or joining a Spin class offers a diversion from the usual routine; a way to enter a place and forget about all the things going on outside it.

So which way, then, do we think is better?  Which format does bene-fit recommend to our clients?

I wish I could offer a singular response, but in life as on Facebook, sometimes the better answer is: it's complicated.  There are a few questions to consider if you are trying to save money by terminating a gym membership or start a new gym routine to complement your outdoor fitness work.  Ask yourself:

1) What are my goals?
If your goals are to run a marathon, complete a triathlon, or start a fitness walking program, outdoor exercise is probably your best bet.  bene-fit offers coached endurance training for these types of events, and you can find great outdoor walking and cycling routes on MapMyRun or similar websites (tailored to your local neighborhood).  However, if you are looking to gain a significant amount of muscle mass (think bodybuilding) or train for a weight-related event (such as boxing), you are likely better off finding professional training in a gym setting. 

2) To what type of setting do I respond best?
For folks who enjoy the shared energy of a group setting, a gym-based exercise class or outdoor group activity like bene-fit Boot Camp is your best bet.  However, for those who are shy about or new to exercise, such settings might be intimidating - in which case hiring a personal trainer or beginning private yoga instruction might be just the welcoming, more intimate relationship you need to get started. 

3) How much do I have to spend?
Depending on what value you want to receive from your fitness lifestyle, the cost comparisons are many.  Most gyms offer a flat-rate monthly membership for using the facilities and attending classes.  In some smaller gyms, classes cost extra.  Personal training in gyms is always an extra cost; personal training with bene-fit charges per session or in packages of 3, 5, or 10.  Be realistic about both your finances and your goals - make sure the investment you make matches the commitment you're willing to offer.

Once you've asked yourself these questions and made a decision about your fitness lifestyle, you've taken the first step to figuring out what works best for you - a cornerstone of the bene-fit mission and philsophy.  Finally, we offer a few of our recommendations for the "hidden gems" of both at-home and in-gym fitness:

--a plank.  You can do it anywhere, hold it as long as you like, and work several muscle groups at once.
--jump rope.  It's one of the highest calorie burns for the lowest cost you can find.
--stairs.  Whether in your house or in a stadium, these can get your heart rate up FAST.
--DVDs.  If you have Netflix, you can rent them and return them for a never-gets-old video library.
--run-walking.  Try 1 minute jogging, 2 minutes walking, for a total of 30 minutes - in your neighborhood!

--classes.  Take advantage of the diverse and often calorie-busting group exercise activities.
--kettlebells.  A few swings of these weighted fitness tools and you'll be feeling the burn.
--treadmill.  Play with incline and speed to vary your workout and break up the boredom of cardio.
--box jumps.  If your gym has jumping platforms, ask a trainer to show you how to use them - and have fun!
--cable machines.  There are over 100 different full-body exercises than can be done on this one apparatus.

Whether you choose to work out in your home, outside, or in a gym, remember - consistency is key!  Choose what you like to do, then stick to it.  Build a healthy lifestyle in a way that makes you happy and content.

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