I Hate the Gym: Here's How I Get in Shape Instead
Up until about a year ago, the biggest waste of money I've ever spent has been on gym memberships. I buy into the idea that I'll actual hit the gym hard every week, and then never set foot inside. Basically, I'm paying the gym's rent. It's ridiculous.
The issue with me physically making it to the gym lies in my schedule and sheer exhaustion. When I work late, the last thing I want to do is get on a machine or lift weights, especially if I haven't even eaten dinner yet, and so continues the Netflix-and-chill lifestyle. And morning workouts? Forget it. I practically have to be pried off my mattress with a forklift, so trying to get myself on a treadmill is a lost cause. I know I sound incredibly lazy, and I'll own it. But the thing is, I still want to get in shape—just not with typical gym workouts.
So began my quest to get fit without feeling like working out is a chore. After trial and error and tapping into different areas of my personality, I was able to get into a great groove that toned my muscles and helped me feel a lot more confident. If you fall into a similar category, take a look at what's worked for me below!
Do The Seven-Minute Exercise
Amazon Echo ($180)
I'm such a huge Alexa convert now that I'm an official owner. I ask her everything from the weather to my schedule to calling a car. What I didn't realize she could do (aside from ordering a Domino's pizza, which is dangerously easy) is that she can curate a seven-minute workout. She walks you through a few different exercises like wall sits, pushups, and high-knees over the duration of seven minutes, and once you're done, you can either ask for another or take a breather. I absolutely love it, because it's like taking a workout class at home, and every move is totally doable, even for beginners. She also coaches you through it, telling you how good of a job you're doing (which is quite funny to hear coming from a bot).
I've found doing this to be fun and effective—in fact, it's based off a scientifically proven HICT (high-intensity circuit training) workout to help you burn fat and improve your cardiovascular health. But even if you don't have an Alexa, you can still lead the workout yourself at home.
Find a Class That Suits You
Given my busy schedule, stress-relief is a top priority, so, in theory, exercise seems like a no-brainer. Research suggests that physically active people have better emotional and stress responses than people who are sedentary because being active forces the body's physiological systems (which individually work to fight stress) to communicate more than usual. However, the thought of being overtly active after a long day in the office makes this perpetually exhausted girl cringe.
That's why I picked up a yoga class at my gym (yes, the gym that I seldom used), figuring going to a class with other people at a set time every week would motivate me and help reset my mind, and, not to mention, put that monthly fee to use. After only one calming and slow-paced class, I felt my stress-induced tight chest and racing thoughts decrease in intensity. Plus, yoga is proven to increase muscle strength and decrease body fat, so while it requires less physical endurance than a cardio workout, it's still incredibly effective at whipping your body and mind into shape.
Find a Buddy
There's strength in numbers—literally. The Köhler Effect suggests that weaker individuals perform better when supported by others, which rings especially true from a fitness perspective.
I somehow convinced my boyfriend to come to yoga class with me, and he fell in love with it so much that he set a recurring calendar reminder so that we stick to it. Having him as my yoga buddy means that I have someone to push me to go even when I'm not in the mood, and there's also that element of guilt that I'm letting him down if I decide to skip out. My suggestion is to find someone who's more motivated and reliable than you are so that you'll actually stick to your workout plans.
Try Self-Led Yoga
For those days when my workload piles up or I have a schedule conflict and can't make it to yoga class, I utilize YouTube yoga. There are so many good channels and teachers that make being an at-home Yogi a breeze. One of my favorite channels is Yoga With Adriene, which boasts a slew of different videos like total body workouts, targeted yoga (like yoga for abs or—get this—your feet), and beginner's yoga. Just set up your laptop, lay down a mat, press play, and flow.
Do Something You Love
I swam competitively growing up and in high school, and I think it's the best form of exercise—ever. It works your entire body at once and burns an insane amount of calories and eases your mind while improving muscle definition and core strength. My gym has a pool, so it only made sense to utilize it considering swimming doesn't make me moan and groan, and actually makes me feel pretty invincible afterward. Initially taking a dip in my gym's pool a few months ago was a palm-to-forehead moment, and I couldn't believe I hadn't considered taking the literal plunge earlier. Doing something physical that you genuinely enjoy, whether it be dancing, skiing, or hiking outdoors on the weekend is the absolute best way to get in shape, in my opinion.
Take the Stairs
Every time there's a choice between taking an escalator or the stairs, I always opt for the staircase. It also feels great to make it to the top first while watching everyone else slowly make their way up. (I know I'll pay for this one day.) I try to do the same thing in lieu of using an elevator, though, admittedly, my office and my apartment are on the 18th and 24th floors, respectively, so I tend to take the elevator in these cases.
The same applies to walking. It's incredibly tempting to take a car from A to B in New York City, but I know I'll save money and burn more calories if I walk instead. (Senior editor Hallie Gould knows this to be true, too.) If you don't live in an area that's conducive to walking, try parking farther away than you normally would, a great tip we picked up from Byrdie reader, Laura.
Get a Standing Desk
Or, if you don't want to fork over the money for one, create a DIY standing desk using stacked books or a tray with legs. You can also just move your computer to an elevated surface. (As I'm typing this, I'm standing at my kitchen bar area.) In addition to burning more calories than sitting, standing while working is shown to increase productivity. When I'm feeling particularly lethargic or sedentary, I love moving to a ledge and getting the blood pumping through my body and brain.
Fit a Workout in Anywhere
What easy ways have you found help you stay in shape? Please share with us in the comments!