Look around the gym, how many people are smiling? How many are getting results? Here’s an alternative to the hamster wheel workouts we’re all getting bored with.
Gyms have become soulless places. I spent much of 2008 in a couple of gyms belonging to an Irish chain and some of my time in a privately owned “lifters” gym. Guess where I had most fun? That’s right the lifters gym. Why, you ask.
The atmosphere in most commercial gyms has gone the way of effective training. The free weight section is small and unkempt, machines take up more floor space than necessary and at least half the floor is made up of Treadmills, Steppers, Stationary bikes, rowing machines and those silly cross trainers.
And then there are the people that use them. IPods on, eyes glued to the many TV screens, these people look like a scene from Orwells classic novel, 1984. I think the contracts these people sign forbid them from any social interaction and frivolry within the confines of the gym.
If anyone smiles or makes eye contact, never mind conversation, they get removed and shot.
Get down to the lifters gym and you’ll see complete strangers looking out for each other, helping and encouraging each other, cracking jokes between sets and generally building camaraderie.
Would you be comfortable training near this guy?
Now I have an admission for you, I have never held a commercial gym membership. I prefer to train either at home, outdoors or at Wild Geese HQ. Minimal kit, no IPods, no TV screens. I always get results.
Why? Because making training fun, making it interesting, taking the chore away from it means you’re more likely to stick to it, to work hard and to make progress. And what’s the point of paying some commercial giant a small fortune if you aint going to get results. Many of you reading this may have just spent up on a new membership, if so, sit and rethink. Would you be better in a smaller place, a little of the beaten track, less shiny but with a smell of sweat and an atmosphere of determination, grit and camaraderie? The chances are you would, plus you’d save a few quid and have more fun. Failing that do what I do. Buy a kettlebell or two, make yourself a sandbag and learn some bodyweight drills. You may now train in your front room, back garden, the beach, the park or one of my favourites, the kid’s jungle gym.
Yes I said it, I go to kid’s playgrounds and workout. Obviously not when it’s full of kids. Sometime I take the kettlebell or sandbag, otherwise I just use bodyweight. Every time I go the workout is
I may use the swing set for jackknife or pike push-ups. The swing set provides a thick bar for really challenging pull ups.
The slide is for incline or decline push ups. The monkey bars are for pull ups, chin ups and all kinds of hanging abdominal work. The hopscotch gives you agility work, the fireman’s pole can be a tough no feet hand over hand climb, the bridges provide bodyweight rows and dips, benches can be jumped onto, imagination is your only limitation. And all that is without taking any kit with you. Add sandbags and kettlebells to get really brutal.
Training outdoors, even here in rainy Ireland, is fun, the fresh air is great for you, you’re not sucking in recycled air conditioned muck and there’s never some skinny-fat twerp with an ego bigger than his biceps getting in your way.
Give it a go, bring the fun back. Even better again, get some mates together and compete a little.
Here’s an outdoor partner workout: You need a pull up station and some markers, these may be bags, jumpers or other bits of playground kit.
Assign each marker an exercise, for example:
Monkey Bars – Pull ups
Slide – Push up
Swing – Jackknifes (for the abs)
Bench – Bodyweight squats
Here’s how it works:
Partner A is on the pull ups, as soon as he starts his set partner B sprints to the first station, e.g. the slide and does 10 pushups.
B then sprints back to A where they swop over and A runs to the slide. When A returns to the pull-up station, B runs to station 2, the swing. After his set of Jack knifes he returns to the pull up so A can sprint to the swing.
The pull up guy must do as many as he can until the other guy runs to his station, does his set and runs back.
The obvious incentive here is for you to be as quick as possible. If B dawdles while A does pull ups, I’d say A will take his sweet time to punish B with a whole heap of pulls!! That’s only an idea. Get out there and do something different, just enjoy it!