Skip the gym, head outdoors

16:00, Jan 30 2013
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Outdoor training beats the gym for atmosphere every time.

As published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the number one new year's resolution is "to lose weight". To achieve this goal, I wonder how many Kiwis signed a gym contract after falling for that I-get-paid-via-100-per-cent-commission smile on a busy CBD street corner.

The same publication said only eight per cent of resolution makers are successful. So, now that January is almost over and your resolution went in one (y)ear, then out the other, does that gym contract and buyer's remorse have you looking for the people holding the "Free Hugs" sign?

Maybe it's time to rip up the gym membership forever and get outdoors for your lifestyle change, health, and fitness. I did, and so can you. Here's why:

The savings

What are you spending per week on your gym membership? Per year? Maybe add towel hire and a bottle of water each day. And don't forget about that $4 protein box you feel pressured to buy. The gym is expensive.

In just a few years you're likely to save a fortune by training outdoors. Outdoor training is free. Push-ups on the beach are free. A jog is free. A bodyweight session with a mate is free. Running up the many hills in New Zealand is free. And that 40g box of protein filled with chemicals ... can be replaced by 250 grams of fresh salmon that contains 60-plus grams of protein.


The locker room

Avoiding gym locker rooms is a huge bonus in outdoor training. Some men avoid common decency by thinking the locker room mirror and sink is a great place to hoist a leg, turn on the hair dryer, and blow dry their undercarriage (yes, I've heard women are just as bad). Hundreds use the gym shower and toilets during prime time before cleaning crews come in to give it a cleaning. That's too much fluid sharing amongst strangers for anybody's liking.

Train outdoors, and your session finishes as you enter the comfort of your clean and private shower. Clean oxygen during an outdoor training session followed by a warm, cleansing shower is a luxury we can all afford.

The music

Tired of hearing Bieber's latest and most annoying single? Do boy band ballads make you want to projectile vomit like a burpees session does? Globo-gym DJs should be held accountable for the crap they spin, because music matters. "Music is like is a legal drug for athletes," says Costas Karageorghis, Ph.D., from London's Brunel University School of Sport and Education, one of the world's leading authorities on music and exercise. "It can reduce the perception of effort significantly and increase endurance by as much as 15 per cent."

Whether you like Rage Against the Machine for a home CrossFit workout or Michael Buble during an ocean-front jog, outdoor training can be completed to the sound of your favourite music to increase motivation and performance. Become your own DJ, and your workout intensity will increase.

The vitamin D boost

Being out in the sun - within reason - is good for you, because if you are low in vitamin D, you're negatively affecting the health of your bones and muscles.

You won't find vitamin D in the gym, and while our neighbours over in Aussie spend $100 million per year on vitamin D testing and $150 million on vitamin D supplements, the sun provides it for free during an outdoor exercise session ... of course, slip-slop-slap still applies.

The attitude

Gym attitudes vary ... from wannabe Arnies in singlets and grunts, to gym bunnies showing off their undernourished bodies while decked out in fake tan and a small fortune in Lulu gear. The gym brings out ego, skin, and intimidation for many mere mortals looking to lose a few kilograms.

The outdoors is a bit more relaxed. Sunrise joggers smile, wave, and acknowledge early morning effort. There is more space to roam and have a private (yet public) outdoor session. When intimidation and attitude cease to exist, results are more likely to come your way.

The environment

A gym is a box. With televisions. Weights. Protein for sale. And room to Zumba.

Climbing up Mt Vic or performing pull-ups with views out to Rangitoto is not exercise. It's a privilege, it's fun, and it's memorable. The New Zealand environment is one of the most beautiful in the world. Our bike rides, our hikes, and our city views provide landscape that is less about exercise and more about fun.

A St Helliers to Mission Bay run with a celebratory beer/wine at the end? That's what I call living a healthy life.

Santa Claus was good to me, and he brought me a rowing machine. I added a barbell with weights, kettle bells, a jump rope, and a quality outdoor speaker. There isn't a muscle in the body I can't test, and that's all I need for myself and my clients/corporate groups. I cart my gear down to the waterfront, and we have quality outdoor sessions in the sun with stunning water views. 

Outdoor training has changed my life and training for the better, and maybe it can do the same for you.

But if the gym is your destination? That's cool. With the right plan, you can get in quality hypertrophy sessions. I visit a 24-hour gym in my CBD, and it's got exactly what a man/woman with a plan would need. Spin classes in some gyms are superb. CrossFit is amazing. And if the gym classes (even Zumba) are what you seek to stay motivated? Cool. Keep it up.

But if entering your gym is a big hurdle, just remember - if nothing changes, nothing changes. So if you're struggling to keep this year's resolution just as you did last year's, then change your environment. Ultimately, it can change your training habits, your health, and your life.

- Executive Style