Not everyone loves doing their exercise down at the local gym, and of course that’s absolutely fine. I’ve spent many a gratifying early morning jogs racing, occasionally walking, through local parks, up and down hills, around ponds. Outdoor running is a great way to get or stay fit, get fresh air into the lungs and experience your local environment.
Likewise competitive sport. I’m a football fan and have always enjoyed getting together with friends on a weekday evening or Saturday morning. We don’t tend to play so often these days but for the best part of a decade we’d make the effort, get up early if need be, book a 5-a-side court or simply claim a spot in Regent’s Park and play for an hour two, once or twice a week.
Non-competitive sports are also fun. Cycling is a personal favourite and is something I’ve often practiced both by myself or with one or two friends. We’ll often send each other a WhatsApp message in the week with a route suggestion – nothing too demanding, but always something new. Thinking about it now, it could well be that cycling is my favourite way to be active; maybe there’s no better way to explore and get to know your local area – woodland, parkland, streets. It’s also just a great way to spend time with friends and loved ones.
Despite all the above, I don’t actually consider myself all that active. Most weeks I do some form of physical exercise two or three times a week. But that’s also often once or zero times a week. What I do know is that I never regret doing exercise. Certainly the idea of it doesn’t always get me excited. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the times that I’ve actually looked forward to heading off to the indoor climbing centre in the middle of the week, straight from work. But I’ve literally always felt great for having done it.
Whether it’s seeing the people you get on with, challenging yourself, successfully meeting a challenge, or simply getting the blood going and adrenalin pumping, one or more hours of beneficial physical activity is a brilliant way to spend one’s time. But with so many different opportunities out there for us to go and get, then stay, fit, why go to the gym at all?
For me what the local gym offers is the chance to specifically target areas of your fitness and body. That could be your cardio fitness and health, it could be your lower-body strength, or upper-body flexibility and suppleness. I will always prefer running in the park to running on a treadmill. But when I do running in the gym, I can more accurately measure my progress, and better inform myself as to any areas of weakness.
I use my gym work to benefit my sport. For example, I noticed that my calves were beginning to cramp towards the end of football matches. So I made a point of going to the gym and targeting calf work to build up the muscle and resistance. I also like to go to the gym before playing again if I’ve been injured for a short time.
So if you want to measure your progress, target weaknesses or help your recovery from an injury, I’d say get yourself down to the gym – it’s another great way to help you get and stay fit.