January 3, 2010

Hard truth about corporate gyms…

Why doesn’t my commercial gym just have a whole bunch of kettlebells, barbells, dumbells and pullup bars instead of machines?
This is not a simple question, and therefore will not get a simple answer.

Money for nothing.

Like most everything else, it comes down to money. Corporate gyms don’t make money from people who get results from exercising through effective training methods. They get results from people who sign a membership contract and don’t use the gym.

I trained at a corporate gym for a while, and their own statistic was that 75% of those who sign a membership will not even be using the gym in 90 days. Of course, they’ll still be paying and the gym owners will be making money for nothing for the next two years.

Effective exercise takes time, discipline and lots of hard work and nothing else. Most people won’t pay to work that hard. Machines appear to offer an “easy way out” for lazy, misinformed or desperate people.

Any idiot can step on an exercise machine, slap on an iPod and watch TV, while making some flailing motions on some worthless exercise machine. Ever had to “elliptical” your way quickly from one place to another? I rest my case.

No doubt you will burn slightly more calories than sitting on the couch at home, but you gain little else from it.

As far as strength training with machines goes, forget it. Just forget it. Lifting heavy objects is the only way to teach your body to lift other heavy objects safely. Pushing or pulling a lever on a machine does nothing but teach you how to push and pull levers, no matter how much resistance is offered.

The owners and sleazy salespeople at big corporate gyms make money off people who come to a commercial gym, are in awe of all the fancy machines, and sign a two-year contract with the good intention of using the gym almost everyday.

The inviting atmosphere and vision of getting in shape while watching TV gets you in the door. I’m sure there are pictures of fit people on the walls using those worthless machines, and if you only sign on the dotted line, you’ll get there too. I’m sure they also have a rack full of miracle supplements – that are marked up at least 100% – to help you meet your goals.

Congratulations! You are now paying hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for a gym membership at a corporate gym.

For the first few weeks, all is well and you may even lose a few pounds as your body adapts to the new routine. But quickly, your body will find ways of decreasing the effort required to pedal that bicycle, or “elliptical” your way to health. The results stop, and you soon find reasons not to go to the gym.

That is how corporate gyms make money. The initial investment of those machines is more than offset by the steady stream of people willing to pay for easy fitness.

The problem is there is no such thing as easy fitness!

Being strong and lean requires work, sweat and sacrifice. Not machines. Muscle soreness, missed social engagements, and denying yourself things like junk food is part of the game. There are no shortcuts. No easy routes.

You will feel pain from working out. Deal with it.

Learn to separate slight soreness from actual injuries. If you haven’t been moving much, your body will hurt at first, but the results will come fast. Just don’t fall into the trap of gauging the productivity of your training strictly by the amount of soreness you experience. More on that later.

You will have to miss out on the after work party, the football game or your favorite TV show. Deal with it.

You will have to plan your meals, because working out hard while eating nothing but processed junk will hurt. All that sugar, salt and fat does not fuel a body well enough to accommodate hard training.

You have to pay attention while you train (not watch TV). If you are not paying attention while lifting a heavy kettlebell, dumbell, barbell or your bodyweight, you will get hurt. Period. And, it will be your own fault.

You will have to cut the bullshit and be accountable. No more crap about how you have a “slow metabolism” or “I eat pretty good.” You don’t.

If you don’t measure out every gram of food, you don’t know what you are eating. You have a “slow metabolism?” That is because fat requires less calories to maintain than muscle. Want to change that? Move more, and gain muscle.

Yes, there are some people who have health issues that impede their progress. Guess what? No one cares. The task is the same. Take responsibility for your health and work hard.

Leave your self-pity at the door. It does not serve a purpose. You must take control. No one else will, or can. Find out from a medical professional if you have some physical reason why weight loss is difficult (for a small percentage this is a real issue).

The bottom line

Your neighborhood corporate gym makes money on the promise of easy fitness. There is no such thing. Machines are the tool they choose to use to separate you from your money.

Serious training is not for the person who is content to disconnect their mind and body with an iPod, a TV and some form of repetitious movement that serves no purpose.

It takes hard, intelligent work to meet a fitness goal. Lifting your bodyweight and other heavy objects is the best means to that end.


  1. those big TVs in gyms really torque me off. how can one focus watching one of those things? i don’t get why they have them at all.

    Comment by jugalbandiblog — August 28, 2010 @ 5:09 am

  2. Look up an article by Steve Maxwell called: “10 Reasons I don’t do aerobics”

    Comment by Administrator — August 28, 2010 @ 5:15 am

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