‘Why I stopped caring how much I spend on working out’

Gym memberships and fitness classes can be costly, it’s true, but exercise is so important to not only our physical but mental health. That’s why this writer can ALWAYS justify the expense. 

Growing up, I hugely admired and respected my mum for her running schedule. She was religious about exercising every second day and well into her 50s, she was one of the fittest people I knew.

She never really got the whole gym thing though because her reasoning was, ‘why pay a $100 a month on a membership when you can work out for free and get some fresh air?’ I, on the other hand, have never been able to get into running. I have tried the training apps, even the ones that gamify exercise (Zombies! Run, for example, was kinda fun), but ultimately, I just find running boring.

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Fitness classes were always the one thing that would get me out of the house, in particular, the highly polarising spin class. Since I can’t really motivate myself, I need competition of others around me and an instructor yelling encouragement to get me moving. But fitness classes have never been cheap and as a struggling university student, it was difficult to justify either a $100 monthly gym membership or a $20-a-pop spin class. So, for most of uni, I just stopped working out and I’m sure the excessive drinking didn’t help. My overall energy levels suffered, and I wasn’t in a great place mentally.

When I moved to Sydney for my first full-time job, my schedule was all over the place. Shift work at a 24-hour newsroom meant I’d either be working from 7am to 4pm, or 5pm to 2am any day of the week. It was super high pressure and I went back to the gym in an effort to stay sane.

I joined my local gym, which for $86 fortnight included unlimited fitness classes. I wasn’t earning much (#journolife) but going to the gym three, sometimes four, days a week allowed me to clear my head enough so I could deal with the intensity at work. As we all know, there is a lot of strong evidence to show the positive link between regular exercise and improved overall wellbeing. One recent study showed just 15 minutes of intense physical activity reduced the risk of major depression by 26 percent.

Before the pandemic, I took a promotional offer to join a reformer Pilates studio (a kind of workout that’s notoriously expensive) and was instantly hooked. Beautiful décor in the studio aside, the instructors were fun, helpful, and I have never felt stronger in my life. At $250 for 10 classes, which I would go through each month, it’s definitely not cheap and I acknowledge my privilege in having a salary that allows for it. But I’ve realise exercising regularly is essential to my mental wellbeing and whatever it takes to keep me going back is a luxury I can easily justify.

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