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Return to the gym?

Julien Bertherat, Personal Trainer.

It has been interesting watching people workout in the park and seeing how many of them have adapted to exercising regularly outside. It gives a new perspective on the centrality of the gym to our fitness lifestyles and behaviour. The transition from exercising inside to doing so outside has been a new experience for lots of people. Of course, working out indoors remains a popular option for many (just see the number of indoor exercise videos that have appeared online over the past few weeks). But the change to exercising outdoors, using minimal or no equipment, or running as part of a rounded routine, to making use of benches, trees and other fixed outdoor assets is, I think, new and will linger long after this immediate crisis is over. At which point many people may find themselves questioning whether to continue with their previous gym membership or deciding if it is possible to ditch the gym and continue with flexible and free (!) open-air exercise. There are benefits to exercising outside. It is invigorating to do so in the sunshine, certainly in the summer, and it can be fun. The question is whether this is more attractive than working out in a gym; with its access to specialist equipment, advice and the protection from the elements that a gym offers (particularly as not every outdoor workout takes place under warm sunshine). Plus, there is the question of ‘gym culture’, that potentially insular, tribal and exclusive bonding that can take place on the gym floor which many find a turn-off. The truth is that, for a lot of people, such gym culture and the routines that members follow are more tolerated than appreciated. So, curiously, the current lockdown has been something of a liberating experience for many people in this regard. Time will tell if there is a shift in attitudes away from gym membership when the lockdown (eventually) fully lifts. What is certain, however, is that for those who remain gym members, a further period of adjustment will need to take place once the gym doors do open, as we move from light resistance, open-air exercise and back to heavier and more technical indoor workouts.

Either way, I imagine that the recent popularity of elastic and resistance band training will continue, both inside and outside of the gym environment. These affordable and flexible training tools have become increasingly popular as the lockdown has continued and I predict that they will remain a fixture of our fitness lifestyle for years to come. Who knows, they could be the fitness fad of the lockdown.


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