GYM Class: THE DIY, DIFNF Thesis

Our modern America is a no longer a producer’s economy but a consumer economy. That’s not conjecture or philosophy, it’s a sad fact and the reason for the current credit crunch in equity, debt and housing markets as well as the reason George W. Bush wants to give you $800 bucks in a rebate check so you can go straight to Circuit City, Target or wherever, to “boost” the economy.

It’s tricknology folks.

And what I mean by that is that a lot of times as consumers we are compelled by false shortages, told to go shopping, lest the terrorists win. Moreover we often buy things more for piece and peace of mind than for utility.  And corporations count on us to buy items and let them collect dust so that when we see the dust, we are convinced that the good we purchased is obsolete. A lot of treadmills bought for the home serve as laundry hampers, dry-wall holder-uppers and post modern art as a case in point.

This is why from late November through late April of every dual calendar year, exercise machine firms, fitness centers and gyms -- I like to call them, one-way banks or reverse ATMS -- see their greatest uptick in revenue.  Many are determined after Thanksgiving to get that weight down, but too busy or cold in the post-Super Bowl,  pre-spring doldrums to care that 24-Hour Fitness, Bally’s Total Fitness, Gold’s Gym and Equinox are getting direct deposit like they’re employed by you. Hence, the reality: physical fitness is an $11 billion industry and the weight loss business tops out at $30 billion. That’s $41 billion clams for just about the most indulgent, fattest country in the history of mankind.

What gives? Apparently us, in time and money.

Now if you go to the gym to be seen, look cute in your new jogging suit, get premium advice from that ripped dude or that hot chick who is so cut she needs a band-aid, then more power to you. If you’re disciplined and have a certain fitness goal that can only be attained by being motivated by others, then fine. The gyms I mentioned are all decent places to do these things.

Just realize that for a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week, you will likely spend an average of $200 a month in both real and opportunity costs. Not everyone is a between jobs actor, an independent contractor or a M.I.LF who doesn’t work and stays home with the kids. Many really don’t have time for fitness as most of America is working to buy the ab-flexer rather than actually use it. Here’s how many gym routines tend to work:

So to go to the gym you get in your car, you park, you go in, you check in, you get dressed, you come out, you stretch, you do some measly cardio workout on a machine or lift weights wrong or go to a class that works up a sweat. You shower, you get changed, you get in your car, you sit in traffic and maybe you buy a burger and you get home just in time to go to sleep. If you do it in the morning, repeat process and rinse down with Mocha and a scone. You could potentially drop $5,000 per annum in this routine if you’re not careful and be the same porker/flabmiester/wasteful gym rat that you were after Turkey day.

This blogger’s advice: DIY, DIFNF. (Do it yourself , Do it for Nearly free)

Run: That’s it. Go somewhere and run ‘til you get tired. Walking fast is also good.

Get a rope: Buy a cheap plastic or leather jump rope: 300 repetitions everyday, you’d be surprised at the results.

You take the weight: If it's too cold to go outside, wear small weights on your wrists and ankles and run, jump or walk in place.

Smooth-E: Eating fruits and vegatables will shape off pounds immediately. If you don't like the taste grind it up and drink it down.

Use Rubber and/or YouTube. Allusions aside, find some rubber tubing and do resistance stretches and lifts. Internet research will show you how if you're interested. Not using that bike you bought? Slip the bike's clean innertube around your upper back, stretch it out in front of you with your hands, get down and crank out 200 reps of pushups! Same for sit ups. And forget workout tapes and DVDs, if you have the technological capability, YouTube has an extensive library of workout jerks for you to mimic. Someone mentioned in the comments section that podcasts are good to listen to as well.

Hit the pipe: Not that pipe, you'd probably get skinny faster than you want to. I'm talking a metal 3/4" PVC and connectors with pipe insulation for the handles that will set you back less than ten bayzacs. You can use this to make a push up bar, or chin up bar, which can be built in a half an hour.

 In the bag: Buy a heavy bag for your house and punch the crap out of it with some padded gloves or some handwraps-- with controlled compact punches and sharp breaths --  until you're soaked with sweat or can barely lift your arms. Punching it 100-300 times a day is the equivalent of a really good workout, probably the best cardio and conditioning excercise around actually.

The gym is cool, just like eating out, just like going to a bar instead of a liquor store. But if you employ the DIY, DIFNF method, when you make the summer debut that you worked out all spring and winter for anyway, your pockets will more than likely be fatter than you are.

BTW, if you have a fitness center at your apartment complex or are close with someone who does -- a relative, a girlfriend/boyfriend or good friend --- and you still pay to workout, (picture me shrugging my shoulders and wagging my finger) you should do some serious thinking.

It's time to beat tricknology and look good doing it!

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Philip Brewer's picture

My own favorite workout is bicycling for transportation. When I worked at an office, I'd bicycle to work all summer. It took about 20-25 minutes each way by bicycle versus 15-20 minutes by car, so for an extra 10 minutes of round-trip commute time I got 40 to 50 minutes of aerobic exercise every day.

People are surprisingly resistent to the idea, though. Besides the people who will ride stationary bikes but won't ride a bicycle for transportation and the people who walk on the treadmill but drive three blocks to run an errand, there are people will do mock martial arts or dance moves in aerobics class but don't do real martial arts or go dancing.

I've often thought that it would be funny to create new exercise programs that mimic the backbreaking labor of people in poor countries: the rice planting workout or the potato harvester's fitness program or the brick-maker's way to a healthy life. It makes me laugh just to think of lycra-clad yuppies stooping and bending, doing nothing useful, thinking about thin thighs and 6-pack abs.

Guest's picture

There are a couple of problems with that scenario. If I were to ride my bike for only 20 minutes prior to work, I would be drenched and odoriferous. I don't know about you, but I don't particularly like to wear office clothing with sweat stains, or work in close proximity with someone who smells the way I do after a 20 minute bike ride. Besides that, as it is, my commute would be more like two hours. It's only 25 miles, but it's 45 minutes by car.

More power to you, if you have a job and location that allow you to ride your bike for transportation. Just don't be too hard on others - they may have jobs that are more sensitive to the side effects of such exercise, or have commutes that become unreasonable when human powered.

Like they say, 'Every place is within walking distance if you have the time.'

Jabulani Leffall's picture

That's so true. I trained as a boxer and am getting back into it and I paid 35 bucks a month to train with Joe Fraser and $50 a month when I moved to California to train with cats who worked with Michael Moorer, the former heavyweight champion, and I actually boxed sparred and what have you. I could have paid $139 at New York Sports Club and took a Boxing Class with some weakling from connecticut: "Now punch and step and step and bunch, you're doing great!" What's really funny about what you said is that if you can get these simpletons to do Taebo, then you could probably get them to do the "Diamond mine workout," or Cotton-Picking Calestnicks. "Cement Mixer" Or the "Run for your lives from death squad on horseback workout." All you need is a celebrity endorser and then it's a mllion-dollar business. I love America!


Jabulani Leffall

Monetary Gadfly, Common Currency

00000 Broke Blvd. Kitchenette #68 & 1/2

Lowcash, CA 90000-0000

Linsey Knerl's picture

Only what I love about it is that the money spent on a gym membership will be better spent for some than others.  While I really am with you on the home workout ideas, I am one of those who really benefited from a membership when I lived in an area where they were available.  If you can avoid overspending on fancy extras, the basic $30 a month gave you access to equipment, cable TV, classes, free quality daycare and children's activities, hot tub and sauna (very clean BTW), and tons of social interactment.  I even paid for a personal trainer for 4 months, and found it to be worth every penny.

I don't think spending cash for a gym membership is any more of a waste for some people than paying for cell phone plans, cable tv, or bar tabs.  It's pretty much what floats your boat, and as long as you can stay within your spending plan, than that's what counts.  My article Apples and Oranges discussed how we can justify spending for some things as long as we sacrifice others.  Financial discipline gives people an amazing freedom that allows for buying pretty much whatever they want.. it that is the ONE thing that they really want.

BTW -- I don't think I've heard MILF since the last American Pie movie... .. While I get your point, I'll have to respectfully disagree on one point: "Not everyone is a between jobs actor, an independent contractor or a M.I.LF who doesn’t work and stays home with the kids."  I have been all 3 at one point or another, and these were the ONLY times in my life when I didn't have the time or money to join a gym.  It was when I was working the corporate 9-5, that I sucked it up and joined.  Now that I'm home taking care of kids 24/7, I have NO time to work out, and money is going to feed them, not buy caramel macchiatos... 

But I get what you're trying to say. 

Guest's picture

For some people the gym membership is worth and for others it's not - depends on the personality and motivation. Some people are more motivated in groups and others work out better alone.

I was a member at a gym for awhile simply for the pool ... cheaper to go there than to try and build an INDOOR pool of my own. When I stopped going to swim though I dropped my membership (I had about 2 months unused of the year membership I signed up for so wasn't too bad.) I did try other things while I had the membership and I liked the elliptical enough that I bought a decent cheap one and used it for a year before I got bored with it and had a cat medical emergency that prompted me to sell it.

I do want to add walking (fast) to your list since running hurts my joints (always has.) I have been walking 3-5 times a week typically 5 miles each time since November and it's been great exercise if you really speed it up and keep up with it.

And that there are some really great podcasts out there for different types of fitness as well as some general fitness motivation podcasts that are pretty good. They're easy to find in itunes.

I am going to be trying the couch to 5k podcast/program in case my problem with running has had to do with trying to do too much too fast ... after I break in the new pair of shoes a bit. I've also been doing yoga occasionally from a podcast ( has some great podcasts with follow-along sheets that show you the poses.)

I do sometimes miss the gym... and access to a pool in the winter...

Guest's picture

I enjoy running. The temperature where I live is 20 degrees right now. If not for my gym membership, I wouldn't have been able to run today. Some people are comfortable running in the cold -- for me it caused chest pains (the air is extremely dry on top of the cold). Not to mention getting sweaty in 20 degree weather is a recipe for getting sick. I'm actually saving to buy myself a treadmill so I can get rid of my gym membership though.

David DeFranza's picture

I am no fan of blind consumerism, but I would have to agree with Linsey that for some people the gym is a reasonable and justified expense, just like cable tv, internet, travel, etc. are for others.

I know I am in the minority because I enjoy running in the winter. I actually prefer the cold to the heat. That said, when I have had a gym membership, working out for an hour in the well lit, warm, fitness center really brightened up those dark winter days.

If you love the gym but don't like the cost, remeber to check out the deals available at your local community center or YMCA. Many towns have very nice facilities available for a fraction of the cost of a private fitness clubs.

Guest's picture

I agree that for different people it has a different value. I have free access to a "gym" at my apartment complex - which has crappy hours and minimal equipment.

I belong to a local gym with several locations near me. One by my house, one by work, and one in between. For $33 a month, I get unlimited classes (including spinning, zumba, yoga, kick-boxing), unlimited personal training (to make sure I'm not lifting incorrectly), sauna, and showers (with free shampoo ,etc.).

I did stop my membership when I was struggling with some bills and ran outside a lot, but I'm completely satisfied with how I'm spending this money.

Also, if you look at it from an entertainment/fun standpoint the 1 hour class I took this morning is far cheaper than going to or even renting a movie. Plus, better for me.

Guest's picture

I have a gym membership (which I use on my lunch hour every single work day provided Im not embroiled in a meeting that lasts the full 9 hour day), but on the weekends, especially in the winter, I like to workout at home with a good workout video rather than brave the cold for a run. I've purchased almost all of my videos from the goodwill or salvation army for around a dollar each. I've gotten some real winners (the videos from the early 90s are much much more difficult/provide a better workout than the fluff put out today on DVDs that cost $20+ each), which I've been using for a few years now including the first "The Firm: total aerobic body workout with weights" and "Nautilus High Impact Aerobics" along with many others. Videos are a good option for people who get bored jumproping in their apartment, or for those who need the motivation of a guided exercise routine. plus workout outfits ca. 1991 are highly amusing.

Guest's picture

While I agree with the overall message, I disagree that a gym membership is always a rip off. My fiancee and I go to our YMCA almost 6 days a week (we both work full time btw). I realize most people aren't like us, but there are many people who we see at the gym nearly everyday. When staying fit and healthy becomes a way of life, a [reasonably priced] gym is well worth it for the equipment, classes, social interactions, and community.

As an avid fan of bodyweight exercises, I like most of the alternate exercises suggested in the write-up. I will however note that it's probably a good idea to get advice from a trainer or fitness buff friend (or at the very least do some youtube and web research before hand) to get general tips on how to do them properly. Exercises done incorrectly could lead to things like joint problems. For example, jumping rope with bad technique puts unnecessary stress on the knees and back, and punching a heavy bag without proper wrist alignment or wrist bracing can potentially result in wrist sprains.

Finally, you've got to be kidding about the apartment complex gym. Every apartment complex gym I've seen has been utter and total crap. They usually only have rusty universal machines that are missing pieces, rickety p.o.s. treadmills, and if you're lucky a dip/pull-up tower that may or may not stay standing while you're on it.

Julie Rains's picture

For years I resisted the gym membership because of its expense -- bought a house in a walkable neighborhood (walked and ran regularly); had exercise videos, home gym equipment, strength band from a friend who is a physical therapist. For whatever reason, the diy didn't work for me -- developed joint problems from running, blood sugar levels creeping up, etc.

So I broke down and joined the Y, and it was one of the best things I've done for myself. I get strength training, cardio training (even those crazy cycle classes that raise my heart rate), an indoor pool, indoor track, etc. so that I can vary my workout.  Sometimes it gets crowded (I go on my "lunch" hour -- which may be at 9:30 a.m. or 1 p.m.) and I wonder,
"don't these people have to work?" But then I remember that many who I see don't have 9 to 5 hours: a physician, firefighter, teacher, retail manager. And I am more likely to see someone getting rehab with a walker or oxygen tank than I am to see tight-fitting clothes.

I do have DIY exercise friends -- some are avid cyclists and in terrific shape; others though think that walking is enough and have ended up being cardiac patients in their early 40s.

So while I agree that you shouldn't waste money on gym equipment or memberships, I would like to add my voice to the group that says: do what works for you.

Guest's picture

I'm adding another agreement with Lindsay. Working out covers such a broad range of motivations. If your only goal is strength and fitness then a membership would be an unnecessary expense. If you like to combine workout time with community then it isn't.

I walk 3 miles 4-6 times a week and find the time an excellent opportunity to catch up on my reading via audio books and podcasts, or simply to enjoy a bit of quiet time in a beautiful seaside park.

I also go to the gym religiously three days a week and have for years. I have worked out alone but it was always a chore. By attending the gym on a regular schedule I've gotten to know a couple of the other regulars socially and most of them by name. Even on those days when I just don't want to go, and we all have them, the thought of seeing friendly faces is a good motivator.

Yes, health clubs do have those self-absorbed jocks who like to pose a lot but they are far from the majority. I'm sorry that they stick out so strongly in your memory that you didn't have an opportunity to experience the community of people who sweat together. And just because someone likes to stand in front of a mirror a lot doesn't mean that he or she can't be good company. Those people tend to know a lot about exercise and can be a great well of knowledge. When I got past my intimidation (and judgment) and asked for advice in rehabing from an injury a couple of people I thought of as vain turned out to be excellent teachers and temporary coaches.

Yes, a health club membership is expensive but for those many of us who enjoy the community, and who don't want working out to be an exercise in self-discipline there is a great deal of value to be derived, value which has nothing to do with showing off or dating.

Guest's picture

Join a hiking club. What you pay for gym membership could just as well go into boots, backpack, compass, maps, and hiking pole. After that, expenses are minimal. You'll explore miles and miles of hiking trails in county and state parks that your tax dollars were paying for all this time. Whether or not you lose much weight, you'll at least be able to take lots of photos of scenery.

Guest's picture

I also agree with many of the commenters that a gym membership is worth every cent if it is actually used. I go to the gym 6-7 days a week (while working full-time) and absolutely love it! I usually do a group excercise class (kickboxing, spinning, etc), which is great because it is not only an excellent workout, but also a way to socially interact with people who share the same fitness goals as I do. I think I would give up my cable subscription before giving up my gym membership!

Jabulani Leffall's picture

I agree with just about every assertion on here and in the end it's a choice. Your fitness goals determine what you should do. For instance, for the women who said she wanted a pool, the club is a good move and yes people the "Y," particularly the swanky ones, is awesome. I'm not discouraged by gyms, I've just had the benefit of seeing both sides and in the end, the two trips to and from, the preparation time and the whole nine, doesn't justify my personal expense, which is comprised of time and money. Having said that, fitness is not a luxury, it's not like the Internet or cable, certainly not like the former, which most of us need to participate in discussions such as these. A club membership though is not cable TV, it's an investment of considerable time and money, an intellectual, physical and emotional decision so all things should be taken into consideration. Because you don't need cable really but if you don't do some kind of excercise, you may find yourself breathing hard on stairs or panting running after your toddler and if you don't make the right fitness choices you'll smack your forehead when you realize you haven't gotten in shape and have to keep working to make up for that lost money. Keep looking good people. Thanks for the comments!


Jabulani Leffall

Monetary Gadfly, Common Currency

00000 Broke Blvd. Kitchenette #68 & 1/2

Lowcash, CA 90000-0000

Guest's picture

I agree with the general point of this post. However, I think that if a lot of people don't get their "measley cardio workout" done at the gym, they just won't do it at all (but they'll still stop and get that burger on their way home from work). I realize that gyms make their money on the people that don't use their memberships. I think that people should look at their gym membership as an investment. If you don't go, it's a waste...

Guest's picture

Running/Jumping with ankle weights is actually quite dangerous to the joints. Probably not a good idea.

Guest's picture

Sorry, there are some things you just can't do for free or nearly free.

I am in the gym every morning before work. Five days per week.

I have a strength-training regimen that involves barbells, freeweights, cable sytems, power racks, and a few isolation machines. Duplicating that in my home would cost me thousands of dollars.

If I were to try to do it your way, it would be even worse. Where would I find enough tree limbs and boulders, in incrementing weights, to put together a Rocky IV montage every morning?

And how much safer is it to use a power rack, with incremental weights and people around me to spot, rather than trying to pick up unbalanced "heavy things" in my back yard?

Also, let us not forget the other niceties provided by my gym membership, which can't be easily duplicated for free-or-nearly-free... I have access to basketball courts, a running track, all manner of cardiovascular machines, a six-story climbing wall, exercise classes, two swimming pools, a hot tub, a sauna, and a hot shower every morning with shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, deodorant, lotion, shaving creme, and razors all provided for me... and I don't have to wash any towels, either.

How much money do you suppose I'm *SAVING* by not buying toiletries, using my washing machine less, using my water heater less, and (most importantly) having the proper equipment and people around me to prevent hospital visits for injuries!

Guest's picture

Jabulani -

You routinely give excellent financial advice, but please refrain from advising others on fitness and personal health. Unless you are a certified personal trainer, the suggestions you make might be at best ill-informed and at worse dangerous!


Guest's picture

I am a mom who works full-time. Believe me, if I didn't belong to a gym, I wouldn't work out at all. There's simply no way I can work out because every moment I'm not working I'm with my son, who demands my complete attention. Even just trying to do a few sets of crunches ends up with him jumping on my chest, laughing, and demanding hugs and Teletubbies. This is sweet, but not conducive to fitness. My gym has childcare, so I can drop him off and go for a quick run. It also gives me the chance to designate certain blocks of time as unassailable "gym time," which more or less obligate me to go and work out at those times.

Guest's picture

When you're in a not good position and have got no cash to go out from that, you would require to take the loan. Because that will help you emphatically. I take short term loan every time I need and feel OK just because of that.