My gym is reopening next weekend. They’ve got stringent social distancing measures in place and they’re really looking forward to welcoming me back (or so they say in their email).
But it doesn’t matter how much hand sanitiser is available – I won’t be going back. I’m not the only Australian defecting from the gym. A survey of gym goers around the world by US-based athletic shoe review site RunRepeat found that 41% of gym members are considering cancelling their gym memberships or have done so already.
Behind the statistics are some common themes – lockdown has shown us that there is a different way to exercise. From Zoom classes to home gym spaces, former gym goers have found that working out at home is more convenient and more comfortable.
For me there is another reason. Since I started working out with daughters (aged eight and 10) at the start of Australia’s lockdown, working out is more fun than it has ever been.
It started as a practical way to burn off some of the manic energy that my daughters bounced out of bed with every morning. At first we followed YouTube workouts – my Aussie kids didn’t understand Joe Wicks’ accent. Then we tried an app – too boring. Then we started making up our own workouts and the fun began.
The girls compiled a workout playlist, an eclectic mix of school choir favourites, tween classics and, perhaps to torture me, the hits of Alvin and the Chipmunks – also known as How to Ruin Any Song You’ve Ever Loved.
We turned exercise into games. Sprints in the laneway were more fun when we chased each other. Mountain climbers were more fun with an imaginary mountain (“Come on, Mum! We’re nearly at the top!”) and planks were more fun when we filmed them à la Sam Kerr on TikTok.
The girls also gave new names (and sound effects) to my old-hat moves. Side glute kick-outs became “boy dog peeing”, air-punching became “defeat your enemy” and burpees became “torture” – or maybe they’ve always been torture.
But the best bit about our workouts is the way that we spur each other on. Or more specifically, the way that my daughters spur me on. I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder, or sweated more (“that’s gross, Mum”).
Since I started working out with my girls, I’ve seen a big improvement in my fitness. I can do more push-ups, I can run faster and I can hold a plank for longer. And in stark contrast to the solo workouts I used to do at the gym (headphones in, podcast on), exercise is now enjoyable. My old “just get it done” attitude is out the window; suddenly I’m looking forward to working out.
Now that the girls are back at school I’ve had to do some workouts alone (I admit to skipping the Chipmunks-infused soundtrack) but three times a week we’re out in our yard after school, debriefing the day with exercise. And, unfortunately for my gym, nothing it offers can top that.