Get fit without the gym contract
19 April 2016
I’ve been pretty active most of my life, probably because I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm and was constantly outside getting up to no good, running through the wheat fields and collecting rocks on the mountain tops. I also went to schools that, lucky for me, were very sport driven. Not so lucky for the more intellectual types who didn’t enjoy being forced into athletics, rugby and netball! Schools back then were very different to what they are now… even though I do agree with some sort of team sport for children because it teaches them so much more about life than just sweating, staring at their teacher puce-faced, wishing he or she would instantaneously combust!
When I completed high school I have to admit that I was rather lost when it came to what sport activities to do next. At university there were 100’s to chose from (and none where compulsory!) and I tried a couple that I hadn’t before like rock climbing, which ended up being an awesome choice since the sport took me away for adventurous weekends to the Drakensberg and taking part in “death-defying” activities, like abseiling off the 10-story Block A on campus.
My university sport activities did however dwindle as the demand my studies, boys and partying put on me left me with little time to even think about putting on a pair of tekkies.
When I changed courses, I found myself studying at a private institution where sadly no extra murals were offered. At that point, the constant partying had slowed down and I found myself asking “well, now what?” as I was starting to feel a bit lethargic and podgy – extended periods of excessive peer-pressure-driven alcohol consumption can do that to you.
I had had the odd gym contract here and there since I left school but a) it was hard to afford as a student and b) I found pushing weights indoors and running on a treadmill like a hamster awfully boring, which was also why I had to find an alternative endorphin-releasing activity. I also longed for my youth and playing outside…
Until that point in my life, I viewed a bicycle as something that got you from A to B and that was it. I had a pink Raleigh “racer” as a teenager, with the school bag carrier over the back wheel, and the handlebars turned upwards because that was considered cool! I can’t understand why though! My trusty bike got me to school and back every day bar the days when it was pouring down and mummy- dearest would drive me.
I had never been exposed to mountain biking, so I’m not entirely sure where the idea came from, but I saved like mad and bought myself an entry level, hard tail Schwinn mountain bike (with trusty V-breaks) with the help of then Bicycling magazine editor, Sean Badenhorst. I only sold this beauty last year! It was tough to let go of her as we rode many a race on and off-road together. Cycling has since become a huge part of my life. So has trail running but this was almost by “default” since my husband is a professional trial runner…
The quest at finding cost-effective, outdoor activities wasn’t all that easy in the past but there’s been such an inspiring movement towards spending more time outside with just yourself and then with loved ones or friends, that this tedious task, even in urban areas, has got much easier! Sure, a lot of the groups you could join, like Parkrun (www.parkrun.co.za), cost you but there’s no contract and it’s a minimal fee. Then you’ve got Acrobranch (www.acrobranch.co.za) that have activity parks (which include zip-lining, acro-bungy and tree-top adventures) with branches all over the country. Urban Fitness Outdoor (www.urbanfitness.co.za) is another perfect example of how you can get fit without breathing in stale, sweaty indoor-gym air! Adventure Boot Camp (www.adventurebootcamp.co.za) has been around for 10 years and there’s a camp in pretty much every town and big suburb in the country.
A bunch of parks have “outdoor gyms” now where you can get fit on your own or join a group of friends. Putting on a pair of trainers and walking out your front door for a brisk walk or run remains the simplest and most cost-effective way of getting fit. If you’re lucky enough to own a bike, jumping on it and cycling out of your own yard is just as easy! And if you still really battle to find the time to get fit without the gym contract, there are weekend, where you can plan a little trip out to the Cradle of Mankind just outside Joburg or to Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch.
I’m still not the hugest fan of indoor training but it has its place, particularly when you’re doing strength training or rehab with a coach or physical therapist, when the weather is bad or when you’ve had a manic day at work finishing up when it’s dark.
Breathing in fresh air, feeling the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin remains my “church”. A place where I can connect; where the endorphins can run free; where stress leaves my body and where I get to spend precious time with my loved ones. Outside, I am free.
Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.