Living LifeWise: Why I Keep Quitting (and Coming Back to) the Gym

Living Lifewise Sunday, June 1, 2014 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Aaron Reid.

Over the last 20 years, I have had many gym memberships. For every time I’ve joined a gym, there inevitably comes the time when I quit that gym. Though there are many things I like about gyms, it seems that what I like the most is not being there.

I tend to join gyms out of a belief that putting myself in a bright and shiny environment full of fitness-minded people will motivate me to get in shape. But it doesn’t ever work out that way. My gym memberships always go through the same stages:

1. The Promise of a Better Life

At the beginning of a gym membership, I am ready to commit to change. The people I see working out there are all beautiful and fit, and I am going to be just like them!

Lifting Weights

2. The Pinnacle

After three to four weeks of regular workouts, I’m practically euphoric. I can tell that at least one of my muscles is bigger than it was when I first joined. I feel inspired by the fact that I’ve kept with it this long, and I’m starting to believe this might be the time I stick with a workout routine long term. I permit myself to begin daydreaming about how good I’m going to look when I go to Wild Waves for the first time in 15 years.

3. The Missed Workout

After doing so well at the gym for so long, I tell myself it’s OK to skip a workout. Instead of going to the gym, I go out for a delicious flame-broiled burger, confident that I’ll burn off all 650 calories later thanks to my steady workout regimen.

Elliptical in Gym

4. The Long, Sad Decline

As I stare at the burger-shaped deposit of fat on my belly, I realize I have only been to the gym three times in the six months since I skipped that workout. Experience should have taught me by now that one missed workout always leads to another, but it’s a lesson I refuse to learn. Fully disappointed in myself, and lacking any confidence that I will ever return to the gym, I call and cancel my membership.

5. The Return of Hope

After enough time has passed—generally at least two years—I start to believe I can commit to a gym workout regimen again. Not at the same gym, however. Once I leave a gym, it is forever tainted with the stink of my failure. So I look for a new gym, always hoping that the next one will have that special something that inspires me to stick with it. But what would that special something be? A slice of cake dangling off every piece of exercise equipment? A sock puppet that greets me at the door? No.

The sad reality is that there is nothing a gym can do that will magically infuse me with the discipline required to work out regularly over a period of months or years. When I finally find that discipline—and I believe I will—it will come entirely from me.


Aaron_ReidAaron Reid is a lifelong non-athlete, husband, and father of two. Aaron lives in Tukwila near a nice running trail with rabbits, most of whom have never seen him. He began running in 2012 and ran his first 5K that same year. However, his most impressive fitness accomplishment is that he has been sucking in his stomach from the age of 12 to the age of 38. Living LifeWise is a part of Aaron’s quest to one day enjoy running and have washboard abs. Meet Aaron and hear more about what Living LifeWise means to him on the LifeWise Health Plan of Washington YouTube channel.