I Cancelled My Gym Membership and Got In the Best Shape of My Life

Progress is possible without paying for it.

Soon after I graduated from college, I moved to the New York City area to start a new job. I was beginning this new chapter with some extra weight I had gained over the last few years of school-late nights, greasy food, and non-fitness priorities were to blame. Despite having grown up playing sports and running for the track team, at this point in my young adult life, I wasn't really enjoying exercise. And my results (or lack thereof) showed as much.

I tried to love running and the machines at my gym, but I never managed to get excited about those workouts, and my body didn't have much to show for those efforts. So, I decided to train for a half-marathon with a friend-everyone said once you do a race, you'll be hooked-but not only did I not have fun while training or during the race, but I didn't lose much weight, if any. "What gives?!" I thought. Shortly after, I enrolled in grad school and attended evening classes after work. Suddenly, my schedule was swamped and my free time was nonexistent.

Those late nights made it impossible to get in a run after such a long day. So I knew if I was going to do anything, it would need to be in the morning. I looked online for workouts I could do at home, and discovered YouTube workout videos. Soon, a huge world of workouts and exercises I never even knew existed opened up for me. I bought my own set of dumbbells, a yoga mat, and a kettlebell and fell in love with both the workouts (HIIT workouts and full-body strength training were my new go-to's) and with the results.

Adding in that weight training was pivotal for me. I started seeing muscles I didn't know I had and grabbing weights I never thought I'd be capable of lifting. I felt strong, and that gave me more motivation to keep going. I was also exploring boutique fitness classes, which taught me a lot about proper form and muscles groups. So, if an at-home workout had a move I didn't really enjoy or that triggered an existing injury, I knew how to swap it or modify it for my needs. The best part? I actually liked working out! I was having fun sweating and feeling like I accomplished something before I left the house-heck, even before the sun came up. Before I knew it, fitness went from an option I kind of avoided to an essential part of my life. If I had told myself a few years ago that one day I'd be waking up at 5 a.m. for a kettlebell workout, I never would have believed it.

One morning I clicked back to one of the first arm workouts I tried streaming at home. In the beginning, I could barely complete it with 5-pound weights, but this time I reached for a 12-pound set of dumbbells. It was just a 10-minute workout, but getting through it gave me such a rush. I realized, Wow, this is what it's like to feel strong.

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