Hate gyms? Here's how to get fit & shed kilos without setting foot in one

The secret to getting - and staying fit - is to find an activity you love, writes personal trainer James Crossley

17 December 2017 - 00:00 By james crossley
Boxing is a great way to get fit - and relieve frustration - so invest in a punching bag for your home.
Boxing is a great way to get fit - and relieve frustration - so invest in a punching bag for your home.
Image: 123RF/jayzynism

As a personal trainer, I often encounter people who say they want to get fit for a specific event. They're willing to take out a gym membership and work hard for eight to 12 weeks, but they're not really changing underlying lifestyle habits. So, when the event has been and gone, they go back to their own ways. The gym card gets moved to the back of their wallets.

An old client I saw recently is a case in point. He always hated our gym sessions; it was clear he'd been bullied into it by his other half to lose weight for their wedding. They trained as a pair but he would use any opportunity to sit down, moaning and yawning.

In the end, he lost weight and looked great in the wedding pics - but as soon as the day was done, he put it all back on, and then some. He just wasn't a gym person.

I appreciate that the gym just isn't for everyone. So, gym-haters, what do you do? The key ... is to find an activity you enjoy or fancy a crack at
James Crossley

However, he's now back to a healthy BMI, and this time he thinks it's sustainable. The difference is that he's taken up fencing. He says he loves the thought of going to train and takes part in competitions. The fact that it's exercise is almost of secondary importance; he's fallen in love with playing the sport.

For this man, fencing is the best workout in the world, because it's the one he'll stick to.

I appreciate that the gym just isn't for everyone. So, gym-haters, what do you do? The key, as my fencing friend illustrates, is to find an activity you enjoy or fancy a crack at. Boxing, dancing, tennis, horse riding - whatever it is, you're much more likely to stick at it if you enjoy it.


Playing sports or doing class activities like dancing also offer a social boost. You meet people, you become socially active (those things don't necessarily happen in a gym) - and you get accountability.

This is something that we bang on about in the fitness industry, because it's the thing that makes you stick to your goals. Personal trainers offer accountability - they monitor your progress, and tell you when you need to do more (or make you feel guilty for not turning up in the first place).

But gym-haters probably don't want personal trainers on their case, so instead they can use the social aspect of sport to be held accountable. Sign up to play doubles tennis and you have to turn up, because otherwise you let three people down.

Accountability also breeds consistency; the chances are that your doubles pairings will want to meet every week to get their hit of tennis. And consistency is key to your health.

Goals are also a great way to fire you up for your sessions. If you join an evening running club, after a few months consider entering a 10km race. It will take your participation to the next level, and get you naturally pushing your body to new achievements.


I recently got an obese man hooked on table tennis after much searching for his "best workout in the world". He's now playing three days a week, an hour a session, and it's making a huge difference to his life. Not just physically but mentally as well.

With all this exercise, you should get more attuned to your body. A better sense of nutrition will follow. Again, a few small changes can make big differences. Don't skip breakfast - if you do, you're twice as likely to be overweight. Drink plenty of water.

Avoid processed foods, saturated fats and trans fats. Eat more fruit and green vegetables. You don't need to go extreme here - treats and occasional drinks are fine - just look at how you fuel your body and try to make the right decisions.

Make some choices, set some goals, and find your "best workout in the world". - The Telegraph



Not only is it exercise, but martial arts will hold you accountable for your fitness because of group classes and will also improve your self-defence. It's a good skill to have.


Also advantageous for its group accountability, ballet, or any form of dancing, will improve your co-ordination, balance and grace.


It may take a while and a few monumental falls to become a decent ice skater, but you will get to experience the cool thrill of the rink, and bragging rights over your friends and family.


Take advantage of South Africa's many parks and trails for a twist on regular running and be rewarded with some breathtaking views.


Invest in a yoga mat and some loose-fitting pants, find a yoga instructor to keep you responsible, and improve both your physical and mental strength, and your balance in the process.


What better way to get out your frustrations than beating something without it being illegal? But, really, boxing will also teach you defence strategies and discipline.


Perhaps a more expensive option, but worth some thought considering South Africa's many excessively large shopping malls! Also more fun than jogging. - Jessica Evans