Pros and cons to each one of these, and in the end it all depends on what your goals are. I find that examining the challenges that each present for long term commitment is a better way to figure out which is right for you, since the goal is to create a new lifestyle, a habit, and anything that impedes that formation should be carefully considered or avoided. In the end, what you need to decide is which of these two you can best commit to, which one will heighten the odds of your continuously working out, and let that be the deciding factor.
First, quick rundown of the benefits provided by a gym. A wide array of expensive equipment and free weights. Professional staff that can assist you or provide personal trainers or cardio classes if you are so inclined. The opportunity to people watch while you are working out. A monetary commitment that may induce you to keep going so as to not have wasted your money.
The cons are subtle, but powerful. You have to drive there, and often that very commute can be enough over time to dissuade you from going. Sometimes the ambience is annoying, due to either a kind of crowd that can be off-putting , annoying music, incompetent staff, or unwanted attention from others when you’re trying to focus on your workout. Gyms can get crowded during peak hours, making it frustrating to work out when all the weights or machines are taken. The time added to your total workout time by the commute can make fitting the gym workout into your schedule an onerous task. Being watched by others while trying to get in shape can be awkward, especially if you’re not comfortable with your body. Finally, and strangely enough, the sheer variety of machines and workout options can be overwhelming.
The pros of working out at home are obvious. First, you can work out whenever you like, cutting out time spent driven in the car and making your schedule much more flexible. You are working out in private, and thus need not worry about unwanted attention, whether due to your being attractive and bothered by others, or not considering yourself attractive and being embarrassed about being watched. You need never wait to use your own weights. The convenience of being at home allows you to shower in your own bathroom, to make a recovery shake in your own kitchen right when you want it, and to play your own music at any volume out loud and not over earphones.
The cons, however, can be insidious. Nothing is easier to resist than a home work out when you are exhausted or not in the mood. There can be a lack of drive due to being in your own home that makes sticking to a home work out a challenge, given how easy it is to instead opt to watch TV or stay in bed in the mornings. You have to purchase your own home equipment, whether that be home fitness DVD’s or free weights. Maybe you have no space at home to put a small gym in. You have to provide your own stimulation to workout, since there is no monetary commitment or role models working out around you to inspire you. Finally, it can be lonely to work out alone without people about you to watch or converse with.
Which is best? Clearly it depends on your personal style. If a gym membership can cost $40/month, than a year’s worth of payments can amount to almost $500, which is more than enough to deck out your own home gym. If you are a social person who enjoys watching fit people workout, being alone in a home gym might be boring. If you are overweight and very self conscious, learning how to work out in front of regular gym goers might be awkward. What you need to do is be honest with your own goals, decide how committed you are, and see which set of pros and cons fit you best. Remember: the goal is to be able to commit to a lifestyle change, to adopt a new habit that will prove to more than 3 week fad. Thus be honest with yourself, and when you decide to commit, make that commitment as sincere as you can.