Is there really a difference between commercial and box gyms? There is a seemingly massive divide between the clean and polished “commercial” gyms and the grungy “box” gyms scattered all over the country.
On the surface it looks like a war between two fundamentally different models being waged to win the hearts and minds of those looking to improve their lives through gym membership.
It may seem like more than just a clash between interior design and money; many would have you believe that it is a core division between addressing how to meet a person’s wants and needs in regards to personal health.
Should you throw away amenities and focus on high intensity functional fitness? Or should you trust the smiling faces of your local “globo-gym,” grab your free workout towel, and hit the sauna?
As much as you might expect a rant about how globo-gyms are destroying what being “fit” truly means, I’m going to blow your mind: the difference isn’t the gyms, the difference is you. What is different is your view of fitness, your capabilities and motivations, and what you think you need to get into shape.
There is Only One Thing That Makes A Gym Different From Another Gym
You may think that the difference between commercial and box gyms has to do with training methodologies or overall fitness goals, but that’s not really true at all. Could you get functionally fit in your local commercial gym? Yes. Could you build a bodybuilder physique at a box gym using minimal equipment? Yes.
The truth is that a person proficient in fitness methodologies can get a good workout in either one. Tools don’t make the workout, your knowledge of fitness and your motivation does. With that said, let’s look at the top myths that people use to distinguish the two types of gyms, and tear them to pieces.
Myth #1: Globo-Gyms Are More Expensive Than Boxes
Ha! Call around to your local Crossfits and you’ll see which one is more expensive! The commercial gyms have a low monthly rate with unlimited use AND they include classes. Boxes usually only offer classes and cost $100 to $300+ per month with few to no amenities. Personal training rates are usually comparable.
Myth #2: The Box Community is More Welcoming Than Globo-Gym
Let’s see, scantily clad, buff women and high intensity, sweaty men all trying to outdo each other during a crazy workout; I’m not talking about globo-gym here, I’m talking about your average box gym. There is definitely an excellent camaraderie among the box gym community, but it is earned.
Globo-gym just wants your money and for you to wipe down your equipment after you’re done with it. It is indifferent to your fitness objectives, as long as they involve paying monthly dues. Conversely, the majority of box gyms will be disturbed by your lack of dedication and progress if you don’t give it your all. Both are and aren’t “welcoming” in a way.
Myth #3: You Don’t Need Amenities to Get Into Shape
This may not be a “myth” per se, but the way box-promoters speak makes it sound like amenities will somehow harm your fitness objectives. The majority of high performance athletes know the health benefits of saunas, massage, and high quality nutrition and supplementation. While you don’t technically “need” your local gym to provide these, they can add value to your overall results.
From a fitness newbie perspective, knowing that you can jump into a spa after a gruelling 20-minute elliptical session may provide the motivation needed to perform that 20-minutes of work in the first place. Will you be the next Iron Man? No. But fitness is about progression, and getting started is the first step.
Myth #4: Globo-Gyms Makes You Dependent For Your Fitness Needs
A claim can be made that both types of facilities provide freedom; the commercial gym allows any individual to walk in with little to no experience and get a workout of some form on a mostly liability-free machine. Conversely, the box gym provides the training skills necessary for you to become proficient at working out anywhere with anything (ideally). You have a clear choice: dependence on a building with machines, or dependence on a trainer teaching you the skills you need to be fit.
I’ve always been an advocate of maximum freedom and I’m willing to pay for it. That means that even if my goal of skill development is dependent on one or more trainers, I will eventually be free to do what I want. This is something that you will never get when you depend on objects (in this case, $10,000 machines).
Myth #5: More People Get In Shape at Boxes Than Globo-Gyms
What you get out of your workout is completely up to you. Can you get in shape doing Zumba? Of course! Will you be functionally capable and truly “fit,” maybe not. The truth is that group training programs like Zumba have gotten way more people into fitness than all unconventional forms of fitness combined. While you may not reach the performance level that functional training facilities offer, you will get into better shape. Put in the work anywhere, and you’ll reap the rewards. The difference is all about your objective (again, a personal choice).
Like most things in life, your choices eventually come down to resources; in fitness, those resources are time, motivation, and money. If you have enough of all of those, you could get the best of both worlds; enjoy the sauna, swimming pool, and spa in the commercial gym while also attending skill development classes in the grungy box. Figure out what you want to accomplish and how you want to do it; there are plenty of businesses out there that will provide options whichever way you want to go.