Fitness 101 for People Who Hate the Gym

Katherine Pannell

29 February 2020

Have you ever gone into a gym, started running on the treadmill and absolutely hated it? I feel you. This has happened to me way too often and surprisingly, it’s not because I don’t like running. For some people, going to the gym can be a great trigger for being productive but personally, I just used to get bored and didn’t enjoy it. I know that if I was dedicated to keeping gym interesting, I definitely could’ve grown to love it but I didn’t really see the point when it was so expensive. If you do have a gym membership and it works for you, that’s great and these tips are still useful. But for a lot of people, gym fees are either too expensive or it’s just not their vibe. If that is the case for you, or if you’re like me and just don’t like the idea of paying for a gym membership, here are some tips to crack the system.

1. Fight Club is Fun

If money is the issue then this tip obviously isn’t the best option for you, but if you have a bit of spare cash to invest in something, martial arts are a great place to start.

Fun fact: not all martial arts have to be violent.

Photograph by Thao Le Hoang via Unsplash

My favourite is Aikido, which is a peaceful self-defensive martial art, and it has been my foundation for having a mobile body for pretty much my whole life. Martial arts have a unique way of building muscle, giving you a solid dose of cardio and improving your core strength while still keeping you nice and flexible.

I know it’s hypocritical to scoff at gym fees and embrace dojo fees but hear me out. The reason that I can justify paying for martial arts classes and not a gym membership is the value for money. Unless you’re paying mega bucks for a fancy gym that has regular classes taught by experienced instructors, you’re essentially just renting out space and equipment. Whereas with martial arts, you’re paying for an experienced instructor, a well-rounded exercise program that is already figured out for you, valuable skills that are applicable in real life and the opportunity to be a part of a supportive community.

Granted, martial arts aren’t for everyone, but I genuinely think that most of the time it’s just about finding the right martial art and the right dojo. If you think that martial arts are intimidating, I would really encourage you to just ask around and keep an open mind. There are so many options out there, whether you want to do some grappling with Jiu Jitsu or take it easy with some Tai Chi, there is something for everyone.

2. Guys, it’s 2020

YouTube is seriously your best friend! Unless you’re a weakling who always clicks on the “RIP Vine” videos and never gets anything done (I’m also guilty). At the beginning of last year, my flatmate told me about Tim Senesi on YouTube and I am so happy that he did. Tim posts regular videos on his Yoga With Tim channel and is my go-to for any time that I feel like I need a break from all the speedy stresses of life.

There are plenty of yoga channels on YouTube which are all great in their own way but Yoga With Tim has been my favourite for a while now. His cues are easy to follow, he has a variety of videos that focus on different muscle groups and posts videos suitable for both beginners and people who are a little more advanced.

Bonus points: his videos often feature his cute-ass doggo, Ollie. 

I won’t lie, I have moved a bit away from YouTube workouts in general but there was a solid patch when Fitness Blender was my holy grail of bodyweight sessions. It’s usually really easy to find some at-home workouts which are great if you’re short on space and don’t own any equipment.

The Nike Training Club app is also an awesome resource and it’s free. I’ve been using it for years and it has been a consistent motivator for times when I want to make excuses. The app has tons of equipment-free workouts that you can do literally anywhere, which is fantastic if you’re staying somewhere that only has a small patch of free space. If you’re staying in T(h)ugwell then I really feel your pain; the pizza slice room does not help your situation.

Photograph from

And of course I couldn’t talk about fitness without mentioning Natacha Océane. This woman is an actual goddess. I’ve never really been into the whole fitness influencer thing or trusted whatever they were selling, but she is my exception. She gravitates towards functional training to get you feeling like a top-notch athlete. None of this wavering focus on which body parts need to look thicc or thin, just pure power through and through. She posts a bunch of workouts on both her Instagram and YouTube. A lot of them require a gym but her HIIT workouts are usually equipment-free and are, dare I say, fun. She sells workout guides that are based on scientific research and while I haven’t personally tried them, I can’t imagine that they’re anything but exceptional.

3. Footy Friends

If you’ve ever really enjoyed a sport but didn’t want the full responsibility of being on a team, or if you’re like me and straight up just aren’t good enough to be on a team, then this is perfect. Round up some friends, find a park and just play. It’s great exercise, it’s social and you’ll probably get shredded abs just from all the laughing. I used to do something similar with football and it was honestly the highlight of my week. I’ve never enjoyed 2 hours of cardio so much in my life.

Photograph by André Noboa via Unsplash

4. For the Aesthetics

Cape Town has such ridiculous views that it isn’t difficult to find motivation for a walk through Kirstenbosch. If you like being outdoors, taking advantage of Cape Town’s natural beauty is an easy way to get fit. There are plenty of options, whether you’re into cycling and want to go off-road in Newlands Forest or love sea views and would be keen for a jog along the Sea Point Promenade. The Sea Point Promenade also has an outdoor gym so you can do more than just run if cardio isn’t your cup of tea. Cape Town has a wide range of hikes of all levels and pretty much all of them are gorgeous, so getting into regular hikes could be a great way to stay active and experience some incredible views.

Photograph by Grant Durr via Unsplash

Photograph by John O’Nolan via Unsplash

Photograph by Nuvin Sithanen

Whether you have a gym membership or not, these are things that most people can incorporate into their lives to stay active. If you struggle to keep up with exercise and be consistent with it, the best advice that I could give (not that I’m necessarily someone who should be giving advice) is to always keep it interesting and go with how you’re feeling. If you’re too tired to exercise on a particular day, I really don’t think that you’re doing your body any favours by forcing it. If you had planned on doing a HIIT workout that day but later just really weren’t feeling it, maybe try out some yoga instead. It’s better to change your mind about the exercise that you had planned on doing, as opposed to doing nothing because the thought of a sweaty sesh was pure death. 

“Slow and steady wins the race” – a guy who actually turned out to be a bit of a d***head.


  1. Ari

    I love this piece. I love that you’re focusing on how to get fit in general and in a fun way, rather than focusing on targeting certain areas of the body to look good. Super helpful😊

    • Katherine Pannell

      Hey Ari, thank you 🙂 So glad that you found it helpful!


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