Fallen out of love with the old fitness routine? Why not consider rekindling your relationship with these alternatives to the gym.

It’s that time of year again when everyone seems to be back in the mindset of fitness, diets and general healthy habits. But if you, like me, feel alienated by mainstream gym culture or have just fallen out of love with exercise, don’t lose hope! Whether you’re a newbie to fitness or already have a whole routine set out for the year, we could all benefit from investigating into alternatives to the gym – if for nothing else than to avoid the hefty price tag.

My own past relationship with fitness was a somewhat toxic affair, as I pushed myself though a mixture of relentless cardio and crunches, fuelled by boosts of low self-esteem. Thankfully these days I look forward to working out as time I set aside for myself, a way of loving my body and taking care of my mental health, rather than as a way of punishing myself. I realised that, before I could fall in love with fitness, my motivation had to come not from striving towards an unrealistic body image – as mainstream fitness culture promotes – but from a place where I exercised to feel good on the inside.

So, let’s consider some alternatives to activating *beast mode* in PureGym. I’d never been a sporty kid and running had always felt beyond my capabilities, but, given some patience and routine, I got past the initial wheezing and tomato face. I’ve found that running (or, more realistically, brisk walking!) is probably the cheapest and most accessible option for getting into fitness. Especially here in Oxford, your run can be just as beneficial for your mental health as it is for your physical health. Use your route to explore the beautiful parks and their wildlife; I can recommend University Parks with its wide stretches of open field, where you’re much less likely to bump into someone your know than in the sweaty confinements of an Oxford gym! There are also a variety of apps available to track your route and distance, which can be a great motivator. Also don’t forget to find a running playlist that makes you want to get up and go (Spotify’s are ordered by bpm), unless you love the sound of your own breathing!

If running sounds nightmarish to you, then you may find a love of exercise in dance. Oxford Zumba instructor Rhiannon runs weekly sessions, paid for by my college SU, and I am a convert! No other form of exercise I have experienced makes me feel this good.  As reggaeton blasts through the speakers, you are instructed to move, dance and take up space. Fortunately for me, the emphasis is less on the technique and more on moving in a way that feels good. The experience is both hilarious and liberating, and the class leave the gym every week with rosy, sweaty and smiley faces. A more accessible home follow along option is The Fitness Marshall’s YouTube channel which has a wide selection of dance workouts to try out.

Alternatively, if you prefer a more relaxed approach to fitness and wellbeing, yoga is definitely worth a try. Classes are widely available in colleges or around Oxford, and for good reason; yoga is great for core strength, balance and flexibility and you gain a great awareness and appreciation of your body through the gestures and stretches. Moreover, there’s a big focus on breathing techniques, body scans and meditation, which I find are an amazing stress reliever. If you would struggle to access or pay for classes ‘Yoga With Adriene’ offers amazing free yoga flows on YouTube to follow along to.

Exercise is going to be essential to your mental health and wellbeing not only at university but throughout all your life. Find something you love and be open to some less conventional fitness options in 2020!