Watch my life unravel...



Top Canadian Blogs - Top Blogs

Local Directory for Ottawa, ON


A poll: bike or gym

Remember last year when my back was messed up and I couldn’t walk without excruciating pain, so I lay on the couch for months eating Smarties? Well, perhaps not surprisingly, I gained a few pounds (okay, 10). In the past whenever I gained a few pounds, I would shed them again without much effort. My body seemed to gravitate towards its preferred weight. I was lucky that way.

But I’m starting to think I might have outgrown that tendency. Now my body seems to want to cling to any extra calories that come its way. I’ve been wrestling with the same pound for months now. I lose it, I gain it back, I lose it again, I gain it back again. Over and over.

Anyway. I know I need to eat less and exercise more. I do go for a good walk every day, but it’s not enough.

Which brings us to our poll question: If you were me, would you buy a bike, or join a gym? (If you’re reading this from a feed reader or email, you’ll need to click over to to vote.)

30 comments to A poll: bike or gym

  • XUP

    I know lots of people who join gyms. They are all gung-ho about going to the gym for a few weeks. Then they’re not. I also know lots of people who own bikes. They ride them all the time.

  • I’ve a chronic, painful back condition which has worsened over the years. Given also a bad hip from an old injury (which is much to blame for the back problem), strong lower-body musculature is essential. But how to achieve it, given my physical limitations?

    For more than a decade, I used a stationary bike in addition to regular walking. (Sitting in one position or standing for more than a few seconds soon becomes unbearable.) Six months ago, I was able to acquire another exercise bike and have been using it three to four times a week ever since. I’ve not only trimmed down but am stronger and thus able to walk further with less pain.

    Were there a secure place here to keep a bicycle downstairs or outside, I’d get a bicycle. Alas, there isn’t.

  • Sm

    Make change you can live with. Whatever your choice, it needs to become a regular part of your life now, on a pretty permanent basis.

    Just so you know, my smarty-pants 56 year old brother takes bikes trips of 1500 kms on his holidays, in places like New Zealand, and this summer from Geneva through parts of France. You can’t do that from a gym. On the other hand, my niece met a very nice man at the gym.

  • lucy

    You could buy a bike now that summer is coming. You can always do with a bike especially if you don’t drive and you can use it as a means of transportation as well as for exercise. Then when you’re ready to put the bike away for the winter you could decide to take out a gym membership. It’s always harder to find outdoor activities to do consistently in winter and working out indoors will seem like a better option when it’s minus 30 outside, so at that time it will probably be easier to stick with it.

  • I love to go for exercise programs that are a lifestyle rather than an exercise program. I also counsel many of my clients about this. Proof of this: choosing to live without a car and instead walking or biking everywhere. Since tuning up my bike, I bus even less. It’s fantastic! It’s so much a part of my life that when I do have a car (business trips) I still choose to walk or bike to and from the conference centre if it is 45minutes or less away from where I am staying.
    That said, it is harder in the winter. Gyms are good for then, but only if you are willing to trudge out into the cold to get to the gym.
    Good luck on whatever you choose to do!

  • EK

    If you live anywhere near the canal, I vote bike! I love to bike around the canal. And bikes are handy to get you places on the cheap (after the initial cost of buying one). Take the time to pick one you really love – I always got ones I didn’t really like and as a result, never rode. Bikes with many gears just confused me, so my new one-speed is all I need.

  • I’m voting for bike because I would assume it’s more fun and at least you’re going somewhere. 😉

  • Mo

    Gyms are great for people who like to use them and go on a regular basis. I prefer the outdoors in all its glory (I don’t even take my iPod). I walk a lot in local parks and forests. Biking is another favorite exercise.

    My feeling is that our spring/summer/fall seasons are too short as it is to spend time inside in a gym. Just be consistent and enjoy whatever mode of exercise fits you best.

  • Cara

    I voted for the gym because you can use it all year round. Having injured myself rather painfully on ice I now rely on the gym at my community centre. Biking is fun and a good way to exercise, but the gym can work on all parts of your body. Plus, I find the other people there fun to talk to and it makes me feel I’m part of a community.

  • Definitely a bike – it gives you much better scenery than sweaty people at a gym

  • Dave 1949

    Get a bike and see the world.
    Get a Gym and see other people sweat and 4 walls.
    It’s a no brainer.

  • I’d buy a bike.

    The question to ask yourself is do you enjoy being in a gym?

    Personally I’ve learned that I hate MOST aspects of a gym. I hate how noisy they are, I hate the tvs I hate the locker rooms, I hate sitting on a stationary bike. I do like specific classes.

    I like being part of that class community if it has that feel.

    So I’d buy a bike and check out community centre classes geared to my interests. I’d do stuff like yoga and square dancing and learning to skip double dutch…but thats me :-)

  • Knittingshelley

    I picked bike because with a gym membership you really have to be sure that you would use it or it’s a big waste of money, whereas I’m pretty sure that you will ride your bike everywhere considering how much you already walk. Also, did you know that you can get something called a “trainer” for your bike which turns it into a stationary bike, allowing you to use it inside during the winter? Most bike stores carry them and I think you can find them used. I’m considering getting one for myself for use in the winter. I would also look into going to a local rec. center to exercise. They have equiptment and classes and offer drop-in rates, so you’re not outlaying a bunch a cash before you know if you’ll go often enough to make a membership worthwhile:

  • Deb

    If you and GC got bikes, I could see it being the right answer. Knowing you, if you joined a gym, you would become obsessed and make it work for you. If you are only going to do the bike, buy some free weights (just 5 or 8 lb ones) and build a bit of upper body muscle. Muscle burns fat, while you are resting.

  • I think a good exercise program needs a variety of exercises. At the gym you can do strength classes, including core strength, plus the cardio too. And the year-round thing is a bonus.

    The trick is not thinking about whether to go or not, just get out the door without talking yourself out of it!

  • Laura

    I vote for bike. Especially when the weather is warm. It almost doesn’t feel like exercise. When it gets colder, I’d then look into some fitness classes at the community centre.

  • unless there is proper structure in the city for bikers, I will not cycle to work, thus I have a gym membership. After seeing a horrific accident last year on Sussex Dr, I will not even attempt a trip on a bike there unless proper lanes and barriers are put in place. Sorry, but some parts of ottawa are very dangerous to cyclists, and city planning to date has been a #fail.

  • Lots of good advice above! As you know, I do both. I still go to the gym because I enjoy the yoga and other classes. Plus they last an hour so I “have” to be there for that time and I don’t get to bail just because I am tired or something. That said, if I could only do one, it would be bike.

  • Gillian

    If you’re going to join gym, you want to go where you don’t have to pay an upfront fee or a year’s membership. Pay a month at a time until you know it’s the right solution. I go to the gym; the bike sits in the garage. I have a treadmill too but it is probable that I’ll get rid of it. I’m more likely to go to the gym. I do weights with quite a lot of satisfaction.

  • Libra

    Both. Use the bike to get to the gym 😉

  • I’m cancelling the gym and getting a bike this weekend because my new hood is a great one to bike in and now that I have toddler spawn I never get to the gym.

    I used to love the gym – mostly classes- when I was too scared to bike and had lots of free time.

    It’s personal I think – but as a bike doubles as transport and you seem to like being out and about in the community my guess is bike for you. Though in winter you might have to look at classes .. or just over eat carbs and fat and then get back on the bike in the spring : )

  • There are pros and cons to both. I’m a gym person for a few reasons:
    – if I’m going on a bike ride, it’s too easy for me to turn around if I’m feeling lazy (or because it’s too cold or rainy or dark or there’s a big hill or there are a lot of mosquitoes or … lazy pretty much covers it). On the other hand, if I go to a class at the gym, I’m pretty unlikely to leave in the middle (unless I injure myself or something).
    – with my gym membership, I can do do different classes – my gym has weight lifting, aerobics, yoga, and martial arts based classes, for example. Biking is just one thing.
    – On the other hand, if you love biking, there’s something to be said for being outside and enjoying the summer. It’s also a good method of transport (if you’re going places where you can lock your bike).
    – Getting stronger is a big motivator for me – which is why I do weight lifting and boxing classes. Biking doesn’t offer those rewards (although it’s great for endurance & leg strength).

    Like some others have mentioned, it doesn’t have to be one or the other – you can get a bike now and take classes that interest you (or drop in at the gym) if/when biking no longer works for you.

  • Gyms are full of germs. Stay home and ride your bike.

  • fuzzpedals

    Hey, as a midlife human with sudden difficulties getting rid of 10 lbs when they used to ‘fall away’, I can totally relate.

    One back surgery and a second recommended (and fended off), I find cycling good for transport but not so great for exercise: to get enough muscle and cardio action going, I have to be on the bike a few hours (2-3), but the body position makes my disc/sciatic parts scream and feet go numb. Even with a ‘comfort bike’, I find this to be the case.

    The gym, with a few helpful intro sessions with someone who knows how all of the things work, trains your whole body, and gets your back, upper body and core strong. You can take classes, or do your own thing. You can stay for 20 minutes or 2 hours. You can make friends, or not.

    I support active transportation so am totally behind the bike as an overall priority. If your personal priority at this point is to safely pursue overall fitness, my vote is the gym.

  • Merle

    First, I want to thank you for the lovely Mother’s Day wishes. I’m finally back on line as of this afternoon.
    I have joined a gym more times than I want to admit. It’s always the same thing, gung-ho at first and then we lose interest and find many excuses for not going. We did just that this winter in Florida – joined a great gym, went for about three weeks and found so many excuses for not going.
    I think I’m through making anymore donations to a Gym.
    I have a bike here in Montreal that probably is 6-7 years old and has maybe 30 miles on it. Perhaps, if I had a biking partner it would get more use. But I do vote for the bike since you do have a biking partner. You can both get out there and discover the Spring and Summer beauty of Ottawa. Good Luck which ever way you choose – and
    be greatful it’s only 5-10lbs. You looked just great last month in Floria.

  • I ride a bike all the time. There’s a big difference between biking for transportation, as I do, and biking for a workout. My way hardly even works up a sweat because bikes are such efficient machines.

    If you want to ride a bike for exercise you have to do like the spandex people do, get on the road with the cars and pump it hard for a long time. It’s not fun, it’s work, just like going to the gym. Watch out for idiot drivers who mistake cyclists for bowling pins. Good luck!

  • Either/or?

    Use the bike to get places, everywhere. I do. Run your heart rate up when you’re heading home and can shower off the sweat. Repeated Hi-intensity runs for 60-90 seconds seem to be the best conditioner (do it in a safe place!).

    Use the gym to get strong, especially your “core” muscles that support your back. Get a good set of exercises that work all of you, or get those adjustable dumbbells which you can up as you gain strength.

    You can even ditch the gym and use body weight exercises or strong stretchy rubber bands.


  • Bikes are great, but they’re a one-trick pony. A gym offers far more variety and it’s year-round.

  • All my life I heard that if you strengthen your stomach muscles you help your back be stronger. I thought it was hogwash.

    Then I joined the gym in February. I’m not any lighter but my pants fit better and my back has stopped that near constant aching. It was gradual and one day I just noticed that I wasn’t in pain. It was so cool.

    I have to say I hate the gym. I don’t like exercise but I’ll be darned if I’ll just pay money each month and not go. For me, paying for the membership is a great motivator. I own a bike and going to the gym helps me enjoy my bike more. I can ride further and longer and feel the wind in my face and watch the streamers on my handlebars fly in the wind.

  • I’d find a way to have both options available! Weight training is especially important for women as we age and it helps keep unwanted pounds off – you might actually get heavier after a while of weight training because muscle tissue is heavier/denser than fat but your clothes still fit. Biking’s awesome too. I bike to the gym :) The other thing I found helpful in changing my lifestyle was making an appointment with a trainer. At the City of Ottawa gyms you used to be able to get a free personal training session with each session of membership you purchased and they’re not expensive if you want to have one be with you to get you going afterwards.