Things to Think About at the Gym

I miss boot camp. Yeah, you heard me right. I’m going through withdrawls.

For trips like this when I’m away from home for an extended period of time, and moments when I want to do different kinds of training (heavy lifting) I keep a membership to 24 Hour Fitness handy.

I hate 24 Hour Fitness for only one reason. No bosu. What the hell is wrong with these people? What is their bosu beef? I digress. You don’t need a bosu to get a great workout, but it sure is extra fun to have one around.

Anyway, I find that going to the gym is always the most fantastic kind of sociological experience. Between the meat-heads, the barbie-dolls, the cool old guys wearing slacks and black socks, and the 1,000 year old grannies getting changed for aqua-aerobics, I never cease to be impressed, appalled, amazed, amused and befuddled.

Here’s what struck me today in the form of some things to consider the next time you go to the gym (and your intention is actually to work out and change your body / attain your goals. Of course, anything is better than NOTHING. I’m just saying, most of us are short on time, right? Why not do what you can to get the most out of the time that you have dedicated to your workout. :) ).

  1. If you pick cardio machines that “seem” easy, they probably are. This is not to say that the eliptical glider doesn’t serve a purpose. For those with joint problems it can be a low-impact way to get the old heart-rate up without having to put on a bathing suit and dip yourself in chlorine. But if you’re sort of mindlessly plodding along thinking, “Great! I’m getting my cardio in.” it’s time to take a good look at what you’re really accomplishing. Be present to your workout. Work HARD. Focus. (Here’s a tip: Want results faster? Do intervals, don’t go long and slow. You’ll save time and accomplish more.) What’s the best cardio machine you can pick for an efficient, ass-kicking workout? The stair-climber. Go suffer. Earn it. And, for godsakes, don’t read while you’re doing it. I’m sorry, if you are reading on a cardio machine you are not getting a good workout. It’s better to focus on challenging intervals for 25 minutes then go slow and comfortable for 60 – trust me.
  2. Don’t hold on. If you are on an eliptical machine or a stair-climber or even a treadmill and you are holding on while you work out you are doing yourself a great disservice. Keeping your hands free forces your core to activate for balance, giving you more bang for your workout buck.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. The last three times that I have been in a gym I have been asked for advice. All three times it was women about my age who were asking for advice on form, or how to target something, or what’s this thing for? I was never brave enough to do this, fearing that the askee would be annoyed at having their workout interrupted. In truth, I’ve been flattered to suddenly be perceived as someone who probably knows what they’re doing and have taken longer than necessary in all three cases to provide extensive, thorough answers. If you’re not sure about your form, or how something works, just ask someone who looks competent, or find a trainer.
  4. Have a plan. Take 5 minutes before you go to the gym to plan out what you’re going to do when you get there. Don’t rest for 5 minutes inbetween activities trying to figure out what you’re going to do next. Be prepared, even if it’s just a simple circuit of 4 or 5 different exercises that you do consecutively, rest for a minute, and then do again. If you write it down beforehand you will avoid that “lollygagging” thing that happens when you’re unsure.  And while I’m on the topic of lollygagging let me address the really-long-rest-interval phenomenon.  As far as I know, unless you are doing HUGE, heavy-weight workouts, there’s no reason you should need to rest longer than a minute.  I see guys in the free-weights area resting for 2-3 minutes before sets – in reality all they’re doing is checking out their “pump” in the mirror.  You’re doing yourself a disservice if you rest for longer than a minute – and time starts immediately – walking to the next machine/bench/mat/location is part of “rest”.
  5. Be sure to warm up and cool down. Don’t just walk in and start going 100%. I see so many people do this and it drives me nuts. It’s a great way to insure injury. And don’t just get on the treadmill and fast-walk for 5 minutes to warm up. You need to do some active stretching, deep-breathing, marching in place (knees high), hip rotations, etc. Warm up the parts that are going to get the most use (if you’re going to use your shoulders a lot, do arm rotations). I often feel silly warming up in 24 Hour Fitness because it definitely doesn’t look “cool” but my body thanks me when I start in with the heavy lifting and intense supersets.

The main point of all this is don’t waste your time! If you’re going to go work out, then go work out. Don’t go read the paper while going through the motions on an eliptical machine. Don’t go spend half your allotted workout time figuring out what to do next. Be focused, have goals, go after it! Earn it! This is your time to shine so for godsakes, BE SHINY!!

And be sure to count the small victories.

Today was the first day at the gym I actually had a guy come up, interrupt my workout (he actually made me pull my headphones out), and complain to me that I was lifting more than he was. I appreciated this because usually when I am pulling more weight I just get the evil eye, not friendly competitive recognition.

Small victories!!

*

Go be. Go big!

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