With winter break coming up, the gym is starting to get fuller by the day with those trying to get in better shape to face friends and family at home. To those of us who work out fairly regularly, we know that this is merely a passing trend and the gym will get back to normal by March at the latest.
While some of those who are now undertaking the process of going to the gym have some sort of history with working out and sports, most do not. In the hopes of aiding the transition to a world that may seem alien to the uninitiated, here are a few tips to aid in the endeavor that maybe will help provide a foundation for a long lasting fitness regimen.
Set Realistic Goals
One of the biggest keys to starting a fitness program is to set realistic goals. Do not show up at the gym with the expectation of dramatically transforming your body overnight. Start with some small goals like being able to run a little faster/longer or lift ten pounds more than what you currently do and then build off of that.
Know what you are doing
This one may be hard for those just starting out, but before you step into the gym you should know the proper way to the exercises you plan on doing. Not only are you going to benefit more from the exercise but also you are going to reduce the risk of injury. Also by knowing exactly what you plan on doing for that training session it prevents you from choosing exercises from an ‘a la carte’ menu and keeps you focused on the task at hand.
The Allen Center features free personal training sessions each month for members. For those with no real experience in the gym, this is an excellent resource.
Plan a time to go
Devote a specific time in your day to go to the gym and work out because if you don’t, you won’t. By setting aside a time to go you will avoid the potential temptation to find an excuse to skip the gym- and trust me, I’ve heard them all. No excuses.
Mix up your routine
Doing the same thing at the gym each time you go gets boring. You can avoid this by mixing up your routine and keeping things interesting. That means, girls, get off the treadmill and out of group fitness classes and hit the weights, and guys, it wouldn’t hurt to try zumba once.
Do not be afraid of free weights when working out. Machines are wonderful things for beginners, but they can only take you so far before your muscles are craving something else. Not only will you get a better lift from free weights but it works stabilizing muscles that are otherwise ignored when using machines.
Go to the gym to work out, not socialize
While developing a social group that goes to the gym together will help you keep coming back- after all it’s why group fitness tends to be well attended- it shouldn’t keep you from focusing on the task at hand, and that is to get in the gym and do work.
I see a lot of people spending too much time in the gym talking to their friends and catching up on gossip from the previous weekend’s parties. By the time they are done talking it is twenty minutes later and then they leave because they feel accomplished for having spent so long in the gym.
While on this topic, wear proper workout attire. That means leaving the ugly Christmas sweaters for the kegger on Friday (I’m looking at you Tweedledee and Tweedledum from the Cardio Center last Thursday night). You are not there to show off your latest thrift store find to your friends. Not only do most gyms require it in their policies but also you just look like an idiot!
Know your limits
You know your body the best and therefore should know what you are capable of doing. It is nice to challenge yourself and test your limits but always have a spotter ready to bail you out in a pinch. At the same time, test yourself for the right reasons. Trying to break through a plateau that has gotten you in a rut is one thing, trying to impress the cute girl who is working out nearby is the wrong one.
Listen to music
This last one is something that helps me out immensely. I listen to music because it helps motivate me to bring it each workout. Not only does it help pump me up but it also helps me focus and get my mind right when lifting. You should listen to whatever motivates you, so if that means you get it up for Justin Beiber or, god forbid, Nickelback, it shouldn’t deter you from bringing it into the gym. Personally, I listen to Tiesto’s Club Life podcast that is free on iTunes each Monday.
These are just a few tips that I have found useful in maintaining a somewhat regular gym schedule. There is a lot more information out there and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your fellow gym goers. Most would be more than willing to give assistance if needed; we all started somewhere and know how it feels.