As you start on this 12-week journey, it's essential to have a good plan of attack, so we consulted Gold's Gym Fitness Institute experts Adam Friedman and Robert Reames to develop a road map that can be your trusty guide (along with your trainer). PLUS: Six inspiring stories to motivate you!» read more
Whether this January marks your first time at Gold's or your 400th, learn to gracefully handle the New Year's gym crunch with this handy guide.
You chowed down on turkey, tossed back the eggnog and gained yourself a sizable holiday cushion to inspire an ambitious New Year's resolution. Yeah, you and the rest of the country! The vow to eat right and exercise is one of the most popular—if not the most popular—of all New Year's resolutions, and it's the reason for the sudden crush in the line for the elliptical two days after the ball drops in Times Square.
But everyone needs to remember that gyms, after all, are meant to be shared. To ensure that you—and your fellow gym members—have the best possible workout experience, we rounded up these postholiday gym-going pointers from the experts.
5 TIPS FOR THE NEWBIES
1 "Do your best to familiarize yourself with the gym's rules and regulations," advises Michael Ryan, a personal trainer and Gold's Gym Fitness Institute member. Each gym has its own set of do's and don'ts about time spent on equipment during peak hours, how to return towels and more. The more familiar you are with these rules, the more comfortable you will be—and the less likely to break one.
2 You'll also need to brush up on the unwritten rules of the gym, i.e., learn basic gym etiquette. "Learn to work in [i.e., share] with people who are using the same machines or benches, re-rack your weights after using them, wipe off any sweat from a bench or machine, and don't talk on your cellphone while people are working out around you," Mike Epstein, owner of Gold's Gym Paramus, advises. For more gym etiquette tips, click here.
3 Once you've gotten a sense of what not to do, it's time to get the lay of the land. "Most gyms offer a free fitness consultation with a personal trainer for new members," says Nikki Kimbrough, Gold's Gym Institute member and fitness contributor to Essence magazine. A trainer can give you a tour of the facilities and answer any questions about unfamiliar machines and equipment, proper form and the best order in which to do specific exercises. Kimbrough also suggests checking out different types of group workouts. "Take a cardio class, a strength and conditioning class and take something new that you've never done before or always wanted to try."
Her suggestions for each:
• Cardio: Spin, Kickboxing, Step
4 With your game plan firmly in mind, you're just one step away from having a great workout. The last step? Prepping your body for the burn.
"Never hit the gym without proper nutrition," Ryan says. "Not only will you not get the workout you want, but you may cause serious risk to your health." You should reach for a healthy meal packed with protein, carbs and good fats at least one hour before training.
Then make sure you have the right gear. "You should wear supportive running shoes or a cross-trainer shoe. If you're not sure which is better for you, go to your nearest athletic store and a professional can help you," Kimbrough advises. "Next, you need breathable and comfortable clothing such as shorts and short-sleeve shirts; women also need a supportive sports bra. Padded socks are also great for avoiding blisters."
5 After you've fueled your furnace, take ample time to warm up your muscles. Ryan suggests taking an easy ride on a stationary bike or a leisurely walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes to get your body stretched, loose and ready to work. "Also, make sure that you have plenty of water on hand to stay properly hydrated."
3 SUGGESTIONS FOR THE VETERANS
It's easy to become frustrated when, with a simple turn of the calendar, your workout space is suddenly overrun with seemingly clueless strangers. How are you supposed to stay focused on your reps when that amateur in the corner is about to run himself off the treadmill?
Before you literally throw in the towel, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you were new at the gym once too. "If someone shattered your confidence, you would've never gone back to the gym, so be understanding," says Ryan. Here are ways you can minimize your frustration with resolutioners.
1 Switch up your workout. "Coming in just a half hour earlier or later might make a huge difference in terms of crowds," Epstein says. "That and changing which machines and equipment you use on certain days might help as well." When peak hours on peak days are unavoidable, come with a plan—and a plan B. "Remember, you are a gym veteran!" Ryan says. "You know where everything is and what will be crowded and what won't be." You can also try a circuit with limited equipment or no equipment. "Find a small space in the gym and do a challenging 30- to 45-minute circuit workout," Kimbrough says. It can burn just as many calories as a longer session with machines and free weights. (Check out this kettle bell workout to get started.)
2 Tune out the crowds. "Just having headphones on basically tells others that you are concentrating and most likely do not want to be disturbed—but does it in a nice way," insists Epstein. "Also, you can play the music you want to hear, play a podcast, listen to an audiobook, whatever makes you happy." Ryan agrees that music is a good way to stay focused on the workout at hand. "Mentally prepare yourself for distractions, wear your iPod, and be aware of your surroundings!" he advises.
3 "Everyone remembers their first time in the gym so try to have empathy for someone who is just starting on their journey," Epstein says. If you see a new member struggling on a machine or doing something incorrectly, think about lending a hand or alerting a staff member. "You might find helping someone is a very rewarding thing. Many of our members who have encouraged a new member have found themselves a great workout buddy."