If you are thinking of joining a gym, don’t.
I’m not joking.
January is the very worst time to join a gym – it will be crowded, full to bursting with new gym-goers, fresh from making their New Year’s resolutions and you won’t be able to move easily from machine to machine. You might love the atmosphere at the gym by March and might even enjoy going but the crowds in January will put you off like nothing else.
Also, if you think you truly want to join a gym, consider whether you have enough commitment to keep going after January is out. For most people it is a complete waste of money. 80% of the people who join a gym in January never go much beyond February (if they even last that long).
Though you think the pain of paying for something and not using it will make you go – it doesn’t seem to work for most people. The pain of going to the gym seems to be bigger than the pain of paying for it!
If you think you want to become a regular gym goer, think about what a commitment that is. How much time will it take you to get to the gym, get changed, work out and get showered and home again, three or more times a week? What will you NOT do to make time for that? And if you don’t think you will have to give anything up, then think again so that you can be ready for how much time will disappear rather than surprised!
If you still think you want to join a gym, prove to yourself that you are committed to fitness…
Keep up a non-gym exercise routine for two months and then reward yourself with gym membership. You can work out with weights at home (the weights will cost less than a gym membership) and you can run or walk for cardio training.
Better still take up an exercise you will love, something where they won’t be able to keep you away, like dancing or skating or rock climbing – whatever floats your boat.
I feel that walking has had a bad press among exercisers. After all, it can’t be real exercise, can it…
- if you don’t have to get yourself to a gym
- if you don’t have to learn complicated moves with state of the art equipment
- if you don’t have to get showered immediately afterwards
- if you don’t even need to change your clothes before you begin ?
Yet regular walkers are some of the fittest and healthiest people around and they rarely suffer the injuries and set backs of runners, joggers and regular gym goers.
Usually at this time of year I am thinking about starting to run as training for an annual charity race – the Race for Life. Then as I get going I decide I hate running and never run again after the race until the same time next year.
This year I’ve decided to add a regular walk to my fitness routine instead and see how I like that as a “rest of my life” activity. It feels right as I will be following in the footsteps of my Dad who walked every day of his adult life until he died last year aged 86 – staying fit until the very end.
Walking is great for weight loss too of course. Though that’s not my primary motive in taking up this form of exercise, I have some clients who follow a weight loss walking program I put together and find this the very best way to lose weight and keep it off. It will do me no harm to join them – especially as I have eaten so much after Christmas….
It seems that the more time we spend in a car the fatter we become.
Over time we’ve simply got too used to driving a couple of blocks to run an errand when we could get there under our own steam.
And it’s funny, what do we do when we arrive? We drive around for 5 minutes trying to get a “decent” parking spot – the one that will mean we need the fewest steps possible to get to our destination.
We do all that – and then find we have to join a gym to keep fit and lose weight.
Now I know, some of the distances you travel are probably longer than a couple of blocks but I’m sure you get the picture. Could you do even a little more walking?
Research has shown that at least half the journeys made by car in urban areas are for 3 miles or less (and 41% are less than 2 miles).
It’s not that we can not walk – in fact going everywhere in a car is a modern phenomenon. It’s as if we can’t find our way anywhere under our own steam. It has become the default that we don’t even think to question.
Well why not question it from now on? Every time! Always ask yourself
- could I walk there (safely) or could I carry out the same errand on foot (say at my local store rather than an out of town mega huge faceless store)?
- could I park a little further away?
- could I enjoy my journey more by walking/cycling and getting in touch with what is going on in my local area?
- could walking/cycling mean that I can combine my keep fit routine with my chores today and save myself a bundle of time?
And remember if you are stuck driving in your car a lot you can still get some exercise – remember the 4 Easy Car Exercises post from a few weeks ago
When I was a project manager a few years ago, working flat out, I often didn’t make a gym session I’d planned. Sometimes I didn’t make the three gym sessions I planned for the whole week.
Either there would be a sudden meeting called about some triviality over lunchtime (my gym time) or there’d be a real crisis that needed dealing with.
When I got home I’d be too tired to go out again and there was only once I was organized enough to go to the gym in the morning before work.
Now that I work from home and set my own timetable I have to find other excuses
But seriously, if you are going to get a fit, healthy toned body you have to find some way to fit exercise in around your work and the rest of your life.
There is no way you are just going to “find” the time to exercise – it has to be found. You are not going to get more than 24 hours in a day so if you want to spend an hour exercising, then something that you were going to spend an hour on is not going to get done. You get to decide what that is – although your boss may have something to say about it if you decide it’s an hour of work!
What are you prepared to give up to feel fit, toned and top of the world?
An hour of rubbish on TV? An hour of lounging about? An hour on the phone or PC? An hour of sleep?
Maybe when I worked in that office I should have always had a plan B for my lunchtime exercise – and followed that Plan B no matter what. I just didn’t get around to it and exercise time was always the first thing to suffer when I got busy – which was most of the time.
I do know that this was one of the many reasons I left my job in the end. Some things are just too important to ignore.
It feels great to get your workout over and done with in one session by combining a cardio and muscle training session at the gym.
But if you would like to burn maximum fat, get fit AND strengthen up you are better to work on your fitness and on your muscles in separate sessions rather than working them both on the same day.
That’s because research has shown overall calorie expenditure to be greater when you separate your workouts. It seems you get a metabolic boost each time you work out – and so combining sessions is counter-productive if you want to burn fat.
If you have too many time constraints to work out on separate days, be sure to carry out your weight training first while glycogen stores are highest to make better gains in strength.
Sometimes in a busy day there just isn’t time to do a full workout or get to the gym.
But you CAN do something.
Just a few minutes here and there can make the difference between maintaining your fitness and losing it.
And in any case, you’ll feel so much better about yourself if you do the best you can and don’t give up your fitness efforts entirely on those busy days we all have.
Here’s all the you have to do
- At the start of the day, climb 5 sets of stairs – they can be 5 flights at work or mean going up and down stairs at home 5 times. (Alternative: step on and off one step for 5 – 10 minutes)
- At morning break, take a 10 minute walk (or do your stair routine again)
- After lunch, another 10 minutes (take a longer walk if you can then)
- After dinner, 10 or more minutes walk (or more stairs).
There – that means you’ve fitted in 30 – 40 minutes exercise without taking up much of your day at all and you’ll find the mini breaks from your work do you good too.
And if even that is too much then try my whole body fitness course Fitness in No Time which involves only 10 minutes exercise 3 times a week!
It’s not that easy choosing a gym.
Even though I don’t go to the gym any more, I was once a member of a great gym which had a spa attached. It was just round the corner from my office – handy for fitting in a session at lunchtime or after work (even before work when I was really keen).
And when you walked through the door you could smell the aromatherapy oils from the spa and feel like you were entering a new world. Solid wood lockers, fluffy towels and a calm atmosphere. A little bit of luxury as a reward for working on YOU.
If that gym had been crowded and chaotic, dirty and unfriendly there’s no way I would have gone so often (if at all). With this gym, I only stopped going because I left work and it was too far to get across town.
So if you want to join a gym, it’s important to make the right choice.
1. Don’t Go Only on Price
Although you have to weigh up the monthly cost against your budget, if you never actually go to a cheap gym because the whole experience is unpleasant, it’s not a bargain offer. Be sure and check the joining fee and additional costs for classes and so on when considering your budget but also think about whether you’ll get value for money by wanting to go there three or more times a week.
2. Make Sure it’s Convenient
Choose a gym which is close to your home or office – that way you’re not going to waste an hour (or spend a small fortune in gas) getting there and back every time you go.
3. Look at the Equipment
Does the gym have plenty of the type of equipment you prefer? Is the equipment clean and well maintained? Is there plenty of space between each machine? (There’s nothing worse than heavy breathing right in your ear from the machine next to you).
Also, are you paying for facilities you will never use? My gym had a great pool which I NEVER used (swimming is not my thing). Others cost more because they have tennis or squash facilities attached – worth it only if you like these sports and will play regularly.
Some facilities such as air-conditioning and water coolers are essential. Others make going to the gym a pleasure (or less of a chore). Can you watch your favorite show while you work out? Check that you are able to choose what you view if the gym offers this and that all TVs are not fixed to a few channels – the ones the instructors like…
4. Consider the Classes
Are fitness classes included in the membership? Does it have a range of classes to suit you? What is the system for booking (and cancelling if you have an ever-changing schedule)? Are they oversubscribed/crowded?
5. Visit at Peak Times
Many gyms which are an oasis of calm during the day get hectic in the peak hours after work. Visit the gym during the times you will use it to get an idea of what YOU will experience as a member.
6. Look at the Opening Hours
Make sure that your gym is open when you want to use it. Some gyms close at weekends. Others may not stay open as late as you need or open early to fit in a session before work (if that’s when you like to work out).
7. Check out the Changing Rooms
Are they clean and well-maintained? Are there enough lockers and showers? Are there facilities for drying hair etc?
8. Ask about the Instructors
Are there plenty of instructors around? Are they qualified? Find out how the gym helps new members get to know the equipment. At my gym every new member had an initial 1-to-1 session with a personal trainer to create a tailored program and teach them how to use the equipment. And a session every month or two to update their program.
9. Consider the Atmosphere
While you’re checking everything out on your visit, you’ll get a feel for whether you’re comfortable in a gym. Are you happy enough with the people, the place, and the atmosphere enough to want to go?
Some gyms are geared more towards bodybuilders, some towards casual exercisers, some towards women. At some you will feel comfortable in your old sweats. At others you have to wear the latest gear to avoid being looked down on. Will you fit in? This is also where small details like flowers in reception, good music or friendly staff can mean a lot in making your visit a pleasure.
10. Do A Trial Run
Never sign up for a long commitment without giving your chosen gym a proper try for at least a day (Buy a day pass if they don’t allow a free trial). Then, if possible, sign up for 1 to 3 months and give the gym a true test. If you are still enjoying your visits after that time you have found a good gym for you.
Try and make your choice without being pushed into anything. I know that many gyms employ pushy sales reps to try and get you to commit before you’re ready and to push you to buy additional services. Forewarned is forearmed.
Here are a couple of articles about this by the Consumerist
1. Plan Ahead
Always have your exercise kit ready and available. Have enough workout clothing so you can get a fresh kit together right after your workout while you’re still feeling good about having gone out for a run or to the gym. And keep it in a handy place at home ready to grab and go or store it in your car trunk so it’s always with you.
2. Follow a Program
Follow a work out program which is suitable for whatever stage of fitness you have reached. If you follow a pre-designed program you never have to think about what to do today – it’s all worked out in advance. If you are more experienced, you can create your own workout plan making sure that you don’t go too far too fast to avoid injury and over-training.
3. Get the Intensity Right
Use a heart rate monitor in conjunction with your program to ensure you are working at the right cardio intensity. You will also be able to follow your progress by seeing a reduction in your resting heart rate and the rate for any particular cardio exercise as you get fitter.
4. Schedule Your Exercise
Make an appointment with yourself as if you had a personal trainer turning up and expecting you to be ready to work out. Write it in your diary and schedule the rest of your life around your exercise sessions so that you make time for them.
5. Stay Healthy
Good food, plenty of sleep, proper hydration and avoiding cigarettes and too much alcohol and will make the job of keeping fit a lot easier than if your life is filled with late night booze sessions and junk food. If you do feel ill, give yourself a break from exercise and don’t force your body to work when it needs rest and recuperation. You’ll get back to full strength a lot faster.
Have more fun working out so that you’ll be motivated to get out there and do it more regularly!
1. Choose a Sport or Activity you Love
Why go to the gym if you hate the gym? Choose an activity which appeals to you and give it a go. When you’re ice-dancing or rock climbing, skiing or playing tennis exercise just happens and doesn’t seem like a chore.
2. Make Exercise Part of Your Social Life
Find a workout partner you enjoy spending time with so that you look forward to getting together for a run or gym session. Just don’t get so carried away and chat so much that you forget to work out! If you usually get together with friends for a meal or drinks see if you can persuade them to do something active instead. Baseball anyone?
3. Enjoy Nature
Exercise is often the only time we adults get fresh air. Make the most of your work out time by taking yourself off to the great outdoors. Find a local beach, park, lake or hill where you can work out and enjoy the wonders of nature at the the same time.
4. Feel the Movement
While you exercise, focus on your body as it moves through the air – sometimes you can feel yourself almost gliding. Feel the pleasure of the movement itself – your muscles working in a co-ordinated way, the efficiency of your body’s cooling systems, how you heart and lungs work together to send oxygen to your muscles. Imagine you had been confined to a tiny cell for weeks on end or hospitalized in a full body cast and feel the joy of now being able to move your whole body.
5. Look the Part
Treat yourself to some new workout clothes you look forward to wearing. You’ll be more comfortable and enjoy working out more in gear that is made for your sport.
An ipod filled with your favorite music can make the difference between a boring workout and one you enjoy. Talking books are another alternative. If you exercise at home or at the gym choose a time when you can watch a show you love on TV whilre you work out. You’ll never notice the time.
7. Set Yourself a Challenge
Don’t see exercise as a chore but as a challenge. Always log your workouts and set goals for yourself every week, every workout. Don’t push yourself so far that you risk injury but make sure that you are always progressing and moving one step ahead.
Push ups image by Urban Mixer
Push ups are a great exercise because they use your own weight to build strength. You can do them anywhere – whether you’re stuck at home with the kids or out on the road travelling – you don’t need a gym or any equipment.
And they strengthen and tone your whole body engaging muscles in your chest, hands, arms, shoulders, back, stomach, legs and feet – and probably a few other places as well.
But the classic push up everyone is familiar with is not an easy exercise to do correctly.
You have to build up to that.
Wth that in mind, fitness trainer Funk Roberts has created a push up challenge page to teach everyone to master the perfect push up without props or problems.
He has every stage of push up perfection covered from beginners who push against a wall to intermediate exercisers who use a modified form of push up (the knee push up) to a more advanced level ready for the perfect push up.
You just have to find the right place to start for you and not go too fast too soon.
Funk’s blog post lays out a push up training program to take you from beginner to 10 perfect push ups in 8 weeks. This should be possble but your results may vary In any case you’ll get there by progressing through the stages one at a time.
If you ever wanted to be able to show off perfect push-ups, Funk’s page is a great place to start.