As we jump into the new year, many of us have set resolutions to hit the gym and make this year our year to get fit. As a recent Exercise Science graduate, I commend you for that and encourage you to never surrender the fight! With that in mind, there are a few tips that I will suggest to make your workout “work out” just a little bit better for you.
First of all, it is important to decide what your goals are for going to the gym. Are you going to lose weight? Maybe just get more in shape so that you don’t get winded playing with the kids? Or could it be to just feel better physically and/or mentally? Decide before you start so that you have a real and measurable goal to work toward during your year. It also makes the gym seem less intimidating when you know what you are going to do when you get there. And remember, it is easy to slack off when you aren’t pushing yourself to achieve something.
Second, set a regular time to go to the gym. Whether it is the early hours before the rest of the world is awake, during a lunch break, right after work, or the late night hours of the undead, make your time to go. When you try to squeeze a workout into your day “whenever you have time”, chances are it isn’t going to happen. Sorry to break that news to you. Half of the battle for your health is just getting there. I promise you that once you’re there and the endorphins are flowing, you’ll be glad you made that time to go. Set a time and stick to it.
Third, build a workout that doesn’t require a “buddy”. I have tried to work out with friends, roommates, and even my wife, only to find that life happens and for one reason or another they can’t make it. It is vital in making this your year to get in the car and go it alone. Pack your headphones and your strappy arm thing for your iPod and head to the gym. Create a workout that requires only you to complete it. And who knows? You may make a friend at the gym that is there regularly to spot you when lifting or to race you to the top of the hill on the stationary bicycles.
Fourth, make your time at the gym a reasonable amount of time. Unless you are a personal trainer or you are getting paid to pump iron, you don’t have all the time in the world to spend at the gym. You have a life and the gym is only meant to increase the quality of that life, not become it. Your body will respond to shorter, regular workouts far better than lengthy, sporadic bouts with weights. Try to keep your workout in the 30-60 minute range. That’s enough time to get your heart rate up and utilize fat in your body as energy.
Last of all, find exercises you like and don’t push yourself too hard. Let’s face it, treadmills just aren’t meant for everybody. It’s ok to try a different cardio machine until you find one that works for you. There are a number of different weight machines and free weights available at most gyms to give you a variety of lifts to try. When you decide on what you like, start out low and build up over time. You don’t want to start your year off with an injury that puts you out of commission. Be smart when setting your limits and you’ll love the burn every time you feel it.
Practice these simple steps and your resolution will turn into a part of your day that you can’t live without. Remember, this is your year to healthy.