Whether you're a regular gym-goer or just full of good intentions, you want to make the most of the time you spend at the gym. Here are some of the most common pitfalls and how to avoid them in order to maximise the efficacy of your workout.
Most people who go to the gym – or are contemplating building a regular fitness routine into their lives – want to make as good use of their time as possible. Even if you're in the minority of people for whom the gym is a true passion and somewhere you not only voluntarily but joyfully spend as much time as possible, chances are that you'll still want to make that time count. If you're lukewarm about the gym and see it more as a means towards the end of a fitter, healthier, leaner body, then making your workouts as efficient as possible will be even higher on your list of priorities.
Whether you're an enthusiastic gym bunny or a slightly reluctant treadmill treader, you'll experience the same pressures on your time that we're all subject to in our 24/7 culture. You want to use what little time you have as wisely as possible. So how do you do that? Read on. We've gathered some of the more common pitfalls of going to the gym and come up with some suggestions of how to avoid them.
Too much socialising
You're not here to enjoy yourself, you know! Oh okay, maybe that is a little harsh. Exercising together can be a great way of socialising with old friends and making new ones, and you're more likely to stick to a fitness regime if you're working out in company. BUT all within reason. How often have you got chatting to someone at the gym only to find that half an hour of your allotted hour of working-out has passed? Exactly. You don't have to start cultivating actively antisocial traits, but a little briskness might go a long way. Plug in your MP3 player, go to the gym at less busy times for an uninterrupted workout, and focus on your primary purpose. You can always arrange to meet up for a well-deserved coffee after your workout.
Taking it too easy
You need to workout at a certain minimum level of intensity in order to reap the benefits of your gym visits. This isn't a time to kick back and watch the telly or read a book as you half-heartedly pedal away on the stationary cycles. Give your workout your full attention and make a point of pushing yourself, or you just stagnate. And that's a waste of time. It's better to spend half an hour really working to full capacity than an hour on half steam. To really maximise time efficiency, consider High Intensity Training, where you work out at maximum capacity for very short bursts of time – it seems to yield the same results as longer, less intense workouts in a fraction of the time.
Sticking with the same old programme
So you took the time to get a detailed fitness assessment done and had a workout plan tailored to your needs. Since then, you've been sticking to whatever combination of cardio and weight training was advised. Apart from being desperately dull, this isn't an efficient use of your time at the gym because you cannot continue to make progress with an unchanging fitness programme. You need to keep changing your workout routine in order to keep it fresh for both your mind and body. Book in regular updating sessions with a personal trainers, try out new classes, and vary the equipment you're using.
Too much too soon
One common mistake especially prevalent among newbies is trying to do too much too soon. Full of enthusiasm and good intentions, you hit the gym seven days a week for two hours at a time, and emerge exhausted and de-motivated. Not only is this not necessarily an efficient use of your time – spending more time at the gym than you actually need to – if you become physically exhausted and mentally overwhelmed, you won't be able to keep it up, and your attempts will have been wasted. Even seasoned gym-goers can fall prey to this phenomenon when they have a particular goal in mind, such as training for a marathon. So go gently on yourself, especially at the beginning. Set a pace and goals that are challenging but realistic.
Going it alone
It's tempting to just get stuck in, without the faff of consulting gym staff, setting goals or drawing up a fitness plan. But this is a mistake. If you don't take time to learn how to use the equipment properly, you're setting yourself up for an injury – the ultimate waste of time and effort at the gym. Fitness professionals can help you to get the most out of your workout, monitor your progress and adjust your regime as needed. Far from being a waste of time, booking in with a member of staff at your gym or a personal fitness trainer is actually a way of getting the most out of the time you spend at the gym.
Time is precious. Make the most of it.
by Kath Webb
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