Whether you’re a seasoned gym-goer or new to working out, the post-New Year’s crowd can be daunting. In the first two weeks of January gyms such as Equinox see numbers ranging from 700-1000 members per day, so regulars often get peeved at the heavy influx of ‘resolutioners’ who make it challenging to get on the machines. So what’s a dedicated trainee to do? Here are 3 tips I live by to make the most of my time in the gym until things return to normal:
Tip 1: Create your own ‘workout bubble’.
I’m a huge fan of supersets and circuit training, especially when you’re trying to make the most of your time while working toward weight loss goals. The secret to circuit training in a packed gym is staying in one place where you can create your own ‘workout bubble’.
Example: If you need to use the seated cable row but want to combine it with other exercises, just pick an adjacent machine that compliments the workout or bring dumbbells over to the seated row machine. This 2 foot square is now your workout bubble. Now that you’ve carved out a space for yourself, get pumped by doing a great circuit. Try doing a seated row with a dumbbell overhead press, then squats holding the same weights and burpees.
Tip 2: Share machines (AKA ‘work in’).
If you’re new to the gym, ‘working in’ — sharing the equipment with fellow exercisers — can be nothing short of terrifying. But ‘working in’ is proper gym etiquette and by sharing the equipment you’re asserting yourself as a fellow exerciser who knows the rules. When sharing weight machines, make sure to step back and give lifters adequate space and to keep a towel handy. Always wipe down your equipment.
‘Working in’ can be tricky when it comes to cardio equipment because they tend to fill up very quickly during the winter months. If your favorite cardio machine is taken, just hop on a neighboring machine as your warm-up and when the machine you want frees up you can relocate (rather than getting frustrated). This can also be a great way to get in a few extra minutes of cardio without getting bored.
Tip 3: Schedule a mid-day workout — and grab a fitness studio for yourself!
A tight schedule can limit your freedom when choosing your workout time, but if you can swing it, plan your workouts during less packed hours. Gyms often refer to 5:30pm-8:30pm as ‘prime time’ because they’re the busiest hours of the day on weekdays. Saturdays and Sundays are typically jammed from 10am-2pm. And early weekday mornings are fairly popular, but not nearly as bustling as the evenings.
Since afternoons are dead times at the gym, try to sneak in a workout during your lunch break. A mid-day sweat session can also be a great pick me up! Keep in mind that you you can use the entire gym, not just go to specific classes. Most gyms allow members to use the group fitness studios during the day when there are no classes, so you can have an entire studio for your own personal use! Grab a few sets of dumbbells, a medicine ball, and a mat and use the free space for a 30-minute high intensity workout.
Beginning a new workout regimen can be challenging, but sticking with your training and staying consistent is the real feat. Be good to yourself and treat every workout as a chance to take better care of yourself every day. Remember, as a gym member you have every right to be there and use the equipment! However, being a member is similar to being a guest in someone’s house: Be patient, clean up after yourself, and share with fellow members. Work hard, work smart, and enjoy this time for yourself.
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Jennifer Lutz is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor. She’s a regular contributor to KnowMore.tv, writing fitness-related posts geared toward helping women live healthier, happier lives. She also writes a monthly column that focuses on a different piece of fitness equipment and shows you how to safely do 3 to 5 moves that will get you the results you want. She trains private clients around New York City and at Equinox Fitness and has recently returned to school to get her doctorate in physical therapy from Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter at @JLutzFitness.