“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” –Benjamin Franklin
Let’s face it, the gym can be a scary place and if you go in unprepared, you not only risk a poor workout that will prevent you from seeing results, but you may also end up with a bad experience, causing you to never want to step foot in a gym again. Regardless of if you are brand new to working out or have years of training under your belt, having a solid plan of action in place will help maximize results, allow you to make the most out of your time in the gym, and ensure that you have an enjoyable gym experience that will have you coming back for more. Here are five steps that you can take to have your most successful gym experience ever.
1. Educate Yourself
There are many ways you can educate yourself on proper exercise form and workout design. Whether it is working with a certified personal trainer, reading up on books and online articles, or watching YouTube videos, choose what fits your learning style in order to gain an understanding of how to properly perform exercises and identify what muscle groups they work.
2. Have A Plan…
Having a plan in place and knowing what you are going to do in the gym on any particular day will ensure that you do not end up wandering around the gym trying to come up with a workout on the fly. There are countless programs available that can fit the number of days you plan on going to the gym and the amount of time you plan to spend on your workouts. Find something that fits your ability level and stick to it. If you are more experienced, perhaps you would like to try and design your own program and workouts. At the very least, decide what your workout is going to include the day before you are going to do it. By having a workout ready to go, you do not have to spend time thinking about it in the gym and you will be able to smoothly transition between exercises and cut back on total workout time.
3. …And A Backup Plan
Having a backup plan is especially important if you typically go to the gym at busy times. By having an understanding of how to substitute exercises that work the same muscle groups, you can avoid any disruptions in your workout. For example, you may wish to do the barbell bench press but see that people are already lined up waiting to grab a bench themselves. Instead, you can go with a dumbbell bench press – same muscle group, just a slightly different exercise.
4. Dress Properly
This one seems easy enough, but you would be surprised at how often people dress in inappropriate gym attire. If you are not dressed properly for your workout, the discomfort may be enough to steer you away from coming back to the gym. What is comfortable versus what is uncomfortable will vary by the individual, but a general rule of thumb is to wear clothing that allows you to effectively move through all planes of motion. Dry fit clothing that quickly absorbs sweat may provide additional comfort as well.
5. Record Results
Keeping a log book is probably the best thing I have ever done for myself in terms of ensuring that I am making consistent progress in my workouts. Keeping a log of your numbers gives you an easy reference to look back on instead of guessing what you did in previous workouts (i.e. how much weight you used on a particular exercise). Don’t think you need to carry around a giant three-ring binder. A simple, small memo book will do. This can also serve as a means of writing out your workouts ahead of time so that once you get to the gym, all you have to do is flip open your log book and your workout is ready to go.
BONUS TIP: Use Technology.. Sparingly!
Technology is having a negative impact on how we work out today. At any given time you can catch gym goers texting or scrolling through Facebook in between sets, or playing around with their music to find the perfect song for their next set of squats. 60-90 second rest intervals creep towards 5 minutes and there is no way anyone is going to be giving their maximum effort on an exercise while simultaneously staring at their phone.
Technology needs to be used sparingly during your workout. If you find it is a distraction or is extending your workout time, consider leaving your phone or music player in your bag. Instead, use your time in the gym to disconnect and focus on the main reason you are there: to become a better version of yourself.
By following these steps you will be on your way to maximizing your gym success. By educating yourself, having a plan, being prepared to make changes to your plan, dressing appropriately, and tracking your progress, you will be able to walk into the gym with the confidence and focus needed to reach your fitness goals.