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It’s common to find going to the gym a chore. It’s also common to feel like you’re floundering with no real direction and not making any progress. Follow these 5 expert tips so that you can make the most of your gym sessions and waste no more time in achieving your goals.

1. Write your session plan in advance

You'd be surprised at how many people get to the gym without knowing what they’re going to do. In the end, they wander over to a treadmill and do a few minutes of running. Then they lift a few weights and maybe copy a few exercises that other people are doing, have a chat, and then go home. Have you ever done this?

If you’re serious about making progress and want real results, this is not the way to achieve that. In order to really maximise your time at the gym, write out what you’re going to do in advance and make sure it’s a coherent session that will take you in the right direction. You could write your session on a piece of paper, in a small notebook, or write it out on your phone which may be the most convenient.

Make sure the session makes sense with regards to what you’re going to train; don’t wear yourself out doing sprints on the treadmill and then expect to be able to do a good weights session as well. If you're training for a running or cycling event, don't spend lots of time working your upper body.

If you need advice, ask a personal trainer or find a pre-written session plan online. Make sure the session also makes sense in the bigger picture of what else you’re doing that week and how tired you’re likely to be when you get to the gym. If you’re doing an evening session after a busy and stressful day at work, you’re unlikely to hit a new squat or deadlift PB, so save those sessions for the weekend.

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2. Time your nutrition

There’s nothing worse than getting to the gym feeling ravenous and not being able to focus on your session, then spending £5 on a sugary shake from the vending machine just so that you can make it through your workout. Plan your nutrition in advance, especially if you intend to come straight from work. If you are going to go to the gym on a work night, try to eat a bigger lunch and then time a snack just before you leave the office so that you get to the gym feeling pumped and ready without being too full.

If you’re training at the weekend, eat a filling and nutritious breakfast but leave yourself enough time before you hit the weights or cardio area. If you drink coffee, time this so that you can reap the benefits before they wear off.

What you eat after you workout is also important. You have a 2-hour window in which it's the optimum time to take on some protein and carbs to refuel you and repair your muscles after a tough workout. Try to eat a healthy, balanced meal as soon as you get home so that you can maximise your results and make the most of the time you've just spent in the gym. If you do not eat at all, a lot of your efforts will be wasted as your body will start to break down the muscle you've just worked so hard to build in order to recover.

Read more: Nutrient Timing

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3. Talk to a fitness professional

If you really have no idea what you’re doing at the gym, you’re far more likely to quit and never achieve the results you want. It’s natural to find the gym a daunting and scary place and if you don’t have anyone show you how the machines work, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d have no idea where to start!

Most gyms will offer a free induction when you join, but if you’ve missed that opportunity, you will still be able to get one if you ask as there are always fitness instructors on hand to help. Not only this, most personal trainers will offer a free taster session as part of their services, so take advantage of this and ask them all the questions you’ve been wanting to ask. Get them to show you how the machines work as well as how to safely perform free weights exercises like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses. With this as a foundation, you will be able to build a great workout routine.

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4. Don’t workout with a flaky friend

It can seem tempting to go to the gym with a friend as it’s more social and is less intimidating. However, if you go with a friend who doesn’t share the same goals as you or who just wants to chat, you’ll never get anything done. Additionally, if your friend is at a very different level to you, you might end up spending the whole session explaining things to them and just helping them rather than making progress yourself.

It may seem selfish and unsocial, but hitting the gym alone can potentially be the best way for you to make the most of your time there. That said, if you have a highly motivated friend who can enhance your session, this is of course fantastic and you should make the most of it. It can just be very easy to realise you’ve spent 45 minutes chatting or texting and not doing any exercise! Don’t fall into this common trap.

Not only this, if your friend is flaky and often cancels on you, you’ll be less likely to go yourself. If you were relying on them for a ride they could be letting you down. You are better off relying only on yourself and setting your own goals so that you can be in charge of hitting them.

5. Make your workout fun

Doing the same boring routine week in week out is a recipe for disaster and you are far more likely to stop going to the gym after a short time. Once you know how to write a killer workout routine, make sure you mix it up frequently and keep it interesting so that your motivation stays high. Having a fun workout to look forward to is a great way to stay motivated and you'll end up working harder because you're enjoying yourself.

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