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.
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.
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.
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.
Cycling can get a little scary at times, especially on busy roads or technical race courses. If you find that your training and racing is being hindered by a lack of bike handling skills and nervousness on the roads, we're here to help.
Practice your bike handling skills
This is something that all cyclists should be doing in order to improve their training and racing. If you lack proper bike handling skills, you will find that technical courses are a nightmare and that unforeseen circumstances like bad weather could mean a premature end to your race.
Skills such as riding on loose gravel, on wet roads, down steep descents, and round sharp bends are things that come with practice. Start off slow and somewhere you know well and build yourself up; the more you practice, the more your confidence will grow. Other skills such as single-leg riding can be practised indoor on a Wattbike, turbo trainer, or even just a stationary gym bike.
Ride in a group
They say there's safety in numbers, and this can certainly be true when cycling. When cycling in a fairly large group, you'll find that hazards become less scary as you can watch those up ahead tackle them first and motorists should give you more space.
Of course, that's not to say that cycling in a group is always safer and that you're guaranteed not to have run-ins with cars. However, working together as a team to overcome tough conditions can really help with your confidence.
Other skills to practice when riding in a group include making contact with other cyclists and riding very close to others. Your instinctive reaction when touched by another cyclist will be to look around at the person you've touched, but it's important to stay looking ahead at where you're going. Practice making quick contact with a friend or fellow group rider and then move on to practising keeping your hand on their shoulder as you ride. Skills such as this can improve your confidence in mass start events and will mean you know what to expect.
Get comfortable in the saddle
Receiving a proper bike fit from an accredited bike store can make a huge difference to your cycling, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Unless you're looking to really maximise your power output and aero position for serious racing, a basic bike fit can be inexpensive or even free of charge.
If you're comfortable in the saddle and your position over the handlebars feels good, you will feel much safer on the bike. If you constantly feel like you're over-reaching for the handlebars and brakes or that your legs are overstretched and you can't reach the ground comfortably, you might feel more nervous on your bike. Once you feel secure and like the bike is an extension of yourself, you will be able to handle it much more confidently and co-operate better together. Make sure you're in control of the bike and not the other way round!
Do a sportive
If you're nervous to ride on busy roads or in places you don't know well, it's a good idea to ride an organised race or sportive. These will always be well sign-posted so that you can't go the wrong way and you will be forced to face any challenging conditions that you'd usually avoid on your own.
This will be a great way of getting out of your comfort zone by riding somewhere unknown and having to face challenges head-on.
If you haven't exercised in a long time, if you're overweight, or if you've never exercised at all, the prospect of joining a gym or going for a run can be overwhelming and just down right terrifying. We're here with top tips and advice for getting active as a complete beginner.
There's no better time than right now to change your life. If you've been thinking about getting started for a while but you've been putting it off or making excuses, you need to just start. There will always be a million reasons why you can't get out there, but it won't be until you've broken the ice that it becomes easier. Go ahead and join that gym or buy those running trainers.
Treating yourself to fresh activewear is a great way to get motivated and start you off in the right frame of mind. Having comfortable, proper gym tops rather than an old t-shirt and a stylish sports bra instead of your normal bra can be the difference between a terrible workout and a great one and will make you want to exercise so that you can show off your new fitness clothing!
You're already exercising more than you think
If you take your dog for walks or go walking at the weekend with your family, you have already made a great start! This is an easy base to improve upon, by making those dog walks longer and brisker, and by finding more challenging routes to walk at the weekend with your kids. If you take public transport to work, you perhaps have to walk to the station or from the bus stop to your office. Have confidence in yourself and make sure you know that mentally you're not going from complete scratch. This will make increasing your weekly exercise easier mentally.
Find a type of training you enjoy
There are so many ways to workout; you don't have to slog on a treadmill for hours or do some crazy manoeuvre that you saw someone else doing at the gym. Activities like yoga are very low impact and are a great way to build up your base fitness if you haven't moved in a while. Walking is also perfect as it's free and you can do it anywhere! If you do want to try running, you may benefit from group running as it takes the guess work out of it and will mean all you have to do is turn up and run. In the same light, there are many benefits of joining a running club such as companionship and making new friends.
Working out when you're overweight
It can seem very daunting to start exercising when you're overweight. If you're not ready to join a gym or hit the streets with a run, you can easily make a start in the comfort of your own home. Try a home workout that doesn't require any equipment and just uses body weight. By getting up and getting moving, you are making an excellent start.
When overweight, it's important not to put your joints under too much strain. Start with low impact movements like body weight squats, lunges, and sit ups. Go back to basics with a simple circuit training routine that gets your heart rate up without compromising your health and making you feel like your chest is going to explode!
If you are coming back from an injury or from having kids, you need to take it slow. There are lots of easy ways to exercise when you have kids, but getting back into it after giving birth can be a scary prospect. Take it slow and always listen to your body.
If you're looking to try a new sport, break it down into manageable chunks. Activities like cycling are much more accessible than you think and you don't need all the fancy gear to get out there. For something more complex like a triathlon, find a triathlon training plan for absolute beginners that you can follow which guides you through the training process and helps you understand what you need to do to succeed.
Make it enjoyable!
One of the biggest reasons why people give up on exercise is because they don't enjoy it. There is absolutely no reason why you need to be forcing yourself to go running or lift weights if you don't enjoy it. These days, there are unlimited ways to get fit from gym classes to dancing and it's all very accessible. There are some surprising ways to get fit like hula hooping and trampolining which are far more fun and enjoyable than pounding the pavements for mile after mile. If you enjoy your workout, you will be far more likely to continue the trend and stick to it.
Once the initial novelty has worn off, it can be hard to stay motivated when working out at home. Here are 5 top tips to help you maximise your workout time and get the best results with limited resources.
1. Change into activewear
It can be tempting to stay in your comfortably pyjamas all day and to even do your workout in them, but this won't help with motivation or with a good workout. Change into your activewear like you would when going for a run or to the gym so that there is a definite difference between rest time and workout time. Being comfortable and able to move freely will also improve the quality of your workout and will mean you won't be worried about working up too much of a sweat and ruining your comfy clothes!
2. Remove all distractions
When we're at the gym, we're able to just plug in our music, zone out the rest of the world, and get on with a great workout. Unfortunately, at home there might be any number of distractions from kids and pets to noisy neighbours or the temptation to have the TV on in the background. Eliminate as many distractions as you can so that you can focus on your workout and make the most of your exercise time.
3. Set a time and stick to it
When there is no clear line between your home space and your workout space, it can be easy to keep putting off your workout and finding other things to do. Set a specific time of day when you're going to work out and make sure you stick to it. If you're at home with a partner and children, let them know what time you intend to exercise so that they know not to bother you and allow you the time to get on with your training.
4. Choose your workout routine in advance
Making your workout up as you go along is never a good idea, even when going to the gym. By having a great workout routine already written down, you know that you'll have a meaningful workout and your time won't be wasted scrolling through your phone or thinking up the next exercise. It will also mean you're more likely to workout for longer and not give up after only a couple of exercises.
5. Have a dedicated space
One of the hardest things about being stuck indoors is that your home becomes your office, your canteen, your kids' school, and your gym. It can be difficult to get motivated to workout in your living room if this is a space you usually associate with relaxing at the end of the day, and it can become equally difficult to relax if you start associating certain spaces with educating your kids or working out.
Try to dedicate certain areas of your home for different chores and activities. Have a dedicated workout space away from where you usually relax. If you can't do this because you don't have enough space in your house, not to worry! There are ways around it, such as rolling out a yoga mat in your living room to turn it into your workout space, and then putting the yoga mat away again once you're done.
Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. How can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a home workout for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be. Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories too. If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun. If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking to the local park or playground. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car.
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Home workout routine for parents
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this home workout routine by Sundried ambassador and personal trainer Carly Newson.
Looking to get a great workout done at home? Make sure you have all the kit you need!