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.
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.
Resistance bands are a great way to get a workout in wherever you are. You don't need expensive equipment or even a gym membership, just a resistance band and your body weight. Follow this resistance band workout with exercises for arms and legs for a full body workout that will get results.
What are the benefits of resistance bands?
There are many benefits to using a resistance band to workout. They are very convenient and portable so you can take them with you wherever you go for an outdoor or home workout. You could even take your resistance band on holiday to keep your fitness and strength ticking over while you're away.
Body weight exercises are great, but adding resistance will really ramp up your workout and give you better results. By using a resistance band you can increase the return on your workout and get better results in a shorter time. They are not only great for strength workouts, but also for lower intensity training like stretching and physio.
Resistance band exercises for legs
Using a resistance band when you train your legs can not only strengthen the muscles but also the joints and supporting muscles which will lead to better balance and reduced risk of injury. Try some of these resistance band exercises for the legs and feel the burn!
Place the resistance band around your ankles and stand square with your hands on your hips. Find your balance on your left leg and lift your right leg out to the side as far as you can. Make sure you keep your foot facing forwards and squeeze from the hip. Repeat 10 reps on each leg.
With the resistance band still round your ankles, this time squeeze your bum and lift your leg out behind you, keeping the leg straight. This will really challenge your glutes and hamstrings as well as working your core. Do 10 reps on one leg then swap and do 10 on the other.
Lie on the floor and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. With the resistance band just above your knees, lift your back off the floor and squeeze your bum into the air. Keep your arms and hands flat on the floor and use them to help push you up. Keep your knees out and push them against the resistance from the band. Do 10 repetitions.
This is a great exercise if you've got flat feet or if you struggle with your squat form. Place the band just above your knees and make sure you use a fairly light weight. Drop into a squat, but keep your knees pushed outwards against the resistance of the band the entire time. You'll notice that they want to cave in, so stay strong. You'll realise how much you need to use your glutes to fire you back up, and this will highlight any muscle weaknesses. Try 3 sets of 10 reps.
Sundried recently ran a poll and found that 80% of people felt nervous the first time they set foot in a gym. This statistic doesn't come as a surprise as the combined fear of the unknown and feeling self conscious can make going to the gym a difficult step for a lot of people. We're here with our top tips so that you can feel confident in the gym and enjoy your workouts more.
Wear the right activewear
If you look good, you'll feel good. If you're wearing old fitness clothing that doesn't fit properly, you are far more likely to feel self-conscious and constantly worry about how you look, distracting you from your workout. By treating yourself to good quality activewear such as cute sports bras and flattering gym leggings for the ladies and a well-fitting technical gym t-shirt for men, you will instantly have the confidence you need to go and do an awesome workout.
Go with a buddy
If you're too nervous to hit the gym alone, buddy up and take a friend with you. With a trusted pal by your side you will instantly feel protected from whatever it was that was causing you anxiety and you'll be able to workout together and enjoy your time. Having a friend to go with can alsoboost your motivation when you don't feel like going to the gym.
Get stuck in
The free weights area can be a daunting place, especially for women. One of the best ways to get over this fear is just to get stuck in and head over there. If the free weights area seems very busy and full of grunting men from afar, once you're in it and you've found your space you'll realise that it doesn't feel as busy and all the guys are just busy getting on with their own workouts and aren't paying any attention to you.
If it's the other people in the gym that seem scary, the best thing you can do is befriend them. They're just people after all! Not only this, they are like-minded people who have the same goal as you and so chances are you will get on well. Strike up a conversation by asking someone about their workout or their goals to break the ice.
However, make sure you don't interrupt someone when they are in the middle of a lift or exercise as you may put them off and annoy them. Save the chatting for when they are resting or finishing up their workout.
Ask a professional
If you're nervous because you're not sure what to do at the gym or how any of the machines work, go ahead and ask one of the personal trainers or fitness coaches. It's what they're there for! A member of staff will also be more than happy to help you out and show you the ropes, some personal trainers will even offer you a complimentary training session. Most if not all gyms also offer a free induction when you first join. If you missed this and are no longer a 'new' member, most gyms will still be happy to honour the free induction and have someone show you around.