Tips to make your day at the gym easier
Hopefully this title isn’t too misleading. Here is a list of things I do, or need to remember to do to make sure I have an enjoyable gym going experience. Will these tips guarantee you have a great experience? No. Do they even guarantee you’ll get out the door to go to the gym? No. But they’ll make it easier on you to get out the door, into the gym, and having an enjoyable time.
1. Tip the first – Pack your bags the day before (or during the weekend)
I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about meal planning in a similar fashion. On your day off (we’ll call it Sunday) you go to the store, get all the food you’re going to eat for the week, cook it up, portion it out, label it, and you’re good for the week. The same idea applies to your gym bag. Get the bag ready the night before, or get multiple bags ready earlier in the week to make sure you can grab and go. Rushing sucks. No one wants to rush. If your bag is packed and ready to go there’s no need to question whether you remembered everything (if you packed it while rushing), nor is there any concern or confusion regarding what you’re going to pack or wear.
I love to use drawstring backpacks to keep my clothes separate from my gear. They’re easy to carry around, they don’t take up much room, and they keep things organized. You can carry it on its own or you can throw it into your gym bag with all the other stuff you’re carrying around.
Additional pro tip – Pack your drink and or after workout snack in the bag as well. There’s nothing worse than leaving the house and realizing you forgot your water bottle.
2. Pick 2-3 days you’ll be going to the gym if you’re just getting started
Set these dates on your calendar. Tell your supportive friends and family what days you’ll be going, it’ll keep you accountable to an outside influence. You’re looking to create a habit. The more you do something, the more likely you are to do it again. If you pick a time and stick to it, then it’ll become habit. In the future you can add to / take away / adjust as your goals change. But when you’re getting started keep it simple, make a plan and stick to it.
Joining a group fitness class that has set schedules for workouts that fit your schedule can help with this. You’ll work with the same coaches and members week in and week out creating an internal support system that motivates you to continue going.
3. Check the schedule before you make the trip to the gym
I’ve run into this situation a few times – once trying to use a basketball court that was occupied by league practices and again recently trying to use a kettlebell room that had a HIIT class going on (thus preventing me from getting to the equipment I needed.) This could also apply to drop in group fitness classes. Make sure you check the schedule to see if your class is going on. In corporate wellness classes your fitness instructor may get sick from time to time and have to cancel class. Natural disasters (like snow) happen where classes get cancelled. Check the schedule to make sure your class is going on.
4. Ask a professional about proper form if you don’t know how to do an exercise
Hire a personal trainer to learn how to do exercises properly. You don’t need to hire them forever. Do it to learn how to do things properly so you don’t hurt yourself. They’ll point you in the right direction so you benefit from your workouts. Things like “engage the core”, “squeeze the glutes”, “neutral spine”, etc, etc are all important factors to getting your body properly set up to benefit from the exercise. If you do something using improper form you can end up strengthening other muscles you don’t mean to, increasing the chance of injury.
Feedback from a video camera can also be helpful. Check yourself and your own form with a video camera. Looking in a mirror can be helpful, but it also redirects your eyes (and potentially your neck) meaning your form will be off while watching the mirror. The camera will take away that risk / issue.
5. If you’re working out alone, plan your routine before you go
This also applies if you’re going to the gym with a friend. You want to know what you’re going to do before you get there. Write it down with a pen and paper. Know how many reps (or seconds if doing tabata-ish routines), how many rounds, and what gear you’re going to be using before you get there. You don’t want to be the person scrolling through their phone looking for exercises to do while you’re at the gym. You want to get in, get your work in, and get out. Your phone is only good for recording your phone, playing pump up music, and performing as a timer.
6. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing in the gym
I’m stealing this idea from Niyi Sobo of the Sports Motivation Podcast. You have a goal as to why you’re working out. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it to lose weight, gain muscle, improve endurance, improve mood, or to get better at a sport. You’re there with a purpose and the only person you need to prove anything to is yourself. You want to put in the work at the gym while you’re there. If you’re grunting, breathing heavy, or sweating profusely who cares what anyone else thinks. You’re putting in the work. You’re giving the gym what you’ve got. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of what you’re doing in the gym. Go in for you and get what you want out of your workout.
7. Have your after workout meal planned out before you go
I’m not a nutrition blog or a certified nutritionist so I’m not going to tell you what to eat. I do have a cooking and catering degree from PCDI (now Ashworth University) so I do know how to cook and will probably be adding some recipes to the site at some point that I think are fun. Working out uses energy. Food is energy. You need to refuel your body after you workout. I don’t do well with dairy so things like protein shakes (with casein which is dairy) do a number to my stomach. So I go with the vegetable protein shakes and rice milk after a workout. I know they’re missing a few proteins that the casein protein drinks have, but that’s fine with me. I also drink Power Aide during longer workouts. I do it for the carbs in it. If I’m heading to work after I workout I eat jerky and possibly some sort of energy bar. I’ll also head for the eggs. If its a lunch workout I go with canned chicken and instant rice. At night it’s a protein and some sort of salad.
Please do your own research for your own diet and nutrition. Talk with a certified nutritionist. They’ll point you in the right direction to get you to your goals. Plan your meal for afterwards. You should probably plan your meal for before as well. You’ll need the energy to get you through your workout. You’ll need the hydration to get you through your workout. And you don’t want to eat right before going to Jiu Jitsu class. There will be people bigger than you lying on top of your full stomach, making that meal you decided to eat right before going to class feel like a terrible idea.