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How to Get the Most Out of the Gym

Sometimes the hardest part about going to the gym is planning what to do and when to do it. Whether you’ve just signed on the dotted line for your first gym membership (high-five, girl!) or you’re headed back to your gym with new resolutions and goals, having a plan when you sweat it out is key to getting the most out of your time there. These tips and planning ideas will not only help you schedule your workouts for the week but will also keep you from repeating the same legs/back and core/arms days over and over again.

Love hitting high-rep sets with light weights? That’s great, but neglecting to lift the heavier weights means you’re forgetting about your fast twitch muscles. These muscles are the ones you use for everyday tasks like picking the groceries up and lifting a car seat. Your body needs to work both slow and fast twitch muscles. So, consider throwing in a heavy back squat or front squat day. If you have mobility issues, keep the weight light enough so that you can squat with good form – heels down, chest up, glutes back.

Did you know that the most cardiovascular fit athletes use their upper body throughout most of their cardio training? Mix up your treadmill routine by hopping onto an elliptical and rotating through intervals of focusing on the upper and lower body. Keep the upper body sets smaller compared to the lower body sets. Aim for 2 minutes of upper body and 3 minutes of lower body.

Some people were born to be planners. If you’re not, now is the time to start. Not only will planning keep you on schedule but it will also help you prepare for the future. By looking back on what previous work-outs and weights you completed, you can better understand (and celebrate) your progress in your fitness journey. Your primary goal should be the foundation for how you schedule your workouts. There is no “one exercise fits all plan,” and you may need to adapt as you go. A good idea is to start with the number of days you can realistically work out and then divide that time between a majority of strength training mixed with sessions of 30+ minutes of cardio and shorter high-intensity interval workouts. Continue to modify from there based on how you’re feeling and how your body responds to the program.

Top Tip: Start a fitness journal! It’s so important to document your journey. Set aside time after your workout to record how you felt during each part. Was a weight particularly heavy today that is usually easy for you? If so, that could be an indicator that it’s time for a rest day or that you need to alter your diet and sleep schedule.

There’s nothing more distracting than being focused at the gym only to hear the buzz of an important work email hitting your phone notifications. First, that email can almost always wait until tomorrow. Second, the gym is YOUR time and it’s important to not let other outside distractions take that away from you. The text from a friend about weekend plans can wait an hour. Setting your phone in airplane mode will allow you to absorb this time as a moment of self-care!

Sleep: Your body needs it! And most of us aren’t getting enough of it. Both sleep and rest days should be part of your workout planning. Rest days can be hard for some because you’re so determined to meet your goals. We understand! But without rest, you won’t make any progress. Rest and sleep are vital to maximizing your time at the gym. If you’re not meeting your goals, it’s probably time to step back and evaluate your sleep and rest schedule.

Kelly Brown is a writer, marketer and egg-eater. Her writing has been published across Michigan and the US. When she isn’t writing, she instructs at barre classes.

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