Whether you’re a gym rat or you occasionally flip through a fitness magazine, you know that the gym is packed every January. This may be frustrating to the dedicated gym fanatics who go all year round and intimidating to those of us who have fallen off the fitness bandwagon, but are determined to make this year our year. A busy gym may feel like sheer chaos, but if you know how to navigate the situation, you can still get a great workout and reach your goals.
This guide is designed for someone who…
- Is trying to survive the New Year’s rush
- Doesn’t want to adjust their gym schedule
- Wants to make their time at the gym as efficient as possible
Step 1: Preparation
Places to go, people to see. If you’re like most people, you want to get in and out of the gym as fast as you can. The key to crushing you workout in an hour or less? Having a plan.
Have your gym gear ready to go
Water bottle filled? Check. Headphones untangled? Check. Killer playlist? Check. This may be a silly reminder but little things like these can waste valuable time at the gym. Especially selecting something good to listen to. Many studies have found that the music you listen to impacts the effectiveness of your workout. Don’t be the girl who’s scrolling through Spotify for the first 10 minutes of your run. Been there, done that and it makes your treadmill time drag.
Create a plan and a backup plan
This is crucial if you go to the gym during peak hours. While you don’t have to have an exact idea of what you’re going to do, have a general sense of what muscle groups you want to work. If you’re new to the fitness scene, I recommend taking some group fitness classes to learn proper form and variants of classic moves.
Step 2: Execution
Getting to the gym is often a lot harder than the workout itself. Give yourself a pat on the back for not running when you noticed the place was packed. Now get to work.
Scope out the situation
My favorite way to warm up is by hopping on the treadmill or stair master for 5-20 minutes. This not only gets my blood pumping, but also gives me the opportunity to scope out what’s going on in the gym. Nine times out of ten, this warm up is how I plan my workout for the day. I encourage you to plan ahead, but I’m shy when it comes to working out. I might have planned for an intense leg day but if there are several people milling about the squat rack, you’ll find me in the corner doing plié squats with a kettle bell. Feel free to skip this step, but it’s the best way to navigate a crowded gym.
The stair stepper is fantastic for sculpting your glutes and giving you a bird’s-eye-view of the gym.
Mark your territory
One reason why I like to make up my own workouts is that some you find on Pinterest or Bodybuilding.com have you doing laps around the gym. Your best bet at a busy gym is to stay put in one area. While you’re doing cardio, especially if you just joined a new gym, watch for floor space that has little traffic. The last thing you want to do is get trampled.
Once you find a spot, select one weight that you can do a lot with. You may not be at the gym to make friends, but the last thing you want to do is hog half the equipment. You’d be surprised of how much you can do with a barbell, dumbbells, or kettle bells. I recommend picking a medium to heavy weight so you have some flexibility. I’m not the strongest gal, but here’s some moves I can do with two 15 pound dumbbells.
- 10 bicep curls, 3 sets
- 10 shoulder presses, 3 sets
- 10 upright rows, 3 sets
- 20 tricep presses, 3 sets
- 20 deadlifts, 3 sets
- 10 lunges with a hammer curl, repeat on both sides for 3 sets
- 20 squats holding dumbbells at chest, 3 sets
Don’t want to use weights or everyone else is using the ones you want? Bodyweight exercises like tricep dips, pushups, and planks are oldies but goodies. When the gym is crowded, stay away from weight machines that are one trick ponies. Free weights are also much better for strength training because they allow you to have a full range of motion, rather than unnatural movements of the machines.
Try out a group fitness class
Guys, you don’t have to go to a boutique barre class to get a great workout. I go to group classes several times a week at my local gym. It’s a great way to make friends and keep yourself accountable for your workouts. For example, if you stop showing up for your weekly weight lifting class, some of your gym buddies will notice and may call you out next week. Classes are perfect because they’re at the same time every week and you’ll automatically be stuck there for an hour. Which is the best when you’re not feeling a workout. Group classes help me workout harder and stay at the gym longer than I would if I was working out on my own.
Be prepared to make comprises
Everyone else is at the gym to achieve their goals as well. Just because you’re following a new regimen doesn’t mean other people don’t deserve to tone their biceps. The gym is crowded in January but it will soon be back to normal. This of this as an opportunity to expand your horizons. Be flexible and switch up your routine. Also, do you best to be respectful of others…even if they are sitting on your favorite machine and taking selfies.
A busy gym isn’t the best place to try out that new routine you saw on Instagram. Save your fresh moves for when you have more floor space and less eyes on you.
Step 3: Recovery
I know you’re ready to run out the door immediately after your run, but take some time to give your body some TLC.
Don’t skimp on stretching
While you may be tempted by the fancy stretching racks or foam rollers, you’re better off sticking to the mat when the gym is crowded. When you’re setting up shop for your strength routine, grab a mat to mark your territory and give you padding for some post-workout stretches. Stretching helps improve flexibility and may help your muscles recover faster.
Skip the shower
Running errands after the gym? Hop out of your dirty clothes and give your body a once over with either a makeup or baby wipe. This allows you to freshen up without wasting precious time waiting for a shower stall. Also, a spritz of body spray will not only make you smell better, but the alcohol will help dry any remaining sweat.
- Do you have any fitness resolutions for 2018?
- What’s your favorite time to go to the gym? Early in the morning, on your lunch break, or after work?
- How do you sneak in a good workout when the gym is crowded?
Image via Maria Fernanda Gonzalez