Over the years I’ve noticed a few things while going to the gym to use the exercise machines and to attend classes. Unfortunately just going to the gym will not ensure weight loss/physical fitness. It’s how you spend the time—whether you’re engaged/pushing yourself to work hard or just going through the motions/doing the time—that makes the difference.
It’s so easy to go autopilot when one is on the exercise machines. How many of us just hop on a machine and mindlessly watch the TV screens or read a magazine or book and think “if you do the time, it counts for something, right?” But what if you were actually engaged with what you’re doing? Imagine how much more you’d get out of your workout. How many more calories might you burn?
Challenge yourself by really being there. Change things up from your usual program—adjust incline, do a mix of high and low impact running/walking/climbing, change speeds/intensity, race yourself or the person next to you, or challenge yourself to burn more calories than you did the last time you were on the elliptical/treadmill/bicycle. When on the treadmill or elliptical, use your arms instead of just holding on the handrail. That will definitely intensify your workout and help you burn more calories.
Nothing like weight training to help you burn calories more effectively. Aim to alternate days with cardio and weight training and you’ll get to see results more quickly vs. doing just one or the other. When working with weights, concentrate on your form—use the mirrors and/or ask the training staff to show you how to use the equipment the right way. Try lifting in slow, purposeful motion instead of swinging up/down quickly, which uses momentum and gravity and stresses your joints. Aim for total muscle fatigue by repetition and minimal to no breaks between sets. If it’s too easy, then increase the weight.
Take a class
When you do, get there a little earlier to get a good spot near the front where you can see/hear the instructor. Sure, it’s awkward to be where everyone can see you make mistakes/look foolish, but chances are, they’re too busy worried about themselves to notice you. Be willing to be a beginner. Over time you’ll get the hang of the movements/routines and will look like a pro.
First time at a class? Introduce yourself to the teacher and let her/him know that it’s your first class. More often than not, they’ll try to help you if they see you struggling, or maybe they’ll break down the movements so it’ll be easier for you to follow. And that’s a good thing—it’s almost like getting a free personal trainer, which is generally pretty expensive.
Nothing motivates more than knowing you’re paying someone good money to help you exercise/lose weight. A good personal trainer will work with you to come up with the ideal exercise regimen to help you reach your goals. S/he will help you use the correct form so you’ll get the most from your workout and encourage you to keep going when you’re ready to give up. After a number of sessions with a personal trainer, you’ll get a general sense of what you’ll need to do and can do most of your workout on your own—perhaps even be able to visualize your trainer next to you, saying what s/he usually does. But some folks like having someone to be accountable to and will continue working with a trainer indefinitely.
But if getting a personal trainer is not in the budget, work out with a friend. Sometimes just knowing that someone is waiting for you to work out with them will keep you from skipping out. (But make sure the sure the friend is not the type who skips out on you.) Also consider sharing a personal trainer—it’ll cost less than a one-on-one, plus you’ll have two people to report to.
Keep a log book. List your activities, measurements, and weight. If weight loss is your goal, record what you eat/drink as well. That way you can see how far you’ve come and what works for you.