POPSUGAR FitnessSource: 15 Ways to Get More Out of Your Gym Time
Whether you're a first-time gymgoer or a dedicated gym rat, chances are there are a few ways you can make your gym time even more effective and efficient. Ready to take your workouts to the next level? Here are 15 tips to help you make the most of your time at the gym.
- Eat Something Before: Fueling your body is key to your performance when you work out, so don't skimp when it comes to your pre-workout snack. You need a mix of simple carbs and a little bit of protein that will give you energy without weighing you down, so try one of our favorite pre-workout snack combinations here. And don't forget to fill up your water bottle before you hit the gym so you stay hydrated throughout your workout.
- Start With Something You Like: After you're warmed up, start your gym routine with the part that gets you most jazzed up. Love doing crunches? Hit the mat before you hit the machines. Love bicep curls? Get lifting first. It'll motivate you and put you in a good mood for the tasks ahead.
- Identify Downtimes: Obviously, avoiding peak times at the gym can get you in and out faster. But you should also take note of more surprising days and times when the crowds are sparse; at my gym, it's often Thursday nights. We're also big fans of sneaking in workouts on Friday afternoons.
- Burn More Calories: You've already spent the time to pack your gym bag and made your way to the gym, so now's the time to put in the work. Maximize your calorie burning potential by incorporating high-intensity interval training into your cardio routine, and learn some multitasking moves that work several muscles sets at a time. These exercise ball moves work your core along with your legs, arms, and back.
- Share a Trainer With a Friend: Having a trainer can be an efficient way to fit in a workout, since he or she will keep you focused and on task. If hiring your own personal trainer seems too pricey, split a session or more with a few friends. Many trainers will offer special small group rates, especially now, since they'd rather train a group of people than no one at all.
- Spy on a Class Before You Try It: Don't waste your time in a class that's not for you. Before you try a new group exercise class, stop by the studio a week prior. About 10 minutes into the class, position yourself outside the door and observe five to 10 minutes of the action, enough to get a sense of whether or not you'd like it.
- Save the Chat: Your time is valuable, so don't use your workout as your social hour. While it can be fun to bring a workout buddy with you to the gym, don't fall into the gossip trap; save it for your post-gym coffee break and focus on your workout while you're at the gym.
- Get Competitive on the Cardio: On the treadmill, the bike, or the elliptical, look for someone near you who is clearly working hard and try to run a little faster or stay on the machine a little longer than that unsuspecting gymgoer. Just be sure you don't push yourself past your limits.
- Break Down Your Sets: When faced with a set of push-ups, crunches, or strength-training moves, break the big set down into smaller sets. If 20 push-ups seem impossible, count them out in four sets of five. The smaller sets seem easier to conquer both mentally and physically.
- Make It Short and Sweet: Who has time to spend hours at the gym? Get the same results in a shorter amount of time by increasing intensity. High-intensity intervals will burn fat faster than trudging away at the same rate, and supersets combine the benefits of cardio with your strength-training routine. Check out more intense cardio ideas that help you cut time at the gym here.
- Stretch Between Strength-Training Sets: Sneak in a few squats, crunches, or lunges while you're waiting in line for a machine. You can also pass the resting time between weight-training sets by stretching. You can stretch muscles you've already worked or do complementary stretches for muscles you're working.
- Combine Two Workouts: You're devoted to your favorite evening strength-training class, but your gym time doesn't have to end when class gets out. Spend a few more minutes jogging on the treadmill or cooling down with your own yoga sequence (use our printable total-body yoga sequence to take with you) to make the most of your workout.
Foam Roll: Showing your muscles some love will help you stay flexible and stick with your routine by preventing injury. And since there's always a supply of foam rollers at your gym, you can massage your muscles easily while you're there.
- Get in and Out of the Locker Room: The locker room can be a time-wasting zone if you're not prepared. After all, wrangling with your clothes and jockeying for a place in the shower line can all be time consuming. All you need are a few strategies to make your time in the locker room minimal. If you're going during lunch, for example, wear work clothes that you can change out of easily, and fill your water bottle up before you go to the gym. Here are more ideas for getting in and out of the locker room fast.
- Finish at Least Three Hours Before Bed: To make sure you're well rested for your next workout, be sure to wind down your physical activity at least three hours before your bedtime, since it can take that long for your body to cool down and your heart rate to slow.