It’s that time of year again. Group fitness classes are packed, parking spots are limited and time limits on cardio equipment are more heavily enforced. It’s the New Year and everyone is hitting the gym. The New Year’s gym trend occurs all over. When I was teaching in college, students would line up outside the fitness studio at least 30 minutes before class began to ensure they would get a spot. Instructors loved having the large class participation and, quite honestly, it was a huge adrenaline rush. However, after spring break had come and gone, class sizes usually dropped down to less than 50% of the previous quarter’s numbers.
First and foremost, I commend anyone who is focusing on making their life healthier by becoming more physically active. But a healthy, long life is not made by only going to the gym three months out of the year. If you are embarking on a new fitness journey, here are some key tips to remember:
Do NOT compare yourself to others. Even to this day, I still catch myself doing this from time to time at Crossfit. I’ll watch fellow crossfitters, whom I see as equal athletes to myself, deadlift more, row faster and perform more burpees than me. Something I tell my fitness participants in spinning class is “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20” and these words could not be any truer in my situation. Comparing oneself to others is one of the biggest fitness/health mistakes one can make as it often overshadows our own accomplishments and feats. When I started Crossfit 6 months ago, I needed a band in order to do a pull-up. Today, I can knock out 5 unassisted, strict pull-ups and I often overlook these strength gains I have made by too frequently comparing myself to others. When you’re in a class or working out on your own, don’t compete against the person exercising next to you. If you’re going to compete against someone, compete against yourself. See if you can push a little harder or match your previous workout’s accomplishments and remember the person working out today is much healthier than the person who was sitting on the couch yesterday.
It’s okay NOT to do what everyone else is doing in class. In any fitness class, you are going to have a wide variety of people with different fitness and experience levels. A great fitness instructor will demonstrate several modifications for an exercise so that everyone can equally participate in class. Stick with the variation that comfortably challenges you. Typically there are at least three levels of modifications for most exercises, and your instructor should show all varieties and perform the middle modification for the majority of the class. If you feel that there were not enough modifications given, talk to your instructor during one of the drink breaks or after class. Their job is not to “get paid to work out” rather they should be providing guidance, knowledge and motivation to group fitness participants.
Bring water. Water is essential when someone is exercising. A good rule of thumb is to take a drink of water every 10-15 minutes (or even more often when exercising intensely) when working out. Remember to continue to drink water after your workouts since a large amount of fluid is lost through perspiration. I took my first spinning class over 7 years ago. I specifically remember thinking, “This can’t be that hard, I ride my bike outside all the time. Why would I need a water bottle?” Four minutes into class, I was seen racing to the vending machines to purchase a water bottle.
Wipe down equipment before and after you use it. You are never guaranteed that the person before you wiped down the piece of equipment after they had used it. This is why I always wipe down my weight or cardio machine before I begin my exercise. With cold and flu season in full swing, the gym is a breeding ground for sickness with so many people together in an enclosed setting.
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