Are you making the most of your gym membership?
Think back to the start of the year. Cold, grey, gloomy January. Yet it's also the time of year when most of us put in place health and fitness goals for the year ahead – goals that we don't always stick to! If you're anything like me, motivation can be a bit of a struggle. Long days at the office, cold, rainy nights and the prospect of getting up early for a workout all mean that making the most of your gym membership just isn't happening.
January is the busiest time of year for gyms and health clubs across the UK, but by March, the number of people actually using their gym membership regularly has dwindled significantly. It can be hard to motivate yourself when it seems like there is always a reason not to go. Stressful day at work? Why not stay home and relax this evening. Drinks with a friend? It's about time you caught up on the latest gossip. Episode of your favourite TV show? The perfect excuse to slump on the sofa all evening.
Yet motivation doesn't have to be hard. There are ways to ensure you stay psyched about your gym membership, making the most of your workout sessions. From classes to personal trainers and mixing up your workout routine, you're paying a premium for the services offered by your gym, so make sure you use them!
Is there safety in numbers?
If you joined your gym for the classes, you're not alone. Pilates, yoga, spinning and legs, bums and tums are just a few of the most popular classes that drive many to join the gym. Combine that with access to the latest workout equipment and you have a recipe for success! The problem is this – to get the most out of classes, you actually need to GO to them. So sign up today; check your gym's schedule and fit a class around your busy lifestyle.
You'll find most gyms run classes at different hours to suit everyone. So if you work from home or you're a full-time mum, it might be most convenient for you to attend a morning or lunchtime class. Busy in the office from 9am to 5pm? An evening or weekend class is probably a better option for you. There really is no excuse, no schedule so busy that you can't find time for a 30 minute or 1 hour class, at least once a week.
You don't have to stick to the same class either, as many gyms let you mix and match. Sign up for a few Pilates classes and mix things up with a spin class later in the week, or try Bikram yoga for an intense, sweaty workout that will leave you reaching for your water bottle. Working out in a class is no less intense than working out alone; in fact, you'll probably work harder to keep up with the instructor and everyone else!
Is once a week enough?
Most fitness experts and personal trainers will tell you that in order to get as fit as possible, you should try to hit the gym at least three times a week. This isn't practical for everyone, so don't beat yourself up about it if you can't squeeze in three gym sessions. In fact, even heading to the gym once a week is a positive move. You can always work out at home, go running or even take a dance class on the other days. Even household chores can boost your fitness level. Fit in as many workouts as your schedule will allow, but remember that exercise can be addictive – the more you go to the gym, the more you'll want to go to the gym!
If you can schedule time for three gym sessions a week, mix things up a little. Take a class one day, a personal training session another and then put into practice what you've learned on the third session. Start slowly and build your fitness level and confidence, don't overdo it.
Is closer to home better?
When choosing a gym to join, it's tempting to go for the gym everyone is talking about. You know the one I mean – the one with the latest high-tech equipment, gorgeous personal trainers and sleek, stylish surroundings. If it's an hour from home, what does that matter? Actually, it matters more than you might think. If you choose a gym which is miles from home, you're less likely to keep up with your membership. Imagine bus journeys or a long drive on cold, dark winter nights – it's more likely you'll head home to a steaming bowl of soup and the comfort of your sofa.
Choosing a gym in your neighbourhood has other advantages too. You'll meet local people, and you may even find yourself a fitness buddy for running in the park or yoga workouts. Try to pick a gym that's no more than 30 minutes from your home or work. If you're planning on working out first thing in the morning or after a day at the office, a gym close to work makes more sense. For those more likely to attend weekend classes or morning sessions on days off, a gym near your home is the best option.
How to choose the right gym
Deciding which gym to join can be a bit of a minefield, but ask yourself the following:
- How much does membership cost?
- What are the contract terms and are refunds available if you change your mind?
- Can you bring guests?
- Is there a wide range of equipment and is it up-to-date and well-maintained?
- Are staff friendly?
- Is personal training available?
- What classes are on offer?
- Is the gym open 24/7, and is it likely to be busy during the hours you want to workout?
Think about when you plan to use the gym, whether there are specific classes you want to take and how long you want to commit to membership for. There's little point in signing a 12 month contract if you're only living in the area for 6 months! Likewise, a rolling 30-day contract could work out more expensive if you are planning on attending three times a week for the next year.
How to stay motivated
When it comes to making the most of your membership, you need motivation. Winter, for me, and for most people, is the hardest time to motivate yourself, but by mixing up your workouts, you'll stay focused and be more likely not to skip a session. Hit the treadmill for a workout that will leave you reaching for the water bottle, take a spin class, sign up for Bikram yoga or try a medicine ball workout. TRX exercises or weight training can be combined with a cardio class for a full-body workout.
Remember why you're going to the gym – set yourself realistic, achievable fitness goals. If you can't trust yourself to stick to them, sign up with a personal trainer who will help put in place a workout programme for you and ensure you stick to it! Sometimes, having a trainer on hand who expects you to be working hard is all the motivation you need. If all else fails, rope in a friend or family member and workout together; a fitness buddy can be a great motivational tool.
The gym isn't for everyone, and there's no shame in admitting that you'd prefer to spend your time running outdoors, taking a dance class or working out at home. But if you have signed up for a 12-month contract or are determined to make the most of your gym membership, these tips will hopefully help you to do just that.