Scenario: You leave work and head towards the gym with all the best intentions… You pull up and the parking lot is PACKED… S#!T. Immediately your brain starts coming up with reasons to turn your car around “it’s too busy to get in a good lift” “all of the equipment will be taken” “some one always gets on the machine I’m using between sets” “I feel like people are judging me” “I’ll go in a few hours”..etc. (hint: you probably won’t go back in a few hours. )
As a person who used to work at a gym 4 am – 7pm I developed a few strategies on how to get in a good workout (or help your client get in a good workout) during the busy times. So lets review and quiet those demons on your shoulder.
- Know the muscle groups you are trying to exercise, not just the exercises themselves and learn alternative exercises. That way if ‘x’ machine is being used, you have other options. This reduces stress and waiting around. So for example say the Bench Press is being used, you can grab a set of dumbbells or even a resistance band and do a press or chest fly. If you’re going heavier try putting some plates on your back and do push-ups, or challenge your stability with kettlebell push-ups or stability ball chest press.
- Be flexible with the reps you are willing to do/ weights you’ll accept. Remember that the most important thing is that you challenge yourself! So…if those 35’s you really would rather use aren’t available, try more reps with the 30’s or fewer with the 40’s. Who knows, you might surprise yourself and hit a PR (personal record).
- Try circuits which require 1 piece of non-movable equipment and bring the other things you need to that spot. People are much more likely to understand that you are using the seated cable row if you also have your dumbbells, towel, resistance band and barbell set up with you…. kinda like nesting but for the gym :’D. Additional benefits are all those related to circuit training in general. Its faster, you hit more groups, its more efficient, you burn more calories and so on.
- Integrate cardio and stretching into your sets. Perform any stretching you feel you have to do (see my previous posts on flexibility first) during your warm-up sets. Additionally, try jumping rope, step-ups, wall jumps, or mountain climbers in between your sets if the cardio machines are taken. This will keep your heart rate going and not leave you frustrated waiting for a machine or a mat.
- Finally: Don’t be afraid. Nearly everyone at the gym is there because they see something THEY need to improve and they are just trying to brave the crowded gym too. Unless you are breaking gym etiquette, chances are they aren’t looking at you. In that vein
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone to work in or when their sets will be done. Wait until they’ve finished their set (of course) and make sure you put their weights back how you found them. But otherwise its a completely normal thing to do if there is a type of equipment that you really had your heart set on.
- Don’t be afraid to tell someone that you are still using something. Say you come back from refilling your water bottle and some lunk is taking off with your barbell. You have the right to tell them that it is still in use and you will flag them when you are done.
- Don’t ignore a free bench cause its close to someone who is ‘more fit’ than you. They were where you were once. (if you’re the fit person in this scenario, keep the grunting and flexing to a minimum…you’re in public dude)
I hope you found this helpful. If you have other tactics or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments!
Nicole Mims. PT, DPT.