It just pains me to see well intentioned people enter the gym just after the New Year and make the same mistakes year after year. Some last a month or two. Most will fail and sadly, most will blame themselves for not pushing themselves hard enough.
Below are my 10 Gym Tips for 2010. I am not a personal trainer. What I am is a motivated researcher that has been lifting weights consistently since 1994. This list is primarily for those returning to the gym.
- Don’t Get Injured – Use good form. Take your time learning any new exercise. Wear flat shoes or no shoes. Running shoes have no place in the free weight room. You want to build your strength from a grounded and stable position. Think twice before you do bicep curls while standing 1-legged on a Bosu Ball.
- Don’t Get Sick – The gym is loaded with germs. Many of the people in a gym are cardio junkies and have compromised immune systems. The solution is NEVER touch your face. Got sweat dripping by your eye? Use a towel. When you get home, wash your hands like a surgeon.
- The Gym is For Getting Stronger, Not Leaner – You get leaner in the kitchen, not the gym. Your focus in the gym is simply to get stronger. Do what it takes to get stronger and nothing else. Wearing yourself out like a lab rat will increase your appetite and leave you exhausted. You want to leave the gym refreshed to return the next day and have enough energy to go home and cook a healthy meal.
- Be Considerate, Even When Others Aren’t – Hold yourself to your own code of conduct. Rack your weights, even when nobody else is. Don’t stand 6 inches in front of the dumbbell rack doing curls, blocking everyone else access. Be cognizant that the gym is a shared environment. Give respect to everyone, even though many times it will not be returned. Once you get strong enough, you can snarl at the inconsiderate.
- Respect the Weight – In order to avoid injury (#1) and get stronger (#3), you must respect the weight. If you can effortlessly lift a weight for numerous repetitions, you do not respect the weight. Your mind will wander, your form will suffer and will be sore with little strength gains.
- Understand Survivorship Bias – If you see a fitness bunny spending 45 minutes on the treadmill every morning, don’t jump to the conclusion that if you did the same thing, you’d be lean too. What you aren’t seeing is the thousands of overweight people who worked very hard doing the same thing and got no results. The all quit coming to the gym. It wasn’t a lack of discipline, they just discovered it wasn’t effective for them. Sadly, most will blame themselves. People tend to continue doing what they are good at. When they stop being good at it, they move on to something else.
- Avoid Caloric Deficit – Don’t increase your need for calories by exercising and then turn around and restrict your calories. Cutting calories will delay your recovery and leave you hungry and tired. Get into a routine of exercising consistently before you start tinkering with your diet. Or conversely fix your diet before starting an exercise program.
- Avoid Cardio – Nobody climbs onto a treadmill with the goal of getting better on the treadmill. They do it, because they falsely believe it will lean them out. The reality is steady state aerobics the least effective method of fat loss. Get off the treadmill and learn how to cook.
- Know Your Body – The clock should not dictate the length of your workout. You should learn to vary the length and intensity of your workout based off how you feel. If your mind is wandering and you can’t focus, leave the gym. If you feel great, stay longer.
- Understand that Progress is not Linear – You will not get stronger after every workout. This is why many people change their exercise plan every 6 or 8 weeks and take a week off occasionally.
This list isn’t glamorous or extreme. The first rule on winning is to not lose. Follow the above 10 Tips and you’ll do fine. Slow and steady progress is the key to lasting and permanent success.