Maximize Your Minutes in the Gym

It’s a new year and you’ve just signed up for a gym membership—yay you!! But now what?

After working for C3 Fitness (not in the fitness department, mind you), I’ve had the chance to observe and interact with a variety of trainers and gym patrons of all levels of ability and I’ve picked up on a few things that I think you’ll find helpful as you start your fitness journey. Everything I’m about to share with you is 100% beginner-friendly and can be done at home or in the gym, so shake off those nerves and excuses and let’s get healthy together!

Tip 1: Goal Setting

Before you get started, you’ll want to set some small, realistic goals to work towards. Recognize that Everest wasn’t climbed in a day—big goals are going to take time. The important thing is to get your body moving and start accomplishing small wins that will keep you motivated past that New Year’s Resolution jumpstart. Start with something simple, like increasing your daily step count by 2,500 or setting a benchmark to do something active for ten minutes a day. You could even set a goal like, “in 60 days I want to be able to do 30 minutes on the StairMaster”—just make sure you work towards that goal in bite-sized chunks. Start with 5 minutes on the stairs, and give yourself a pat on the back—that thing is HARD! You can supplement your cardio workout with some time on other things like the treadmill, and overtime shift more to stairs until you reach your goal. Revisit your goals periodically and remember to set new ones as you will constantly be evolving on your fitness journey!

Tip 2: High-Intensity Intervals

You don’t need to take a HIIT class or use special equipment to benefit from interval training! The main premise is short bursts of high-intensity activity followed by longer intervals of less intense activity. Interval training can be helpful for many reasons: 1) you’ll burn more calories (that’s the goal we all have at the end of the day, isn’t it?), 2) it’s time-efficient—10-15 minutes can be as beneficial as a full 30-minute workout, 3) it’s great for cardiovascular fitness (heart health!), and 4) it can be a bridge to helping you reach larger fitness goals by helping improve your stamina. Try it on the elliptical with short bursts (30 seconds to a minute) as fast as you can go, followed by 2-3 minutes at a slower pace. Or, on a walk around the neighborhood burst into a jog or run for a few blocks every so often. In addition to “speed,” you can also add intensity by upping the resistance or incline on your treadmill for short periods, or by adding weight for short periods during your strength-training routine. The point is to get that heart rate up, and then allow it time to recover before doing it again!

Tip 3: Super Slows

Super Slows may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done—or they may be the easiest, depending on your body’s internal tempo (I’m an energizer bunny)—but they are SO good for your workout! Super Slows let you get more out of lifting lower weights. What you’re going to do is choose a low weight (whatever that is for you), choose a strength exercise (machine or freestanding, doesn’t matter)—bicep curls, overhead extensions, leg press, pulleys, etc.—and then when you do your reps, as the name suggests, go super slow. Pick a slow speed, and then go half even that. Count to ten Mississippis while you lift, and again while you release. Just go SLOW. You’ll start to feel the burn fairly quickly, probably quicker than you would going a normal speed at a higher weight. Super Slows force your muscles to work harder through their entire range of motion, and can really help you maximize your minutes in the gym!

Tip 4: AMRAPs

You’ve warmed up, and now you’re about to start your strength workout. How many reps (repetitions) are you going to do? While there are many different ways to break up your workout—3 sets of 10 reps, 2 sets of 20, 4 sets of 8—why not try AMRAPs? AMRAP stands for “as many reps as possible.” In a given period of time, whether that’s 30 seconds, a minute or longer depending on your ability level, you’re going to attempt as many reps as you can until your stopwatch goes off. You might surprise yourself and accomplish a lot more than you thought you could! 

Tip 5: Add a Ball!

Besides being way more fun (have a ball, y’all!), adding a stability ball into the mix will immediately elevate your workout and help you get more out of your routine. When you lift weights standing or from a bench, it’s only your arms working. There’s an acute focus on that one area, and your body can take energy from elsewhere to help you achieve your reps. But when you suddenly add a ball into the mix, you’re going to be working harder as there’s a lot more going on for your body to accommodate. With your balance constantly shifting, your body (and core) will be in a constant state of readjustment, diverting a lot of the energy it would normally send to help with whatever other activity you’re doing—bicep curls, shoulder press, chest flies, etc. Working harder = more calories burned, mission accomplished! 

Alright, by now you’re out of breath, tired and sweaty. But doesn’t it feel so good to have completed that workout?? There’s no better feeling!