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Navigating the Gym after New Year’s Day

Any day is a good day to choose to be more active, but if you’re like a lot of people, that day is January 1. And if you’ve ever been to a fitness club at the start of the new year, you know it can be a madhouse. All the open lockers disappear. Classes you want to try fill up in seconds. Lines form for the most popular machines. It can be a frustrating time for both new members and gym rats alike.

But there’s no reason to give up on your resolutions, or abandon your routine for a month! We spoke with Amy Kleski, MA, general manager of the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center, for tips on maneuvering through the busiest time of the year at the gym.

Tips for new gym members:

1. Take advantage of orientation.

“Most clubs have free or low-cost trainer sessions or an orientation day that can help you make sense of the place,” says Kleski. “If you’re completely new to the gym experience, they can help you choose areas to focus on and exercises that will get you started.”

2. Skip rush hour.

“Just like traffic, the busiest times of the day at the gym are right before work or right after,” says Kleski. “If you can get to the gym earlier in the morning, find a break mid-day, or wait until later in the evening, you may find it easier to fit in the workout you want. Plus, it can be a less intimidating time for new members. You won’t feel rushed if you’re just figuring out how the machines work and how you want to set them.”

3. Start slowly.

“If you’re starting from scratch fitness-wise, 10 minutes of cardio may be enough of a challenge for you. You also don’t need to complete three sets of 10 reps in every exercise,” says Kleski. “Give yourself time to adjust. People who try to do too much too soon often give up on their goals. But be sure to push yourself. Add a little more weight, a few more reps, and a few more minutes to your cardio routine each week.”

4. Choose machines over free weights.

Kleski says machines give those who are new to weight training more control. “Machines can be safer for new members. They target muscle groups more specifically, and they are easy to adjust quickly. If you’ve never worked with free weights or a squat rack, you may not have the strength in your stabilizing muscles to complete proper movements, which can open you up to injury. A good full-body machine workout for people new to weight training is a leg press, chest press, leg curl, seated row, bicep curl and tricep extension.”

5. Stay open-minded.

“Don’t force yourself into exercises you think you’re supposed to do,” says Kleski. “If a friend asks you to join them in a class or a workout, go for it. But if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick to it. Find something challenging that you like doing, and you’ll have success.

Tips for long-time gym members:

1. Be patient.

“A spike in new members always comes this time of year, and things smooth out by March or April,” says Kleski. “Preparing yourself for it will make it easier to manage. Consider renting a locker if you don’t want to fight for free spaces. And remember you were a new member once, too! Be a help to new members if you can. The sooner they learn the ropes, the smoother things will go.”

2. Be flexible.

The same rush hour rules apply to old members as new ones, says Kleski. “Plan to shift your routine by an hour or two for a few weeks. It will help you avoid the frustration of waiting twice as long to get your normal workout in.”

3. Try something new.

“If you find it too difficult to stick to your regular plan, then go off plan!” says Kleski. “Take a new class, do some cross-training, or try some bodyweight exercises. It might be just the push you need to break through a plateau.”

If you want to get more active, today’s the perfect day! Visit the OhioHealth McConnell Heart Health Center page for more details.