Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is it That Time of Year Already?

The increase in general rainy blech-ness of late has got me fantasizing about that vacation I wish I could take but can't afford. And then it struck me: that's why I'm seeing a lot more people at the gym all of a sudden. Spring Break looms. Unless no one else can afford a vacation either, in which case, why the sudden uptick in patronage? Is it the longer days? The warmer weather (or promise of it)?

Whether you're weeks away from being seen in a swimsuit or just trying to be prepared for wedding season, it's no secret that once spring rolls around many of us make the renewed effort to breathe life into our fitness routines. This may explain why all of a sudden you can't find an open treadmill at the gym, or your Spin class just got a little more packed. As both a trainer and a regular human being I can certainly understand the effect that 70-degree temps and a sun that sets after 5 pm can have on your motivation.

That doesn't make it any less annoying, however, when you want to work out and the equipment you want to use is occupied by some preening meathead in a muscle T. So how do you deal with gym overcrowding? How do you still get in an effective workout in a reasonable amount of time when you have to wait for machines? You have two choices, really. You keep your cool, or you get creative.

If the type of workout you do (I'm talking to those of you who are trying to work your muscles in isolation in order to put on size) requires that you use certain machines, you're gonna have to make nice and learn a little technique called "working in." It's quite simple: you see a guy (or gal, I don't discriminate) hogging the lat pull-down, you wait patiently for that person to finish his set, and then you ask politely if you can work in a set. You take turns. Most people will either oblige or say, hey, I've got just one more. If they're uncooperative, you're well within your right to inform a gym employee. (If said gym-goer is big and scary, you're also well within your right to find something else to do until he goes away. I totally understand.) The best advice I can give is to plan a routine that's flexible in its ordering of exercises, so that you can improvise until you can get everything done.

Now, if you're open to changing things up a bit---and this is an excellent strategy for those of you trying to lose weight/tone up---here's what you do. Grab a pair of dumbbells, a weight that's versatile for your ability level. Get a length of tubing, or a medicine ball, or whatever. Drag over a flat bench, if you can find one that's unoccupied. Now go find an empty corner, and do a circuit of 6-8 exercises, supplemented by 30-60-second cardio intervals like jumping jacks or stepping up and down on your bench. Choose full-body movements like squats with shoulder presses. Go quickly from one exercise to the next. Keep your heart rate up, be creative, have fun.

Chances are you'll get a better workout than the people lounging around the weight machines. You'll also get your exercises done quickly and efficiently, and you'll be home in time to watch American Idol. How easy is that?

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