Joining a gym is often high on the new year’s resolutions list. However, merely joining a gym will not get you fit. You actually have to go there and work out.
To get the best results out of it, you will need to follow a structured programme that addresses the specific outcomes you want from the workout.
Learning the ropes
Most gyms offer an orientation session when you first sign up, although what this entails can vary greatly.
Bob Musselwhite, owner of Curves Cayman believes that a comprehensive assessment is vital to the success of any exercise programme.
“Prior to making the commitment to become a Curves member everyone goes through an orientation and fitness assessment including medical history, past fitness programmes and results, current weight, measurements and body fat percentage,” he says
“All new members are taken through their first session one on one with a trainer and each subsequent workout is always under the watchful eye of a trainer to provide support, encouragement and monitor performance.”
World Gym offers a similar service, according to gym manager Tertius Broderick.
“This gives our members a starting point and also enables us to design a work out plan specifically for their needs,” he says.
Christine Connor of Powerhouse Gym at King’s Sports Centre believes the orientation phase should never be underestimated.
“You wouldn’t go to a golf course and straight away go out with a ball and have a game – you’d learn how to play the game first. The same with the gym – you should learn how to use the equipment properly before trying to go out there on your own and do your own thing,” she says.
One of the most important elements of any exercise programme is the amount of time you can spend in the gym. It is important to go to the gym regularly if you want to see results.
The number of sessions per week depends on how much time you have available and your current level of fitness.
“If you have a complete novice, I usually encourage them to do 30 minutes, three times a week. Anyone can fit that in. Eventually as you get fitter you build the time up and you build the intensity up,” says Connor.
According to Musselwhite, the Curves programme is also based on 30 minutes three times a week.
However, anything less and results may be slow in coming, if at all.
“You actually have to show up and work at it,” he says.
As you gain fitness, going to the gym more often is certainly an option. However, Connors is quick to point out that she would never advise someone to be in the gym seven days a week, as your body needs some recovery time.
In any exercise programme, it is vital to balance muscle groups. Exercising some muscle groups to the exclusion of others can lead to imbalances in the body, which in turn could lead to injuries.
There also needs to be a balance between different types of training in order to get the best results.
“I personally believe it’s got to be nutrition, cardio and resistance training. You’ve got to do a mixture of the both. With cardio you are going to burn the calories, but with weights you are going to improve your lean muscle mass,” says Connor.
According to Musselwhite, resistance training is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to weight loss.
“If the goal is to accomplish permanent weight loss without permanent dieting the inclusion of resistance is very important to any weight loss programme,” he says.
Muscle is metabolically active tissue, meaning that it burns calories.
“The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn, even when you’re not exercising. By having more muscle, you burn more calories per day without any extra effort,” says Broderick.
According to Musselwhite, this is why the Curves programme combines resistance, cardio and stretching into one session.
“The system is built around easy-to-learn hydraulic resistance machines working opposing muscle groups. The machines are designed especially for women. There are no cumbersome weight stacks to change or manage,” he says.
Keep up your heart rate
Weight loss training needs to focus on elevating heart rate (burning calories), therefore shorter recovery periods between sets, with sets long enough to allow heart rate to rise.
“Cardio does not require an individual to be sweating and short of breath with a pounding heart rate to achieve results. Simply raising the heart rate to approximately 70 to 80 per cent of its maximum and sustaining that rate for 20 minutes would be a reasonable cardio workout,” says Musselwhite.
If you take long breaks between sets it limits the effectiveness of the exercise, as it allows your heart rate to drop.
Using a preset circuit in a gym is a good option, as the continual exercise will see to it that your heart rate remains high. It also provides a full body workout.
Recruit more muscles
The more muscles are involved in a specific exercise, the more oxygen is being used and the faster you burn calories. Therefore, exercises like bicep curls, which focus on only one muscle group, are not likely to get your heart rate up as quickly as squats, rows and other exercises that engage many different muscle groups.