Contents

Preparing For Exercise

There are special shoes for many sports, including:

  • Netball: These shoes have a thicker base that protrudes the outline of the shoe slightly, providing maximum grip on the court. This also reduces the risk of knee injury from the quick stops required during the sport.
  • Dancing: Dancing shoes are often the key component for the activity – what is tap dancing without the taps? There are two types of ballet shoes. For beginners, a basic pump (also used for jazz ballet) is sufficient. The pump is a light shoe with minimal padding. As ballet dancers progress, they require proper ballet shoes called “points”, which have a heavy wooden toe to provide a base for tiptoe work.
  • Running: There are many different aspects of a running shoe that must be considered when purchasing, such as the amount of flexibility in the shoe, the strength and firmness of the base, the support it provides the ankle, and so on. Serious runners may require spikes on the base of the shoe for extra grip.
  • Football: Football shoes are similar to running shoes, but with extra flexibility for quick sudden movements and kicking.
  • Cross-training: If you do not play one specific sport, the best option is a cross-trainer. These encompass elements from many different trainers.

These are just a few common examples of sport and shoe types. Every sport will have is own unique footwear. Speak to your coach or sports trainer for advice on what shoes you should be wearing.

Environmental factors influencing exercise

When exercising on the treadmill or with weights in the gym, environmental factors are not such a big deal – the temperature is controlled, there are always people there to help, and there will be a drink fountain available. However, there are many people who choose to exercise outdoors, and there are many sports in which there is no choice but to exercise in the weather. It is very important to monitor the weather and environment, as certain conditions can have a major impact on the success and safety of the exercise regime.

Sun protection during exercise

It is very important to protect yourself from the sun at all times, not just when exercising. Some basic sun sense rules to prevent sun damage are:

  1. Clothing: Always wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. When you are exercising in the heat, you will probably want to wear as little as possible. But if you choose lightweight clothing, you will not get too hot and will still be able to cover more of your body.
  2. Suncream: Use SPF 30+ suncream. Reappy the suncream every 2 hours. If you are swimming, use waterproof suncream and apply at least 30 minutes before getting wet.
  3. Hat
  4. Sunglasses: There are special sport glasses available from sports retailers that are designed to stay on while exercising.
  5. Shade: When you are having a break or are “on the bench”, stand in the shade as much as possible.

Exercising in the heat

Your body’s temperature naturally rises during exercise. When exercising outdoors in the sun on a hot day, your body’s core temperature rises dramatically. In some circumstances, this can lead to a form of heat illness. The major stages of heat illness are:

  • Heat cramps: Heat cramps usually occur in the stomach when exercising. These are distinctly different from muscle cramps. Heat cramps are predominately caused by the loss of salt through excessive sweating.
  • Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion occurs when the heart is not able to meet the demand to pump blood to the muscles and tissues required for the exercise. A person with heat exhaustion will not be able to continue exercising due to extreme fatigue. Symptoms may include any or all of:
    • Heat sensation
    • Chills
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Diarrhoea
    • Headache
    • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Heatstroke: Heatstroke can be very dangerous if not recognised and treated immediately. It occurs when the body’s cooling mechanisms stop working and the core body temperature rises dramatically. Symptoms include abnormal behaviours and coma. If the core body temperature is not immediately reduced, brain damage or death may occur.
  • Fainting due to heat.

It is essential that you take the necessary precautions to prevent heat illness if you are planning to exercise in the heat. Focus on keeping your body’s core temperature at a safe level. Some tips include:

  1. Keep well hydrated
  2. Make sure you consume the recommended salt intake the night before or during the day to compensate for excessive sweating
  3. Wear loose fitting and lightweight clothing
  4. Exercise in the cooler times of day (before 9am and after 4pm)
  5. Perform shorter warm ups and warm downs
  6. Decrease the duration and intensity of the exercise if you are feeling overly hot
  7. Monitor the weather

Exercising in the cold

In Australia, we rarely experience conditions so cold that they provide a major risk for outdoor exercising (less than 0°C). However, we must still be aware of the risks involved with exercising in colder environments, namely cold stress. When the body is unable to maintain thermal regulation in extreme cold conditions, there is a risk of:

  • Hypothermia: Hypothermia occurs when the body’s natural defences against the cold (e.g. shivering, heat retention in body core) fail. Your normal body core temperature is usually 37°C. When this drops below 35°C, you are considered to be hypothermic.
  • Frostbite: Frostbite occurs when the tissues of the skin freeze. This can happen during prolonged exposure to cold weather, or after just a few minutes in extremely low temperatures. Cold winds increase the likelihood of frostbite because the movement of air removes body heat from the skin more rapidly.
  • Immersion foot: Immersion foot occurs when the feet are wet and cold for a long time. The feet will initially tingle and feel numb. This is a sign to dry and warm up the feet. If the condition progresses, the muscles and nerves of the foot may be seriously damaged. This condition can happen in any limb. It is most commonly found in the foot because feet are more likely to be immersed in water or snow.
  • Chilblain: Chilblain occurs when exposed to cold and wet conditions for a prolonged amount of time. Joints become inflamed and swollen. Initially, there is itchiness around the inflamed joints. As the condition worsens, the joints become very painful.

The greatest risk of developing cold stress is when exercising in cold water or rain. If you are planning to exercise in the cold, it is essential that you take the necessary precautions. Focus on keeping your body’s core temperature at a safe level. Some useful tips are:

  1. Keep well hydrated: Dehydration limits the body’s ability to generate metabolic heat.
  2. Wear insulative colthing that will not reduce your mobility
  3. Find shelter if it starts to rain and you are cold
  4. Monitor the weather
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7 Ways to Push Yourself Harder (and Torch Calories) During a Workout

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “showing up is half the battle.” To a degree, it’s true, but when you’re working to achieve physical results, there is more to it than just showing up and going through the motions. With every exercise you do, you can choose to give it mild effort or everything you’ve got. The former, arguably, is a waste of time. You may be getting in a workout, but if you’re not pushing yourself, you’ll never see the results you want.

Fitness is a mental game of getting over ruts and reaching your goals. These seven tips will help you run the extra mile, beat your previous record, or squeeze in that last pull-up.

1. Trick your mind

It really is mind over matter. | iStock.com

If you thought all it took to get in a good workout was participation from your physical body, you’re wrong. Your mind has more power than most people think. It tells the body what to do and what not to do. Often, your brain pulls you back when your body can do and take on more. However, by incrementally pushing past your perceived maximal level in training, you can teach your brain to give the body the chance to go harder.

2. Stop counting

Focus on pushing yourself past your set number of reps. | Thinkstock

Far too often, people determine that they’re only able to complete a certain number of reps, so they meet that goal, then stop. This habit of counting out your reps limits you from pushing past that predetermined number to reach your maximum. Push yourself until you’re so fatigued you want to stop and then squeeze in a couple more.

3. Set an overall goal

Set and stick to your goal. | iStock.com

Determine a specific goal you’re trying to accomplish in your fitness journey. It may be reaching a certain body fat percentage, running a marathon, or losing a set amount of weight. Visualize yourself attaining this goal and think about how you’ll feel when you finally achieve it. Whenever you want to quit or cheat in a workout, bring yourself back to this goal and keep going.

4. Find a mantra

Pick a mantra that really works for you. | iStock.com

Find your own mantra that keeps you moving when all you want to do is stop. Keep it short and sweet, but make sure it’s natural and resonates with you. From “one more, one more” to the Little Engine’s “I think I can, I think I can.” Find something that will keep you moving and motivated. Repeat it in your head when all you want to do is give up.

5. Limit rest time

Keep track of your breaks. | iStock.com

It’s easy to bust out a hard set and then spend the next five minutes getting water and checking your phone. Beat this time waster by setting a stopwatch or timer to ensure you keep your breaks short. For muscular endurance, Men’s Fitness recommends a 30 to 45 second rest between sets. If you’re doing high-intensity interval training, keeping your rest periods short will give you better results.

6. Turn up the tunes

Put together a killer playlist. | iStock.com

Keep your gym playlist upbeat and don’t be afraid to turn up the volume. One study found that playing fast, loud music enhanced exercise performance. Keep your favorite song on standby for that moment when you need a little something to keep you going.

7. Plan the workout

Plan what you’ll be doing during your workout. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

In addition to establishing an overall fitness goal, you’ll need to create a plan for every time you exercise. Fitness shouldn’t be random. Pull workouts off the internet, talk to a trainer, or ask your friends for ideas. When you walk into the gym or hop on your bike, you should already have a goal for the workout and a plan for how you’re going to achieve it.

OK, so I’ve convinced you. It is time to get up and get moving. You have your cool new workout outfit, your fancy new specialty workout shoes. In fact, all your new gear is lined up and ready to go. Now you are ready to get moving…aren’t you?

Not so fast. A little prep work goes a long way.

People often ask me: “How can I lose weight?” or “What is the best (or quickest) way to get in shape?” A question I do not hear as frequently (and one that is just as important and relevant in your fitness journey) is: “How can I best prepare to get the most out of my workout(s)?”

The answer to this question is, of course, a very individualized response which depends on a multitude of factors such as: the physical profile of the person asking (how old they are, what their general health is, etc.), the workout they have planned, the level of fitness already attained and the amount of experience with the sports activity planned.

And while most know all about the importance of the proper warm-up and cool-down, here are some other, perhaps lesser known, tips for getting the most out of your workout:

Athlete Tested/Doctor Approved

Getting the OK from your doctor is an important first step when embarking on a new (or ramped-up) fitness routine. Give ’em a call and set up that physical exam you may not have had in a while. And while you are at it, talk to your doc about your anticipated fitness regimen. He or she knows your health status (and knows you) and may very well have some additional tips for you and your very individual health and fitness situation.

Mind over Matter

Once you have all the appropriate gear and you get the all-clear, psychologically preparing for the new challenge(s) can be a very effective next step. This often includes recalling your purpose for embarking on this road in the first place, visualizing your goals and picturing your desired outcomes. This is a vital part of the workout routine for many of today’s most successful athletes.

Fueling Up

** **

Some swear by the right combination of nutrients at very specific timeframes pre- and post-workout while others do not eat at all pre- and may even feel physically and/or mentally unable to eat post- as well. So, what to do?

** **

Either of the above is probably just fine. If you are an average exerciser and work out a few times per week, you really don’t need to be as concerned about post-exercise foods because your body will have enough time between workouts to recover. Pre-exercise foods become of more importance if you are not following a balanced diet and are not taking in enough calories at regular intervals throughout the day. You may risk bouts of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or you may be more fatigued and not get the most out of your workout.

But let’s get a little more specific:

If you are going to eat before your workout, it is generally wise to do so about 30 to 60 minutes prior. The ideal pre-workout meal is small and composed of complex carbohydrates. Examples include half of a whole grain bagel or a piece of fruit.

After your workout, wait about 15 – 60 minutes to eat. At this point, lean protein and complex carbohydrate-rich foods are helpful in replacing depleted glycogen stores in the muscles. Protein also helps repair muscles. A few slices of turkey with some whole grain crackers or a glass of low fat milk with a piece of fruit would both be perfect options.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

And you’ve heard it before but this really is important enough to hear again and again:

Water is essential for optimal physical performance and overall functioning. Make sure that you are keeping yourself adequately hydrated before, during, and after your workout-even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty. Drink up and drink often.

Now, just do it

Fitness and family health

If you think working out means you have to spend hundreds of dollars a year for a gym membership because you don’t have all that fancy equipment at home, think again.

Working out at home can be much easier than joining a gym, when you commit to it and hold yourself accountable. It’s pretty ideal, in fact. Here’s why:

10 reasons working out at home rocks

  1. Your bathroom and kitchen are nearby — no waiting and no need for shower shoes.
  2. You don’t have to lock up your valuables while you’re working out.
  3. There’s nobody around to make you feel self-conscious about how you look or how fit you are.
  4. You don’t have to worry about parking.
  5. You don’t have to take off your clothes in front of strangers.
  6. No need to rush to fill up your water bottle before your class starts.
  7. You don’t need to pack a gym bag and remember to pick it up on your way out the door for work.
  8. You can hide out from too-hot, too-cold or too-rainy weather.
  9. You get to pick the playlist.
  10. It’s free — or close to it.

And you don’t need expensive equipment. Patty Wood, a certified personal trainer at Personally Fit in New Hamburg, Ontario, says you can get an amazing, full-body workout just by using your own body weight, right at home. She says getting fit hasn’t always easy for her, either.

“I was overweight and suffered from multiple running injuries,” she recalls. “It was through my own process of self-guided research, advice from a past client and a heathier lifestyle that I got where I am today.”

There are a ton of simple ways to get moving at home. Here are some tips and tricks to help you find a home workout, stick to it and get the best results:

1. Choose your at-home workout space

Designate a corner in your home as your workout spot. You really only need a space the size of a yoga mat to have a bunch of options for an effective and efficient workout. It’s best to not exercise in the same place you watch TV or eat. This will help you focus and stay committed to your workout, without thinking about the Netflix series you’re watching, turning on your work computer or checking your phone.

  • How to stay active when you’re working from home

2. Put on your gym clothes

Dress like you’re actually going to the gym. You’ll feel more like exercising when you’re wearing athletic clothes, than if you keep on the sweats you’ve been wearing since you got home from work. You might also find it helpful to put on your running shoes and do 15 minutes of housework or yard work with music on to amp up a little extra energy before beginning your workout. You should also invest in good, supportive running shoes. Taking care of your feet is extremely important, so do some research into what type of shoe you should be wearing for your workout. Wood says it’s also a good idea to reward yourself with new shoes or a new workout outfit once you reach a goal, if your budget allows. You can find budget-friendly workout clothes at stores like Old Navy, Joe Fresh or Winners.

3. Don’t worry about gym equipment

You likely don’t need that much equipment, if any at all. “There are so many body-weight exercises,” says Wood. “A few of my favourites are planking, body-weight squats and push-ups. These three exercises involve many different muscle groups at the same time, allowing you to burn calories and build muscles with fewer exercises. It’s always important to have proper form to reduce the risk of injury. You can create your own circuit with these three exercises.”

If you do have basic equipment such as hand weights and a mat, you have numerous options. If you’re going to use weights, it’s a good idea to have two different sets so you can customize your workout. If you don’t have hand weights and you want to add extra resistance, try soup cans or water bottles. Some other equipment you might find beneficial include resistance bands or a foam roller. They can help you to stretch your muscles before a workout and pamper them afterwards.

  • Are weights the key to weight loss?

4. Use your devices to get new workouts

If you don’t think you can make up your own circuits, there are lots of routines out there, especially through apps, and many are free. Try Fitplan: Gym & Home Workouts, GetFit: Home Workout & Fitness, or the Tone It Up app. They feature programs that guide you through daily workouts that you can do any place, any time — including at home. Most are free, and most of those that aren’t have a free trial so you can see if you like them before committing to paying for them.

If you have a smart speaker, you can also use it to guide you through a home workout. Alexa can pull up five-minute workouts for you if you want to get in a blast of exercise in a short amount of time. You can also try creating an energizing and free playlist on Spotify. Choose songs that pump you up, and occasionally swap out your playlist to keep things interesting.

  • 6 ways smart speakers can help you manage your health
  • How wearables are changing the way we look after our health

5. Set realistic fitness goals

Start slowly, trust your strength and treat your body well. You don’t need to jump into it full-speed, but commit to what you think is reasonable for your body and schedule what you can manage each week. Maybe three days a week will work to start. As you become more comfortable, start doing more. If you have a flexible schedule, work shifts or remotely, you might want to consider other ways to stay active when you’re working from home. Try recording your times and reps and challenge yourself to improve them. Wood says this is a great way to keep track of your progress and encourage yourself to keep improving.

Do your best not to make excuses. “Make exercise part of your daily routine and schedule a workout time that works for you, whether you’re a morning or night-time person,” says Wood. Make it your own and do something you enjoy, and you should start to feel and see results.

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6. Find a workout buddy

A convenient and free way to stay committed to your home workouts is to find a workout buddy to either work out with you at home, or to challenge to do the same workout as you at their home. The Tone It Up app has a share-challenge feature that lets you send a challenge to a friend. Your family might even be encouraged by your new workout habits, and feel inspired to get more exercise, too.

  • How much exercise do my kids need?

Your home workout doesn’t need to be super-fancy or complicated. Wood shares this body-weight, equipment-free routine:

  • Warm up by walking up and down the stairs for five minutes.
  • Hold a plank for 20-60 seconds (modifications: lean on your knees, forearms or hands — whichever feels best for you).
  • Push-ups: 10-15 repetitions (modifications: from your knees)
  • Squats: 10-15 repetitions

Rest for 30-40 seconds between sets and repeat. The number of sets you do will depend on your current fitness level. Last, cool down by walking on the spot and slowly stretch out your muscles.

“Exercise is a great stress-reducer,” says Wood. “It’s so important to make time for exercise. Unplug and just do it! You will feel better and sleep better, and you’ll be more confident and productive. Find your balance and make it work as part of your daily routine.”

  • 5 ways to fit in fitness

Home workouts are entirely customizable, time-efficient and cheap. Commit to the time and trust the process, and you’ll be on your way to living a healthier life.

  • Why wait until the New Year to kick off your fitness, health and financial resolutions when you can start now?

Top Tips for Working out From Home

Working out from home is a growing choice in people’s lifestyles. It’s a way to exercise in a way that for a lot of people is the most convenient and accessible way to do it. There’s a huge number of reasons for it, but once you make the choice, how do you make the most of it?

At exercise.co.uk, we’re dedicated to helping you make the most of your training; however you prefer to do it. If working out from home is your thing, there are always ways to make it better. Here, we’ve put together some of our top tips on helping you get the best home workout you can!

Make a routine & Plan ahead

First up is to make a routine in your workouts. If you’re working out from home so that you can just do it when you feel like it, it might not be the best thing for your commitment. A great idea is always to make sure that you know what it is that you want to do and when you want to do it. That way, you help prevent making excuses for yourself or putting it off until later.

When you’re working out from home, there is a massive number of distractions around you. You need to be in the mindset to work out before you can really get the most out of it. The best way to do that is to dedicate time to it in advance. It’s worth doing. (Here’s more info if you aren’t sold already)

Get the right equipment

Next up is, of course, getting the right equipment. There’s only so much progress you can make with the wrong bit of kit, no matter what your goals are. If you’re looking to pack on the muscle, buying a small dumbbell set might not be the best way to go. It could be the best starting point, don’t get us wrong, but after a while, your progress will slow down because you need more, like a bigger weight set or even multigym.

On the flip side of this, the same goes for cardio, but in a different sense. Cardio is usually done in the same form multiple times a week if you’re working out from home, and you develop in your own skill rather than outgrowing the equipment, which is great. What can happen, though, is that things can get a little monotonous. Make sure you’re buying the kit that you enjoy using if you want to be able to keep up your exercise routine in the long term. That’s definitely a top tip in its own right.

Set goals

Goal setting is vital no matter how you’re working out. One of the easiest ways to demotivate yourself is not to see the results of all of your hard work, and not having any direction in your workouts is an easy way for that to happen!

Take the time to set out where you want to be in 1 month-6months time, and work from there. Keep things realistic where you can and go for what you think it doable. Setting realistic goals has to be the first step.

Variation

After you’ve done all of the above, another crucial point is that you are keeping things varied. Mix things up where you can! Variety is the spice of life, and doing the same workout week in week out is not good for you, physically or mentally.

If you find yourself doing the same cardio all the time, do a weight training workout. Even bodyweight workouts are a great way to spice it up. On top of that, try getting outdoors every now and then. It doesn’t have to replace your home gym, but giving your body a shock by changing your training patters is great for your progress! It’s well worth thinking about!

Don’t go it alone

This one comes in a few different forms, but hear us out. You don’t have exercise on your own even if you’re working out from home! There are tonnes of options to make the most of the social side of exercising! Why not get a friend or a family member involved and make progress towards your goals together! Exercising with someone else is an excellent way to keep things interesting and motivate you both!

On top of that, you can do other things too. Some people love to workout with other people instructing them, for example. If that’s the case, why not hit the internet and go find some relevant workouts. There’s something for everything out there, form NHS workouts all the way through to some hardcore stuff of our own! Take a look and include them in your plan if that’s what’s going to push you further!

Overall, there are a lot of things you can do to slingshot your progress in the long term. You just need to know which ones will work best for you. Try them out and see what you think! Working out from home could be the best thing you never tried!

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.

Signs You Had a Good Workout

Exercising is a lot more than a way to look pretty and stay healthy and fit. Working out results in having more energy, feeling happier, being more self-confident and in many more physical and mental benefits.

The most frequent feeling you get, however, during your training is “like you’re going to die.” Chances are that this is not going to happen and that you actually have a lot more energy to keep exercising. Realistically measuring how long you can go on depends on several factors such as heart rate, muscle fatigue, hunger, intensity.

A quality workout doesn’t have to be long at all despite what your ultimate goal is. Building muscle of losing weight is obtainable with 20-minute workouts as opposed to an hour at the gym (who has so much free time anyway…). Maintaining your weight doesn’t need a lot more than half an hour of brisk walk every day and eating right.

The criteria are the same but how much of it is personal. A person usually sweats between 0.8 and 1.4 liters in an hour of exercising. If your workout is the same, soreness isn’t an accurate answer either. The body is smart and it adapts to regular trainings. So soreness and drinking more water is not an accurate sign if you’ve had a good session. The same goes for muscle pain and lack of energy. That’s why changing your routine is necessary with time but the signs of a good workout are the same.

Muscle Fatigue

Have you ever hear of the jelly muscles? It’s when you are working out wat to hard and your muscle feel extremely tired during reps or right after. For example, you lift weight and then you can barely lift your hands up. If that happens, drink lots of water and rest. Have some chocolate milk to help with the muscle recovery and rest. If you keep going you risk injury.

Soreness

A “burning” feeling in your muscles while weightlifting doesn’t necessarily mean you’re working out hard. It could just be lack of oxygen. It may sound scary but your muscles tear during an exercise. They recover easily when you rest. Such tears are needed in order to build lean muscle and increase a metabolism; so a little soreness is a sign of a good workout.

Sleep

This is pretty straight forward. People who have had a quality workout usually have a better night sleep, according to studies.

Heart Rate

Use a heart monitor. It’s the best indicator of whether you are exercising within your comfort zone because it shows you your heart rate at every moment so you know to stop when you reach your maximum. Reach the rate at which your muscles begin to feel the burn, which technically means that the body is producing lactic acid which is necessary for burning calories. Maintain this heart rate for half the time you intend to do the cardio exercise. Remember that with time you’ll have to increase the intensity of your cardio workout.

Hunger

Feeling hungry right after a workout is a good sign. You need fuel to recover. You’re likely to have cravings for foods that have carbs which the body uses for energy. Try to eat no more than 30 minutes after exercising. Your body will use the calories (energy) right away to cool down, which means retaining less fat. Bonus, it will recover faster because it’s getting proper nutrients.

Remember that quality is always more important and better than quantity. Working seven days a week for an hour is not beneficial. Instead, try exercising 40 minutes four days a week but increase the intensity of your workout. The point is to work as hard as you can in a shorter amount of time. Run (or do any other type of cardio) hard for a minute, then rest. Repeat a few times and move on to resistance training. Use the burned carbs to fuel your strength workout.

More readings:

15 Workouts to Do in 15 Minutes or Less

Why Rest Days are Just as Important as Working Out

How to Recover From an Injury While Still Training

8 Signs You Had a Good Workout

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If you’ve ever finished a workout and wondered if it actually did you any good, you’re not alone. It’s a common perception that good workouts must leave you shaking and sweaty, according to a new survey published in the journal BMC Public Health. Many women reported that physical activity only “counts” if it’s high intensity, performed for a certain length of time, and done at a gym. But it turns out that’s not entirely true when it comes to what actually makes a good workout.

“Most people still believe older exercise recommendations and haven’t internalized the updated ones permitting less-intense workouts,” explains study author Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, motivation scientist and director of the University of Michigan’s Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy (SHARP) Center. And since many people might be deterred by intense workouts, this can keep them from exercising consistently or even starting a program in the first place, she adds.

So if it’s not the intensity of exercise, what actually makes a good workout, and how do you know if you got one? First and foremost, remember that anything is better than nothing at all, Segar says. Then, you can look at how it makes you feel both physically and mentally. Use the list below to get a better idea of how your last session rates. You don’t have to check off every single one of these boxes, but if you can relate to a few of them, then odds are you had a “good” workout.

Physical Signs of a Good Workout

As the women in the survey demonstrated, the first thing most of us use to size up our activity are physical signs. This isn’t a bad thing, and it’s pretty easy to do—but you want to remember that all of this is individualized.

“A ‘good’ workout is really dependent on what your goals are,” says Jill Kanaley, PhD, an exercise physiologist at University of Missouri. “If someone is overweight and finally gets out to do something, that’s a good workout.” But that person’s goals are very different from someone who’s in their 20s and works out regularly. Keeping that perspective, consider these four factors to help you rate your workout.

1. Your progress

Consider if you’re challenging yourself physically. This doesn’t mean adding 20 pounds to your deadlifts or running an extra mile every single workout. Even little steps can help your body improve over time.

Say you normally bench press using 20-pound dumbbells, and today you used 22.5s. That’s a “good” workout. Or, if you typically run three miles and today you walked an extra half mile, that’s a “good” workout. “The extra amount you add doesn’t need to be at a super high intensity,” Kanaley says, and you don’t need to increase your weights or milage every single workout. But when you hit a point when your norm feels easy, that’s when it’s time to strive for more in your workout routine.

2. Your energy level

Although some people love to feel exhausted after a workout, you should actually feel more energized when you’re done, says Jamie Shapiro, PhD, professor of sport and performance psychology at University of Denver. Otherwise, it might mean you’re pushing yourself too hard.

Getting your blood pumping can even stimulate your brain and help you wake up. Something as simple going for a walk can help boost your creativity and get you out of an afternoon slump. If you finish a sweat session and feel like you can take on anything life throws at you, then mark that as a sign of a good workout.

3. Your rate of perceived exertion (RPE)

Real talk. How hard did you work today? To decide, many fitness experts recommend using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion scale, which goes from 6 (no exertion, like watching TV) to 20 (maximal exertion, like sprinting up a steep hill).

To rate your effort, think about questions like these: Could you hold a conversation for the duration of the workout (up to about 13 on the Borg scale), or were you breathing hard enough to make talking difficult (15 or greater on the scale). Be honest with yourself to find your RPE. Twelve to 17 is the sweet spot for most workouts.

4. Your heart rate

If you like to crunch numbers, tracking your heart rate with a heart rate monitor can provide something a little more concrete than your RPE. Start by finding your estimated maximum heart rate. The American Heart Association suggests doing this by subtracting your age from 220. If you’re 35 years old, 185 beats per minute is your maximum, which you’d likely hit at an RPE of 17 on the Borg scale, for example.

Keep in mind that after a workout, a healthy heart will return to its normal resting rate pretty quickly, Kanaley says. If your heart rate stays elevated for hours after working out, you may be overtraining. If that’s the case, be sure to cool down, hydrate, and fuel your body properly before and after exercise. “People forget that recovery is really important,” Kanaley says. “Sometimes you need to take a day off not just physically, but mentally too.”

Mental Signs of Good Workouts

In addition to the physical signs of good workouts, there are also several psychological signs that indicate you’ve had a good workout. These can be a bit harder to measure compared to the more clear-cut physical signs, but they’re just as important. Rate how you feel after your activity compared to how you felt before to decide if you had a good workout.

1. Your mood

Physical activity of any level—from walking to HIIT—is linked to higher levels of well-being. “Exercise causes negative moods to decrease and positive moods to increase,” Shapiro says. Most researchers credit endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that are almost like morphine, with the mental shift. So take note to see if you feel better mentally after your cool-down than you did when you started your warm-up. If the answer is yes, then you can count that as a win.

2. Your stress level

Reduced stress is another big benefit of exercise that has been supported with research, Shapiro says. Considering that stress levels are continuing to increase for Americans, it’s helpful to have a form of release. You might find that a solid sweat session decreases your stress level, but even something as simple as meditative breathing can help. It’s also been shown that yoga can significantly reduce stress. The next time you have a particularly hard day at work, try a few yoga sequences to unwind.

3. How much fun you had

Sometimes we get so caught up in numbers that we forget that physical activity should be fun. “To make exercise stick as part of your lifestyle, you want to find something you enjoy,” Shapiro says. Rather than dreading your workout and hating every minute of it, you should look forward to it. You don’t have to love doing every single rep of burpees, but good workouts are ones you liked overall.

4. How much you engaged mentally

It can be fine to take a mental break while you exercise, like watching TV on the elliptical or planning dinner while you’re doing bench presses. But that can often lead to just a so-so workout. Focusing on the mental part of a workout can lead to a greater feeling of accomplishment, and it can lead to better results physically, too. Improving your mental strength can help you push harder and focus on using correct form, which can help you achieve more results in less time. Connecting to a workout mentally can also reinforce your commitment to working out, which ultimately helps you progress towards your goals, Shapiro says.

Did You Have a Good Workout?

Just like a “good” workout doesn’t need to be intense, it also doesn’t need to hit every single factor on this list. Checking off even just one—say, you had fun—can mean it was a great session. A “good” workout is one that gives you what you need on that particular day, whether that’s stress relief or the proud feeling of lifting more than you did last week.

But if you constantly feel “eh” about your workout routine, you’re not pushing yourself, and you’re not being mentally present, it may be time for a change in the activity, says Kanaley.

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23 Ways to Get More Out of Your Workout Routine

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Finding Fitness—Your Action Plan

1. Commit. Yoda said it best: “Do or do not, there is no try.” Don’t straddle the line between wanting to get fit and actually doing something about it. Take the first step towards healthier habits and commit to a 30-day fitness challengeFundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88.. Go for a walk or run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then perform a circuit of at least five bodyweight exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. Keep it up for a month to make the exercise habit really stick.

2. Make a plan. Without a good game plan, a trip to the gym can quickly become a complete waste of time.To avoid wandering aimlessly from one piece of equipment to the next, map out your workouts ahead of time and set clear training goalsFundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88.. When workouts have a purpose, we’re more able to balance sweating with socializing (yes, it’s OK to laugh a little—in fact, we encourage it!).

3. Stay on schedule. Habits don’t just happen, they’re formed. Figure out when there’s time for exercise—first thing in the morning, at lunch, or after work. But don’t stress; there is no right time to work out. Consistency is the real game-changer. Prioritize exercise, and form a healthy habit by sticking to the schedule every dayFundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88..

4. Track your progress. Performing the same exact workout day after day will likely lead to a training plateau—the place where progress comes to a screeching halt. One way to avoid potential roadblocks is by keeping a workout journal (pretty much a dear diary for grown-ups). But instead of juicy gossip, record the exercises, sets, reps, and the amount of weight used during each training sessionFundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology, University of Connecticut. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88..Then, use these notes to create new workouts that are more challenging than previous sessions.

5. Ask for help. Don’t risk injuries by playing follow-the-leader with the biggest guy in the gym. Learn the dos and don’ts from the get-go. Talk to a trainer, get a fitness assessment, or consider investing a few training sessions to learn the ropes. Coaches have been shown to boost motivation, performance, and adherence to training routinesThe coach-athlete relationship: a motivational model. Mageau GA, Vallerand RJ. Laboratoire de recherche sur le comportement social, Département de psychologie, Université du Québec à Montréal. The Journal of Sports Science, 2003 Nov;21(11):883-904..

6. Warm up. A proper warm-up should be part of every workout. But don’t waste time and energy with outdated warm-up routines—side bends and toe touches went out with headbands and short-shorts. Whether or not you’re still sweating to the oldies, stick to warm-ups that match the workout at hand. When in doubt, a dynamic warm-up to get a sweat going and prime the body for the real work that lies aheadWarm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury. Woods K, Bishop P, Jones E. Human Performance Laboratory, University of Alabama. Journal of Sports Medicine, 2007;37(12):1089-99..

7. Use perfect form. Who wants to keep making the same misstep when you can master the perfect form from day one?Resistance training among young athletes: safety, efficacy and injury prevention effects. A D Faigenbaumand G D Myer. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2010 January; 44(1): 56–63. For a fundamental movement like the squat, be sure to stand tall with the chest up, shoulders back and down, and the core engaged. And below the belt, keep a soft bend in the knees while shifting your weight into the heels. Keeping up good form all workout-long is the best way to protect against injury and make workouts more effective to boot.

See also: How to Do the Perfect Deadlift

8. Show and tell. At some point willpower can run out and send those healthy intentions off the rails. Don’t go it alone. Call in the reinforcements to boost motivation and encourage accountabilityThe association between weight loss and engagement with a web-based food and exercise diary in a commercial weight loss programme: a retrospective analysis. Johnson F, Wardle J. University College London. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2011 Aug 2;8:83.. Try opening up to family and friends about your setbacks and successes. Or, consider starting a blog to get others involved in your get-fit journey. The more people enlisted in the support of the goal, the less likely you are to fail.

9. Compete. When workouts are a competition, winning means losing—weight that is. Whether it’s going head-to-head against an opponent or against our own personal best, research suggests we perform better when we competeInfluence of competition on performance and pacing during cycling exercise. Corbett J, Barwood MJ, Ouzounoglou A, Thelwell R, Dicks M. University of Portsmouth. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2012 Mar;44(3):509-15.. Go all out against the clock, perform as many push-ups as possible, or try to set a new one-rep max. Even if we set our sights too high, it never hurts to have a bigger goal in mind.

10. Do you. Keep in mind, when it comes to exercise, pursuing perfection can be a slippery slope. Sure, it would be nice to have a six–pack or the perfect backside, but it’s better to aim for fit, not flawlessRebranding exercise: closing the gap between values and behavior. Michelle L Segar, Jacquelynne S Eccles,and Caroline R Richardson. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 2011; 8: 94.. Be wary of fitness products that seem too good to be true. Put your trust in science instead—regular exercise, not the Shake Weight, promote health and happiness.

11. Partner up. Everyone needs a little alone time. But flying solo at the gym is like bar hopping with no wingman—a lot of work and nothing to show for it. To get better results and enjoyment out of a workout, enlist the help of a training partnerSources of social support as predictors of exercise adherence in women and men Oka RK, King AC, Young DR. Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford University School of Medicine. Women’s Health, 1995 Summer;1(2):161-75.. With a trusty workout buddy in tow there will never be a need to ask a random for a spot—unless you’re also asking for their number.

12. Mobilize. Believe it or not, there’s more to that smartphone than Angry Birds. Use your mobile device to connect with a social network of like-minded fitness friends. Fitness-focused apps like Fitocracy and Gain Fitness are also great communities helping people to stay motivated, move more, and eat well with a little help from their (virtual) friendsReal-time social support through a mobile virtual community to improve healthy behavior in overweight and sedentary adults: a focus group analysis. Fukuoka Y, Kamitani E, Bonnet K, Lindgren T. Institute for Health and Aging, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2011 Jul 14;13..

13. Be free. Think of exercise machines as the training wheels of strength workouts, and free weights (like dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells) as the real-deal tools for a lean, strong physique. Though strength routines will very depending on personal goals, when in doubt, look to compound movements, and lifting more weight for few reps to shed more fat and build more muscleThe influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Wernbom M, Augustsson J, Thomeé R. Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden. The Journal of Sports Medicine, 2007;37(3)..

14. Multitask your movements. Total-body compound movements like the squat or deadlift utilize multiple muscle groups, joints, and energy systems. The result: A serious boost to heart rate and metabolism in a short amount of timeA comparison of the effects of 6 weeks of traditional resistance training, plyometric training, and complex training on measures of strength and anthropometrics. Center of Excellence for Sport Science and Coach Education, East Tennessee State University. MacDonald CJ, Lamont HS, Garner JC. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Feb;26(2)..

15. Don’t multitask your time. It might be tempting to fire off emails in between sets, but a trip to the gym should include more work than rest. Try upping the intensity by using a stopwatch to monitor rest between setsAdrenal Cortical Responses to High Intensity, Short Rest, Resistance Exercise in Men and Women. Szivak TK, Hooper DR. University of Connecticut. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.. For those with fitness and fat loss goals, keep breaks under 60 seconds and cap workouts at 45 minutes (full steam ahead!).

16. Try new things. Don’t feel bad ditching the treadmill—there’s a whole world of fitness out there waiting to be discovered. Try something new like swinging a kettlebellor busting a move at Zumba classOxygen cost of kettlebell swings. Farrar RE, Mayhew JL, Koch AJ. Truman State University. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010 Apr;24(4):1034-6.. Learning new skills with new people in a new environment can go a long way towards making this exercise habit stick.

See also: 22 Kick-Ass Kettlebell Exercises

17. Run faster. Cardio-loving distance runners may prioritize pacing and mileage, but for those of us who are not so high on running (despite the runner’s high) consider sprinting as your new holy grail. Sprinting all-out for 10 sets of 30-60 seconds can torch more fat in less time than a long runAdrenal Cortical Responses to High Intensity, Short Rest, Resistance Exercise in Men and Women. Szivak TK, Hooper DR. University of Connecticut. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.. Add some intensity and variety to workouts by performing shuttle runs, hill sprints, or 100-meter repeats with short recovery periods in between.

18. Walk it out. No need for speed? Walking works, too. As a matter of fact, the more steps we take the healthier we are likely to beThe importance of walking to public health. Lee IM, Buchner DM. Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2008 Jul;40.. So whether it’s a workout or part of an active lifestyle, walkingmay just be the easiest way to get fit.

19. Skip the gym. Yeah, we said it. But don’t get the wrong idea—we’re talking taking fitness outside the boxThe stay-at-home cardio workout. New guidelines call for even more exercise. Heart Advisor, 2006 Sep;9.. Fit a workout in anywhere, anytime. No equipment? No problem. Try bodyweight exercises, take a yoga class, or go for a run. Or, create a home gym with a set of dumbbells, a kettlebell, a resistance band, and a jump rope.

20. Just do it. Those who think they can and those who think they can’t are both right. Use visualization, a positive affirmation, or winningmantra to boost motivation and get the most out of those workoutsMental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, United Kingdom. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2009 Mar;106(3):857-64. Epub 2009 Jan 8..

21. Make combos. No, not the delectable pizza-flavored pretzels. Combo, as in combining strength and cardio exercise into circuit-based workoutsEffect of high-intensity interval training on cardiovascular function, VO2max, and muscular force. Astorino TA, Allen RP, Roberson DW, Jurancich M. Department of Kinesiology, California State University, San Marcos, California, USA. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2012 Jan;26(1):138-45.. To get strong and lean, perform an up-tempo workout by alternating between a strength move, like dumbbell curl and press, with a cardio move like burpees. Link up to eight exercises and perform each without rest before moving on to the next.

22. Rest. Regular exercise is a healthy habit. But with respect to exercise, too much of a good thing is called overtraining (or the point of diminishing returns where the body, immune system, and progress break down)Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. University of Connecticut. Medical Science in Sports and Exercise, 2004 Apr;36(4):674-88.. Avoid a disaster by adhering to this equation: Results = Work + Recovery. Stretching, swimming, or yoga can all be part of an active recovery protocol. And never underestimate the importance of sleep!

23. Celebrate progress. Forming a new habit is challenging, so set manageable goals and take small, actionable steps towards those healthy workout habits. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. So when you run your first 5K celebrate with a healthier homemade treat. Or, take a break from all this healthy habits business and allow yourself an epic cheat day. It’s actually good for you—once in a whileBrain dopamine and reward. Wise RA, Rompre PP. Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. Annual Review of Psychology, 1989;40..

This article was originally postedFebruary 3, 2013. It was updated March 3, 2014.

Top tips for starting a gym routine

On my first day ever, I remember feeling so nervous about what environment I was about to step into. I didn’t know where anything was and I didn’t actually know what workout I wanted or needed to do to help me with my goals. That being said here are ten things I wish I knew when I started out in the gym…

1. It’s ok to feel nervous

The more I thought about it, the more I felt insecure which made me more nervous than before! It’s ok to feel nervous when you first step foot into a gym, by choosing to sign up for a gym you are essentially pushing yourself outside your comfort zone which does make us feel nervous, worried or scared and all of those feeling are okay. You will slowly begin to become more confident the more you go.

2. It’s ok to ask for help

A lot of my clients initially felt very nervous about asking a member of staff for help and thinking back to my early gym days, so did I. If I never asked for help, my time in the gym would have been very frustrating and unfulfilling. The staff are there for a reason, to help you get better and support you with your goals. Asking for help doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of achieving anything within the gym, if anything it’s the best way to help you achieve your goals.

3. Lifting weights doesn’t make you less feminine

For some reason a lot of ladies (including my past self) feel like that as soon as you start weightlifting, you’ll be perceived as manly and unfeminine. That’s actually not true, if anything it’s very empowering and makes you feel awesome! Weightlifting is a great way to build the body you aspire to have. You don’t have to beat yourself up on the cardio kit for 2+ hours!

4. The free weights area isn’t for guys only!

It can be intimidating walking into a part of the gym where it is heavily dominated by guys that can lift heavy weights, but don’t worry you can still get in there and smash your workout too. A lot of my clients (myself included in the early days) felt very intimidated by going into the free weights area and that was down to me (and my clients) not knowing how to execute an exercise rather than the fact it was purely dominated by guys.

As soon as you realise that your confidence is just lacking purely based on not knowing what to do, all you have to do is get educated. Ever since I have educated my clients on how to do something and what kit they need, they have transformed from being too scared to leave the cardio section to wandering in the most popular and more male dominated parts of the gym without batting an eye-lid. The gym is for EVERYONE to use, it’s for EVERYONE to get better, fitter, faster and stronger!

5. People are open and welcome to sharing equipment

When I went during peak times I used to walk away from the busiest parts of the gym because I assumed everyone would say no if I asked to share the equipment or jump on the machine in-between sets. That overwhelmed me so much that I then changed my workout plan simply because it was busy. Remember we are all in the same boat and no one is actually precious about the kit they use; it’s ok to ask:

“Hi, is it ok if I jump on this in-between your sets?”

“Hey, how many sets do you have left?”

Both of those questions work a treat because it gives you an idea of how long that person will be and most of the time they actually offer for you to jump on whilst they rest so it’s a win win! It can be nerve racking asking for the first time but just remember everyone has done it at some point and you’ll much better once you jump over that obstacle.

6. Failures are essential to you getting fitter and stronger both physically and mentally

When I first started out I vividly remember feeling really low about myself if a workout didn’t go to plan because it was getting harder. The main lesson I learnt from that was;

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”

For a while didn’t realise that until I pushed to the point where I fail at something that I will never grow. Trying to reduce my 5k time by running faster, lifting 80kg on the leg press and not getting all the reps in. Those failures are the most important parts of your training as that is essentially what is making you stronger. If you go in lifting the same amount weight, running at the exact same pace, resting the exact same amount and performing the exact same amount of sets and reps then you will not get any fitter or stronger. Failure has to fall within that process in order for you to adapt to the training you are doing. So stick at it and realise that failure is an essential part of your journey.

7. You don’t have to do something if you don’t enjoy it

When I started I out I played around with different forms of training so I could discover what I enjoyed. If you are following a programme and you really don’t enjoy it or you are doing something someone else told you to do and you hate it… just stop and do something else. As soon as you build a negative perception of the gym you will find any excuse to not go. You should love the process, yes the workouts will be hard but you should still enjoy it. Some of my clients tell me they feel like a superhero when they perform certain exercises so I make sure we do more of that style of training so they feel like that more often.

Don’t stick at something if you hate it, find something else; go to a class, get a PT to give you some advice on how to mix things up or even work with them to help build up your education on how to work out… you won’t regret it!

8. You do not have to train for 2 hours a day 7 days a week to achieve your goal

When I first started I was guilty of overtraining and not resting enough. I would go almost every day and my body barely had any chance of recuperating, which then meant I didn’t pack any intensity into my workouts. You don’t have to have stupidly long sessions either, you can go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week (dependent on your lifestyle) for just 1 hour and get amazing results! Reflecting back I wish I knew I could get awesome results by planning my week like this:

Monday: WORKOUT, Tuesday: WORKOUT, Wednesday: REST, Thursday: WORKOUT, Friday: WORKOUT, Sat/Sun: REST

9. You don’t need to take the latest trending supplements

If you haven’t got the basics nailed and you aren’t training to an advanced/elite level then there is never really any need to include supplements in your diet. Back then I wish I knew that all I needed to do was:

– Eat a well-balanced nutritious diet

– Stay hydrated

– Sleep 7/8 hours

– Take rest days

– Reduce stress levels as much as possible

All those factors are the foundation building blocks you need to smash your fitness and health goals. You don’t to spend £60 a month on supplements to get where you need to be, you just need to master the basics and stay consistent with your training. Some supplements have their place, just don’t jump to them as the be all and end all to achieving your goals.

10. You won’t always feel motivated and that’s okay

People always have this perception of me being a bubbly/energetic person 24/7, but for the most part I am but just like you. I have my days when I don’t feel motivated. Back in my early gym days, I used those days as an excuse not to go and I wish I knew back then that it’s ok not to feel motivated. You will always feel better for getting into the gym and moving, even if it’s not to the same intensity as you would normally train, at least you’ve done something. Consistency is one the most important factors in achieving your goals. Just remember you won’t always feel like going to the gym and that’s ok, in those moments just remember your why, why did you start going in the first place?

For beginner workout ideas and exercise tips, check out our free workouts and exercises section.

You’ve signed the forms and even splurged on swanky new kit. It’s official: You have a brand spanking new gym membership. And you’re committed AF. Right?

Well, you would be, only there’s a problem: You don’t know where to start.

Despite the seemingly thousands (or maybe actual thousands) of fit folk you follow on Insta, you’re – understandably – unsure of how to navigate a gym.

And you aren’t alone. In fact, research by Nuffield Health revealed that a whopping 55% of gym-going Brits have no idea what they’re doing at the gym. And a quick office survey backed this up: More than half of the WH team has felt awkward/nervous/apprehensive, or just a bit lost in a new gym in the past.

55% of gym-going Brits have no idea what they’re doing at the gym

So, ever keen to see you boss your health and fitness goals, WH has compiled – what we consider to be – key tips for getting settled in a new gym.

Listen up, ladies.

12 tips for finding your feet when you find a new gym

1. Know your goal

Whether it’s fat loss, an increase in strength or to smash out a 10-rep set of push-ups, having a goal to work towards will keep you committed to your new gym membership, and will also determine how your workouts are structured. Goals can – and will – change over time, but try to have both long-term (manage 100kg deadlifts, for example) and short-term (such as a marginal increase in sprint speed) aims in mind.

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2. Don’t bail on your induction

We get it. You’re keen to start chipping away at your goals, however, your induction – which, yes, may feel like a faff at first – is free 1-2-1 time with a qualified trainer. Our advice? Use that to your advantage.

  • Arrive with your goal in mind and a mental (or physical, if that works for you) list of questions to ask that will help you work towards achieving what you set out to.
  • Struggling with a knee injury? Ask to be shown exercises that won’t aggravate it.
  • Keen to crack a pull-up? Ask for advice on structuring a workout that’ll build the upper-body strength needed to smash it.
  • Not sure where the resistance bands are kept?

You see where we’re going with this.

3. Arrive with a plan

Even after your new gym membership is no longer, err, new anymore, you should always arrive with a workout in mind. Why? Because it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed by an abundance of equipment leaving you sure of where to start, and perhaps not starting at all. It’s also worth having a few body weight moves in your back pocket too, for when the squat racks are occupied and the lass using the lat machine just won’t let up.

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4. Schedule your workout wisely

Ever find yourself feeling flustered when the gym is overflowing and the dumbbell racks are all but empty? Instead of rushing or – let’s be honest – altogether skipping your workout, try to suss when your new gym is at its most quiet. It’ll largely depend on its location, but on the whole, gyms tend to be busy before work (say, 6-9am), during lunch hours (12-2pm-ish) and for a few hours post-work (4.30-6.30pm, or thereabouts). And if you prefer to sweat in your own space see if you can sync your schedule to the class timetable, so you can workout – alone – in the studio.

Try to suss when your new gym is at its most quiet

5. Whatever you do, always ask for assistance

Let’s get one thing straight. Those uniformed humans that walking around your new gym whilst you’re working out are not just there to look good. In fact, they’re there to help you. Yes, really.

So if you’re struggling with a machine or want to try a new move, all you gotta do is ask. Put it this way: Is it more awkward to ask for help and nail an exercise first time, or misuse a machine for months on end – risking injury – because you’re too embarrassed?
A recent study by Nuffield Health found that 23% of gym-goers are too embarrassed to ask for help. Do yourself a favour: Don’t be one of them.

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6. Create your own exercise library

Remembering how to do each exercise on your workout plan is a bit like remembering to put the bins out: Some weeks it happens, others you have a brain fart and forget. One way to get around this is to book a PT session, or time with a gym instructor, and use the hour to get familiar with every exercise on your plan. “Simply ask them to demo each move correctly, then try to replicate it. Once you’ve got it sussed, ask them to film you performing it,” suggests WH resident PT, Amy Hopkinson. “That way, you can refer back to it whenever you need a reminder of the ideal form for each move.”

Ask a PT to demo each move, film and favourite. It’s your own workout move library

7. Learn to mobilise before you move

You’ve heard the phrase ‘don’t run before you can walk’, well the same applies to exercise. Dive in head-first with heavy weights and high reps that your body isn’t prepped for and you’re asking for an injury. First, familiarise yourself with pre-workout exercises to warm yourself up, then master mobility moves to aid in recovery and help you to avoid injury.

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8. Commit to classes

Circuits, yoga, spinning, say yes to it all. And not only for calorie burn potential. By sampling as many classes as you can squeeze in your schedule you’ll figure out the kind of exercise you enjoy and, just as importantly, the kind that you dislike. You’ll be taught proper form, and learn new moves that you can integrate into your solo workouts. Just be sure to check the classes aren’t aimed at a fitness level way above your own (check out our round-up of the best gym classes for beginners if you’re a newbie). Another bonus? You might just make some likeminded friends. Which leads us on to…

9. Make friends

There’s a reason Taylor Swift featured her girl gang in her Bad Blood music vid. Because there is power in numbers, and having a squad means you’re not the only one trying to figure out how to work the latch on the Smith machine. If you can’t convince a pal to sign up to a new gym with you, reach out to other members. The approach is key (i.e. don’t introduce yourself in the changing room when your to-be pal is topless). Chat to other class attendees post-sweat and bond over a mutual physical exhaustion, and if it’s a solo exerciser that you’re keen to kick off a friendship with, try to catch them after a set (never make mid-rep small talk) and ask if they’d mind you trying their workout sometime. Steer clear of creepy compliments.

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10. Focus on you

Savage as it sounds, chances are your fellow gym-goers don’t care an awful lot about what you’re up to. They aren’t honing in on your reps, what you’re lifting or how much you’re sweating. What do they care about? Their own reps, what they are lifting, and how much they are sweating. We suggest following suit, and focussing only on your own workout.

Focus on your own workout—chances are, your fellow gym-goers aren’t interested in what you’re doing

11. A killer playlist is key.

Seriously. Repeat after us: I will not underestimate the power of an awesome playlist. Well done. Compile the songs that make you feel badass – whether pop, rock or grime – into a playlist that will, upon hearing, make you up your sass and smash your workout. You may find that certain songs even help you increase your speed, reps or weight.

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12. Track your progress.

Regardless of your goal (remember that thing we spoke about right, right at the beginning of the list?), it’s important to keep tabs on it to provide perspective on days when workouts feel like a slog and you need a bit of inspo to push you forward. Get your body fat percentage measured (don’t rely on a BMI), take note of your body measurements, journal the number of push-ups/pull-ups/XYZ move you want to master that you can manage each week, and keep capturing those selfies.

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Whether you’re looking for motivation to start exercising, or are interested in changing up your current routine, here are 10 tips for making exercise a daily habit.

  1. Piece your workout together. You don’t need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.
  2. Exercise with a friend. Finding a workout partner can help keep you on track and motivate you to get out the door.
  3. Keep it brisk. When you walk, make it brisk, since this may help control weight better than walking at a leisurely pace. What is brisk enough? Walk as though you are meeting someone for lunch and you are a little late.
  4. Move your feet before you eat. Hit the gym or go for a 20-minute walk with coworkers, and have lunch afterward.
  5. Try a pedometer. Step-counters (pedometers) are an easy, inexpensive way to motivate yourself to be active. Work up to 10,000 steps per day.
  6. Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone. Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Move around instead, by visiting the gym or even cleaning the house.
  7. Turn sit time into fit time. Try to combine cardiovascular exercise with a sedentary activity that you already do. For example, try doing simple exercises while watching TV, or set a reminder at work to get up and walk a few minutes every hour.
  8. Sign up for a class. Check out the fitness course schedule at your local gym or community center, or the dance or yoga class schedule at a nearby studio. You may find that having the structure of a class helps you learn a new activity and keeps you on track.
  9. Plan exercise into your day. Set aside a specific time in your schedule to exercise and put it in your planner.
  10. Reward yourself. Set short-term goals—and reward yourself for achieving them. Try targeting a specific event, such as a road race or a walk-for-charity, to participate in—this can help keep you motivated.

The 35 Best Workout Tips of All Time

Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images

Want to know the secrets to getting a fit-as-hell body in record time? We did too, so we went straight to research, personal trainers, exercise physiologists, and fitness instructors to round up the best workout tips to kick a fitness routine into high gear.

Put a few of these moves, motivation, and mantras into action each week and you’re guaranteed to see faster results!

The Best Workout Tips: Why You Should Exercise

1. It can save your life-really! Regularly doing cardio and strength training reduces your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and endometrial, colon, and breast cancers. The American Heart Association recommends exercising for 30-60 minutes on most days to reduce your risk of heart disease. (Whoa. This push-up test might be able to predict whether you’ll have heart disease later in life.)

2. You’ll feel less stressed and happier. Exercise has been proven to improve your mood and decrease anxiety. Studies show that the fitter you are, the better you’ll be at handling the long-term effects of stress. One moderately intense 50-minute aerobic workout has been shown to significantly lower anxiety levels. And a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that exercise may be more effective than drugs in treating mild to moderate depression. (Just in: Weight-lifting can do remarkable things for your mood, too!)

3. It strengthens your bones. Exercise increases bone density, helping prevent osteoporosis. High-intensity activity, like jumping and running, is most beneficial for preserving bone mass.

The Best Cardio Workout Tips

4. Always warm up and cool down. This exercise tip will help you maintain your mobility and flexibility and prevent injury. Take 5-10 minutes to gradually raise your heart rate at the beginning of a workout and lower it afterward. Before strength training, do low-intensity cardio that recruits larger muscle groups like your legs, back, and core. Try this quick warm-up before every exercise sesh.

5. Take this jump-rope challenge. “The best cardio workout is the jump-rope double-turn maneuver,” says Michael Olajide Jr., former number one world middleweight contender and cofounder/trainer at AEROSPACE High Performance Center in New York City. “It’s intense: You’ll burn about 26 calories per minute! Do a basic jump for 5 minutes, then jump twice as high and turn the rope twice as fast so it passes under your feet twice before you land. This takes timing, patience and power. But you’ll get in great shape just by working at it.” (Once you’ve mastered that, up the ante with our 30-minute jump rope workout.)

6. Don’t cruise through cardio. Increase intensity by doing intervals: After a warm-up, alternate 1-2 minutes of activity at a rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, of 7 or 8 with 2-4 minutes of lower-intensity periods (RPE of 3-4). Repeat 4-6 times. Use our handy guide to help determine your RPE during any workout.

7. Tone up on the treadmill. “Save time at the gym with this 10-minute cardio/sculpt session: Hop on a treadmill holding a three- to five-pound dumbbell in each hand, and set the speed to a brisk walk. Do a 60-second set each of shoulder presses, biceps curls, triceps extensions, side laterals, front laterals and standing triceps kickbacks one after another as you walk. It’s an amazing upper-body challenge that also gets your heart pumping. Do this series two or three times each week. As you improve, work up to doing 4-minute sets,” says Michael George, trainer and author of Body Express Makeover.

8. Make over your running routine. “Unless you’re training for a marathon, skip long, slow, distance running-sprinting builds more muscle. Add a few 10- to 60-second sprints to your run, slowing down just long enough to catch your breath between them,” says Stephen Holt, ACE personal trainer. (See: How to Use Running for Weight Loss)

9. Use the talk test. If you can’t speak a sentence or two with each breath, you’re pushing too hard (unless you’re purposely doing high-intensity interval).

10. Get a jump on weight loss. “Add plyometric box jumps to your workout to improve your cardiovascular stamina and leg strength – you’ll really sculpt your hamstrings, quads and glutes. Find a sturdy box that’s at least one foot high . Starting from a standing position, explosively jump to the middle of the box, then jump back down. Repeat 20 times,” says George. (Related: Plyo Box Workout for Your Upper and Lower Body)

11. Watch the clock to lose weight. In a Journal of the American Medical Association study, women who racked up at least 200 cardio minutes a week for 18 months lost nearly 14 percent of their total body weight. Those who accumulated fewer than 150 minutes reduced their weight by less than 5 percent.

12. Power up your runs. “Adding wall sits to the end of every run will strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, improving your speed and endurance. Lean against a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat until your knees are bent at 45 degrees. Hold for 30-60 seconds; work up to doing 10 sets. Add a challenge by including heel raises: Lift your left heel, then the right, then lift both together twice,” says Mindy Solkin, owner and head coach of The Running Center in New York City.

The Best Strength Training Workout Tips

13. Lift like you mean it. If you can do the maximum number of suggested reps (usually 10-12) without feeling fatigued, add pounds (10-15 percent at a time). If you can’t complete the minimum number of suggested reps (usually 8), reduce the weight in 10 percent increments until you can. Your last 1 or 2 reps should always feel tough, but doable.

14. Try this all-in-one toner. “A side-step squat with wood chop works your arms, torso, abs, back, legs, inner thighs and butt,” says David Kirsch, trainer and author of The Ultimate New York Body Plan. “Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a three- to four-pound medicine ball in your hands. Bend your arms up so that the ball is at eye level over your right shoulder. As you bring the ball toward your left knee, step out with your left leg and bend it no further than 90 degrees, keeping your right leg straight. Return to the starting position. Do 10 to 15 reps and repeat on the other leg.”

15. Balance your body. To head off injuries, build good posture, and ensure you have strength for your favorite activities, do exercises for opposing muscle groups. During your weekly routines, if you work the quads, for example, do exercises for your hamstrings as well. The same applies for the biceps and triceps, chest and back and lower back and abs. (Ex: Here’s what a perfectly balanced week of workouts looks like.)

16. Work out during your workday. “Sit on a stability ball to strengthen your core, and keep dumbbells or exercise tubing at your desk,” says Gregory Florez, personal trainer in Salt Lake City, Utah. “Squeeze in 12 to 15 reps of exercises like dumbbell curls, overhead presses, and ab crunches; aim for two or three sets of each. This gives you more free time to fit in fun workouts like biking or tennis.”

17. Take a day off between weight-lifting sessions. Always give muscle groups 48 hours of rest between resistance workouts to allow them time to adapt to the stress you put on them. If you must lift every day, don’t target the same muscles in back-to-back sessions.

18. Super-sculpt your butt. “Get great glutes by targeting the muscles and connective tissues buried deep in your body. To hit them, do high-intensity squats, such as jump squats. Then, blast off butt flab with cross-country skiing, bleacher running, and stair climbing,” says Steve Ilg, author of Total Body Transformation.

19. Don’t let your routine become rote. To continue to make sculpting gains, this exercise tip is crucial: Change the moves, order, weight, sets, reps and/or rest periods you do at least every four weeks. Try mixing things up more often. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, subjects who varied the number of sets and reps from workout to workout saw greater strength gains-even at the same intensity-than those who stuck to the same routine.

20. Intensify your push-up. “Squat-thrust push-ups get you in great shape because they work your upper body, core, and lower body and improve agility, strength, and endurance all at once,” says Keli Roberts, personal trainer in Los Angeles. “From a standing position, bend down, put your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart, and jump your feet back into plank position. If you’re strong, cross your ankles; otherwise, jump your feet wide apart. Do a push-up, then jump your feet together or uncross your ankles. Jump your feet back to your hands and stand up. Do eight reps total, rest for one minute, and repeat.”

21. Blast calories with circuits. Do one set of each move in your workout, without resting between exercises. Repeat the circuit once or twice and you’ll burn up to 300 calories in half an hour as opposed to 150 from a typical weight routine. (Related: Try Anna Victoria’s 20-Minute Circuit for a Toned Body and Core)

22. Break out the shovel. “Why pay someone to clear snow from your driveway? Besides burning nearly 400 calories per hour, shoveling snow develops muscular endurance and power. But be safe: Minimize the amount of snow on each shovelful, and bend from your knees and hips, not your back,” says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., exercise physiologist and sports psychologist at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant, Texas.

The Best Running and Walking Workout Tips

23. Loosen up. De-clenching your fists will prevent you from tensing up your arms, which can stress your upper back and shoulders. Pretend you’re holding a butterfly in each hand: Close your fingers to keep it from flying away, but gently enough that you don’t crush it.

24. Write it down. Pick up a pen or download a journaling app for this workout tip. Experts recommend tracking your runs-the distance, route, everything! Just like keeping a food journal improves your diet, tracking your workouts helps you stick with exercise. (Here are the best free workout apps and the best free run tracking apps.)

25. Move it like you mean it. Here’s a non-exercise exercise tip: Walk like you’re late for an appointment. Move quickly enough to cover a mile in 15-20 minutes-that’s a moderate pace.

26. Run (or walk) for the hills! You burn 25-40 percent more calories-and increase your stamina-by walking or running on inclines than you do treading on flat surfaces. Add short hills (50-100 yards) to your usual route or increase the incline on the treadmill.

The Best Workout Tips for Flat Abs

27. Stay in control. Don’t use momentum instead of your abs to do the work. Keep your middle muscles contracted throughout the entire range of motion.

28. Paddle your way to flatter abs. “Go kayaking to get a taut stomach-it’s ideal because much of your rowing power comes from your core,” says Barbara Bushman, Ph.D., associate professor of health, physical education and recreation at Southwest Missouri State University. “Mimic the motion and resistance of the water at home by looping an exercise band around the bottom of a table leg or other fixed object. Sit on the floor with legs extended, knees slightly bent; grasp one end of the band in each hand. Rotate your torso to one side as you bring the elbow back slightly, then switch sides. Do three sets of one to three minutes each.”

29. Add the bike to your ab routine. According to an American Council on Exercise study, the bicycle (lying faceup, bring right knee and left elbow toward each other, then switch sides) is the best waist-firming exercise because it uses every muscle in your abs. Prefer normal crunches? Doing them on a stability ball is more effective than doing them on the floor because your core will have to work harder to stabilize your position and you’re able to move through a larger range of motion.

30. Fire ’em up. To engage the deepest muscles of your abs during any exercise-or just sitting in a chair-try this: Inhale, then exhale and pull your belly button toward your spine, without hunching your shoulders forward (don’t just suck in your belly).

The Best Yoga And Pilates Workout Tips

31. Pay attention to your body and your breath. When you do yoga and Pilates, concentrate on inhaling and exhaling. This workout tip will help push other thoughts-deadlines, dinner commitments, in-law issues-to the back burner. The result: a quieter mind and a stronger body.

32. Do yoga for your health. In a study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, people who suffered from migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck strain did 90 minutes of yoga three times a week for a month. They reported better moods, less pain and a decreased need for medication. Yoga may relieve some types of lower-back pain as good as physical therapy, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Best Flexibility Workout Tips

33. Get bendy regularly. On most days post-exercise-never do it cold-stretch every muscle group you used, holding each for 30 seconds. Increasing your range of motion may make you less prone to injury during everyday activities.

34. Stretch to get stronger. Some research shows that stretching the muscle group you just worked between sets can increase strength gains by 19 percent. (Related: Why You Should NeverSkip a Post-Workout Cooldown)

35. And be flexible with yourself. “You don’t have to be a fitness saint to get results,” says Maureen Wilson, owner, personal trainer, and instructor at Sweat Co. Studios in Vancouver. “Follow the 80/20 plan: Eighty percent of the year, you’ll exercise regularly and eat well. Know that you’ll slip 20 percent of the time due to holidays and work deadlines. When you accept that fitness isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, you’re more likely to stick with it for life.”

  • By By Mark Anders

Too busy to add more exercise to your schedule? When you can’t seem to make time for a full workout, try these no-sweat ways to simply move more.

You found your keys. You found the motivation to clean out your closet. Now you can find at least 150 minutes each week to get physically active! Don’t worry, there are plenty of easy, no-cost ways to do it.

Think there’s no way you can find the time? Good news: You don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, it’s better to spread your activity throughout the week. You can get health benefits even if you split it into a few short bouts of exercise a day.

7 no-brainer ways to boost your activity level

  1. Grab the leash and walk your dog. Your body — and your pooch — will thank you!
  2. Take your kid (or your spouse) for a walk. It’s an excellent way to get some face time without screens. Keep it fun by exploring new neighborhoods or turning your walk into a scavenger hunt.
  3. Hit the mall. Are you shivering (or sweating) at the idea of walking outside? Take a fast stroll around the mall instead. Window shop, people watch and get active in a climate-controlled environment.
  4. Walk and talk. Even if you’re glued to your phone for work calls, you don’t have to be glued to your chair. Make it a habit to talk and walk. Some workplaces have walking paths to make it even easier to burn while you earn.
  5. Tune into fitness. Retrain your inner couch potato. Walk or jog in place, do yoga or lift weights, or walk on the treadmill at the gym while you watch your must-see TV shows.
  6. Ditch the car. Spare yourself the parking stress and log some more active time by parking farther away (or even leaving the car at home) and walking or biking to your destination.
  7. Take the stairs. The elevator may go up — but it doesn’t make your heart rate climb. Take the stairs when you can, even if just for a floor or two. And don’t ride the escalator – climb it. Those can be active steps, too!

When you start looking for them, you’ll see lots of opportunities to be more active every day and get a few more steps in during everyday activities. Remember, every step counts!

Last reviewed 12/2017

Tips on working out

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