Did you miss the last post? If yes, read 7 things that you should NOT do at the gym.
- Warm up. If you’re not sure if you’re doing a good warm up, you probably are not. Check out the 20-20 warm up designed by Mike Perry. It’s really great. Since it’s a long video (showing you all of the movements) it’s in 3 parts.
- Skill of Strength 20/20 movement prep Part 1
- Skill of Strength 20/20 movement prep Part 2
- Skill of Strength 20/20 movement prep Part 3
Have a great day and if you don’t at least have a great workout. 🙂
So you finally bit the bullet and bought that gym membership you’ve been talking about. Now what? You probably have a lot of questions: What should you wear? What workout should you do? How do the machines even work? Here’s a primer on how to make your first gym experience awesome—or at least, tolerable.
Most first-time exercisers tell me they’re intimidated by the gym because they have no idea what to do and don’t want to look or act like a fool. It’s normal to feel insecure or embarrassed about being clueless, but remember two hard truths: everyone starts somewhere, and no one is actually paying attention to you that closely.
- Before the gym
- Once you’re at the gym
- After the gym
- As a Beginner, How Long Should I Work Out?
- 1. Fitness Level
- 2. Type of Workout
- 3. Recent and Upcoming Workouts
- 4. Amount of Rest Time
- 5. Other Commitments
- 5 of the best exercises you can ever do
- 1. Commit for the long-term.
- 2. Set a schedule for your training.
- 3. Focus on the best exercises.
- 4. Start light and train for volume before intensity.
- 5. Make SLOW progress each week.
- 6. Record your workouts.
- What You Should Do Now
- This Is the Best Time of Day to Work Out, According to Science
- Morning workouts have an edge
- Thank you!
- Afternoon workouts are almost as good
- Nighttime workouts still come with perks
- The bottom line
Before the gym
To ease first-time jitters, it helps to look like you fit in and make the unknown known. That means a couple of things.
Dress for success
You typically need to bring a couple of things with you: a towel (to wipe your sweat and lay on top of seats and benches), a water bottle, a combination lock (if you use the lockers), and workout clothes to change into.
A loose-fitting, dry-fit shirt or tank top, tights or shorts and comfortable shoes should do. You don’t have to care about what to wear to the gym, as long as it’s comfortable for you, but one study in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that what you wear can influence your confidence levels and how you act. I’ve definitely found myself more focused and motivated to crush my workout if I feel like a badass in my head.
Have a plan
Amanda Thebe, a personal trainer and owner of Fit n’ Chips, said that one of the biggest mistakes she witnesses is people aimlessly wandering around, testing one piece of equipment after another, without a plan. “Every time you go to the gym, you should have a plan,” Thebe tells Lifehacker. (We’ll give you an idea of what workout to do later.)
Think of the reason that’s driving you toward the gym. Perhaps it’s the desire to gain more muscle. If so, you probably want to focus on the weights and machines. (Never mind the how yet.) This way you can avoid being distracted and overwhelmed by all the options when you finally get to the gym.
Once you’re at the gym
Your main goal isn’t to become workout champ of the world: it’s to create a positive first experience so that you keep up this healthy habit.
Learn the lay of the land
Every gym is set up differently, but there are certain mainstays. I’ve been to dozens of gyms around the world, and without fail, every one has a space for cardio machines—the treadmills, ellipticals and whatnot. Then there’s generally a room with mirror along the wall for group exercise classes; the weightlifting area, where it’s further separated according to free weights versus machines; and an area for warm-ups or cool-downs with yoga mats, medicine balls and foam rollers.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the gym staff and let them know you’re new. “The gym staff are there to help you and give you advice. They want you to be safe so take advantage of that,” Thebe explains. Ideally, the gym staff would have given you a tour before you signed up for a membership or trial, but they didn’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Know your gym etiquette
Gym culture has unspoken rules about good form and proper etiquette. We’ve written about gym etiquette, but I’d like to emphasize a couple of points:
- You are responsible for equipment you use: If you use something, put it back. That means re-racking the weights (yes, all of them), returning the dumbbells and bringing medicine balls and other loose equipment back to their original places so others can easily find and use them, too.
- Wipe down your equipment: Most gyms provide sanitation wipes that are used to wipe down equipment after you’re done. No one should ever have to touch your gross butt or back sweat.
- Wash your hands: Do yourself and others a favor. You never know when someone might have something contagious.
When the gym gets busy, these simple etiquette rules keep things civil and running smoothly.
Don’t expect awesomeness
You probably want to sweat and feel the burn but Lee Boyce, a strength coach based in Toronto, recommends taking things easy. Don’t try to be a hero and make yourself so sore that you aren’t able to work out for days or a whole week after. Being too sore can hurt your motivation and might even turn you off of exercising, Boyce tells Lifehacker.
A sample workout
Everyone will have different suggestions on what sort of workout you should do. But today? Keep it simple. Boyce recommended this workout to get you started:
- Goblet squats (or bodyweight squats): 12 reps
- Push-ups: 12 reps
- Inverted rows (on a Smith machine) or seated cable row: As many reps as you can
Do each exercise for the prescribed number of repetitions, or the full cycle of an exercise, until you complete all three exercises. That’s one round. Repeat for five rounds and rest for 90 seconds between each round.
These exercises are some of the most basic movements to build foundational strength and prime you for other exercises in the gym. Your body isn’t used to working out or moving efficiently yet. You’ll seem like a lumbering giant and feel awkward, and that’s OK.
If you’d like to learn proper form, personal trainers may sometimes offer free initial consultations to help you map out your goals. But beware the tactics many gyms might use to rope you into a personal training package. Whether or not you should hire a personal trainer is based on your budget. A personal trainer is a great way to ease you into the basics and keep you accountable, but not all are awesome.
After the gym
Congratulations, you did it! You might feel sore after a day or two, which is normal. It’s possible to still work out when you’re sore, even if it is uncomfortable. But the most important thing is that you keep going. No one gets more comfortable with exercising overnight or by going to the gym only occasionally. Stick with it.
This story was originally published on 8/24/17 and was updated on 9/13/19 to provide more thorough and current information.
As a Beginner, How Long Should I Work Out?
by Mary Lambkin
How long should I work out? This is one of the most common questions first-time gym-goers have. Of course, the answer is: it depends!
There’s no single workout type (or duration) that is perfectly suited for every adult. But it is possible to determine how long you should spend in the gym. Here are five factors to consider before you schedule your next sweat session.
1. Fitness Level
The first and most important thing to consider when you ask yourself “How long should I work out?” is your overall fitness level. If you’re new to working out, spending an hour in the gym every single day might pose a greater risk than reward. You don’t want to injure yourself or burnout by pushing your body past its limit before you find a comfortable rhythm. Try starting with short workouts that are 30 minutes or less. As you feel your strength building, add a couple more minutes every week.
The American Heart Association recommends 75-150 minutes of aerobic activity, as well as two strength-training sessions, per week. Assuming the strength training sessions last roughly 20 minutes each, that breaks down to about three hours of exercise a week. According to these recommendations, beginner exercisers should work up to three to four 40-minute gym sessions per week. If that doesn’t seem realistic, remember, completing a 15-minute workout is better than skipping a 40-minute workout entirely.
2. Type of Workout
Of course, how long you work out for isn’t the only thing to consider! How hard are you pushing yourself? The duration of your workout should depend on the intensity of the exercises.Maintaining a brisk walk on the treadmill for 40 minutes is appropriate; maintaining a full sprint on the treadmill for 40 minutes is impossible!
Before you commit to a lengthy gym session, think about the types of exercises you’ll complete while you’re there. Many gym-goers schedule their higher-intensity, short workouts for the weekdays when they have less time. On the weekends, they hit the gym for longer, low-intensity workouts.
3. Recent and Upcoming Workouts
Health and exercise experts recommend changing up the type, intensity and duration of your workouts. “Mixing up your workout routine is the best way to make sure … you continue to see results from all the hard work you’re putting in,” trainer Greer Rothermel tells Elite Daily. Regularly changing things up can help you avoid injury and strengthen all of your body’s muscle groups. Not to mention, it can keep you from getting bored with your same old routine (or burning out). No one wants that!
At the start of the week, choose a few days to alternate between longer and shorter workouts. For example, you might alternate between 40-minute and 20-minute gym sessions, with at leastone rest day scheduled per week. Remember, you don’t have to maintain the same intensity during every session. One day might be spent simply walking on the treadmill.
4. Amount of Rest Time
You know those people at the gym that look like they are standing around, doing nothing? They are actually resting between sets! As they should be. Many strength-training exercises — especially weightlifting — require extra downtime for preparation, rest and recovery. This means that a 40-minute weightlifting session might only involve 20 minutes of actual exercise.
If you plan on going to the gym for a workout that involves multiple strength-training (or weightlifting) exercises and various pieces of equipment, add at least 10 minutes to your scheduled workout period. This extra time allows you to stretch, rest and recover between sets, as well as maintain the equipment required for your workout; collecting, assembling, adjusting, sanitizing, disassembling and returning everything to its proper place.
5. Other Commitments
Ultimately, making time for exercise matters. While everyone has commitments outside of the gym, it’s equally important to invest in your health. It’s totally understandable that your family and career come first — so if you have to cut your workout a few minutes short in order to scoot to another commitment, that’s fine! As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note, even 10-minute workouts can help improve your health.
No matter what the duration of your workout is, you should just be proud of what you accomplished.
As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.
5 of the best exercises you can ever do
If you’re not an athlete or serious exerciser — and you just want to work out for your health or to fit in your clothes better — the gym scene can be intimidating and overwhelming. What are the best exercises for me? How will I find the time?
Just having to walk by treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight machines can be enough to make you head straight back home to the couch.
Yet some of the best physical activities for your body don’t require the gym or ask you to get fit enough to run a marathon. These “workouts” can do wonders for your health. They’ll help keep your weight under control, improve your balance and range of motion, strengthen your bones, protect your joints, prevent bladder control problems, and even ward off memory loss.
No matter your age or fitness level, these activities are some of the best exercises you can do and will help you get in shape and lower your risk for disease:
You might call swimming the perfect workout. The buoyancy of the water supports your body and takes the strain off painful joints so you can move them more fluidly. “Swimming is good for individuals with arthritis because it’s less weight-bearing,” explains Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Research has found that swimming can also improve your mental state and put you in a better mood. Water aerobics is another option. These classes help you burn calories and tone up.
2. Tai chi
This Chinese martial art that combines movement and relaxation is good for both body and mind. In fact, it’s been called “meditation in motion.” Tai chi is made up of a series of graceful movements, one transitioning smoothly into the next. Because the classes are offered at various levels, tai chi is accessible — and valuable — for people of all ages and fitness levels. “It’s particularly good for older people because balance is an important component of fitness, and balance is something we lose as we get older,” Dr. Lee says.
Take a class to help you get started and learn the proper form. You can find tai chi programs at your local YMCA, health club, community center, or senior center.
3. Strength training
If you believe that strength training is a macho, brawny activity, think again. Lifting light weights won’t bulk up your muscles, but it will keep them strong. “If you don’t use muscles, they will lose their strength over time,” Dr. Lee says.
Muscle also helps burn calories. “The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, so it’s easier to maintain your weight,” says Dr. Lee. Similar to other exercise, strength training may also help preserve brain function in later years.
Before starting a weight training program, be sure to learn the proper form. Start light, with just one or two pounds. You should be able to lift the weights 10 times with ease. After a couple of weeks, increase that by a pound or two. If you can easily lift the weights through the entire range of motion more than 12 times, move up to slightly heavier weight.
Walking is simple, yet powerful. It can help you stay trim, improve cholesterol levels, strengthen bones, keep blood pressure in check, lift your mood, and lower your risk for a number of diseases (diabetes and heart disease, for example). A number of studies have shown that walking and other physical activities can even improve memory and resist age-related memory loss.
All you need is a well-fitting and supportive pair of shoes. Start with walking for about 10 to15 minutes at a time. Over time, you can start to walk farther and faster, until you’re walking for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.
5. Kegel exercises
These exercises won’t help you look better, but they do something just as important — strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder. Strong pelvic floor muscles can go a long way toward preventing incontinence. While many women are familiar with Kegels, these exercises can benefit men too.
To do a Kegel exercise correctly, squeeze the muscles you would use to prevent yourself from passing urine or gas. Hold the contraction for two or three seconds, then release. Make sure to completely relax your pelvic floor muscles after the contraction. Repeat 10 times. Try to do four to five sets a day.
Many of the things we do for fun (and work) count as exercise. Raking the yard counts as physical activity. So does ballroom dancing and playing with your kids or grandkids. As long as you’re doing some form of aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and you include two days of strength training a week, you can consider yourself an “active” person.
For doable exercises that will produce results, read Starting to Exercise, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Image: ©jacoblund | Getty Images
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
In her book “The Chelsea Piers Fitness Solution,” author Elena Rover offers a quiz to you help you identify your “fitness personality.” Which type of sport or activity best suits you? Take Rover’s quiz, below, to find out.
1. When planning your next vacation, you would love to be able to:
A. Head off alone to chill out and/or see some sights
B. Go visit a friend or take a romantic vacation with your mate
C. Get away with your family to a place that has something for everyone
D. Go on a cruise, take a group tour, share a ski cabin, or rent a villa with a bunch of friends
2. When coping with bad news such as a medical diagnosis, you are most likely to:A. Keep it to yourself
B. Share your feelings with a trusted confidant
C. Tell your close friends and family so they can offer support
D. Spread the news so others will understand what you’re going through or offer suggestions
3. If you were looking for a new job, you would like to be:A. An entrepreneur with an innovative product who sinks or floats on your own merit
B. A partner in a highly regarded company so you have some support but plenty of autonomy
C. Part of a hand-picked team that produces top-notch work
D. The head of a group in a large company with ample resources and prestigious projects
4. For New Year’s Eve, if you could have any of these choices, you would love to:A. Pretend it’s not a holiday
B. Go out on a date with one special person
C. Celebrate with a small dinner party attended by your friends
D. Go to Times Square or a huge black-tie soiree
1. For dinner with friends, you:
A. Cook one of your favorite recipes
B. Pick up a rotisserie chicken or takeout
C. Try a new cuisine
2. For your next vacation, you would love to go:A. To a spa or beach resort, Disney, or the Grand Canyon
B. Gambling in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo
C. Rafting in Costa Rica or dogsledding in Alaska
3. When driving, you:A. Tool along in the right lane going the speed limit
B. Shift into the left lane and flash your brights at slowpokes
C. Bail out on a traffic jam even if you don’t know another route
4. Your favorite kind of leisure reading is:A. The latest literary novel or a romance
B. A mystery or science fiction
C. Nonfiction such as travel, history, or a biography
5. Picking out a video for Saturday night, you select:A. When Harry Met Sally, Shrek, Caddyshack, or anything starring Tom Hanks or Robin Williams
B. Speed, Matrix, Thelma and Louise, Miracle on Ice, a James Bond movie or anything starring Bruce Willis
C. Mr. & Mrs. Smith, What the Bleep Do We Know?, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a Star Wars or Indiana Jones title
1. Your dream job would be one in which you were:
A. Left alone to get your work done so you can go home at the end of the day
B. The veteran in the group who can show others the ropes
C. Promoted into a position that stretches your abilities—you can do it
2. In high school, your main goal was to:A. Learn, get decent grades, and graduate
B. Get into the college of your choice or land a good job
C. Secure a spot on the honor roll or become the valedictorian
3. If you had unlimited time and funds, you would:A. Buy an island getaway
B. Visit one place on each continent
C. Climb Mount Everest
4. In games such as charades, checkers, Pictionary, Cranium, or Scrabble, you most hope to:A. Have fun
B. Make a few great moves
Scoring the Quiz
Which letter answer did you choose two or more times?
D: TeamSports fit into all these categories. You can do an individual activity such as swimming, pick a sport that includes someone else such as tennis, sign up for a small group activity such as golf, or join a team, as in hockey.
Many athletes love to feel like part of a team. They want the camaraderie on the field as well as going out for a beer after practice. It’s fun to fit into a group, feeling appreciated for your contribution to the overall performance. A team is a ready-made group of new friends who share at least one interest. For others, the team dynamics are too political and complicated; they’d rather go at their own pace or compete against their own best records. Note, however, that a solo type who is also competitive may be happiest as the star player on a team. Keep this tip in mind when you use the sport selection chart.
Making the choice of solo versus group sports also may be a question of logistics. Are you better at self-motivation, getting into your shorts and shoes when it suits you and heading out on your bike? Or would it help you get going to know that a whole group of people are counting on you to show up to play soccer?
If your answers are spread between the choices, try a sport with options. For example, many individual sports such as cycling can be done alone, with a friend, or in a group.
- Journalist and ISIS captive shows viewers inside Mosul
Which letter answer did you choose two or more times?
A: Revel in the experience of activities at which you excel
B: Go for speed, get out in front and feel exhilaration
C: Love adventure and learning new skills
Your answers to the questions in this section could vary a lot. But if one letter came up two or three times, that’s a good start in isolating the driving force behind how you like to spend your time.
The categories aren’t mutually exclusive—you can love both speed and adventure, for example. Perhaps one edges the other out just a bit in importance. Put that category first when picking your sports, but take a look at the other choices that made your list.
For example, Lorie Parch, a 41-year-old writer in Scottsdale, Arizona, picked A three times and C twice. Lorie does love to become proficient in the sports she chooses, but she would get bored if there were not also an element of challenge and new skills to learn. She loves yoga, which she is adept at, but she stays engaged because there are always new poses to master, some of which are quite hard for her.
Which letter answer did you choose two or more times?
A: Not competitive
B: Competitive with myself
C: Competitive with others
It may seem that all sports are competitive, but some are much more so than others. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a sport is: “physical activity engaged in for pleasure” and the synonym is “fun.” If scoring goals (or failing to score) is not your idea of fun, then a competitive sport is not for you. On the other hand, if you need a metric of success, then you can choose between sports that encourage you to beat your own personal best, such as trail running, or the ones in which you either win or lose based on the score, such as tennis.
How Your Score Adds Up
You’ll find a chart with a complete list of sports that fit your personality in Elena Rover’s book, “The Chelsea Piers Fitness Solution.”
“The Chelsea Piers Fitness Solution” by Elena Rover
Success in the gym, as with most things in life, comes down to mastering the basics.
With that in mind, here are 6 exercise tips, weightlifting basics, the best exercises to start with, and training essentials that nobody wants to believe, but everyone should follow.
Take these ideas to heart and you’ll reap major benefits. While most people waste time debating the endless stream of supplements, “new” workout programs, and diet plans, all you really have to do is focus on these simple concepts and you’ll see results.
1. Commit for the long-term.
Most people workout with a short-term goal in mind. I like looking at health in a different way…
- The goal is not to lose 40 pounds in the next 12 weeks. The goal is to regain your health for the rest of your life.
- The goal is not to bench press 300 pounds. The goal is to be the guy who never misses a workout.
- The goal is not to sacrifice everything to get your fastest time in next month’s race. The goal is to be faster next year than you are today. And faster two years from now than you will be next year.
Ignore the short-term results. If you commit to the long-term process, the results will come anyway.
Furthermore, stop acting like living a healthy life is a big deal. You can go to the gym every week. That can be “normal” for you. Not a sacrifice. Not an obligation. Normal.
What’s funny is that when you commit to being consistent over the long-term, you end up seeing remarkable results in the short-term. That’s the power of average speed.
2. Set a schedule for your training.
Most people never train consistently because they are always wondering when they are going to train next.
They are always wondering…
- “Will I be motivated to workout when I get home from work?”
- “Will I have enough free time to exercise today?”
- “Will I have enough willpower to wake up early and run?”
In other words, most people train when they feel motivated or inspired.
Here’s a better idea: stop treating exercise as something to do when it’s convenient and start setting a schedule for yourself to follow. This is what makes the difference between professionals and amateurs.
For example, I train every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6pm. I don’t have to think about when I’m going to train. I don’t sit around and wonder which days I’ll feel motivated to lift. I don’t hope that I’ll have some extra time to workout today. Instead, I put it on the schedule and then organize my life and responsibilities around it (just like you would organize your day around your class or your meeting or your kid’s baseball game).
Setting a schedule for your training becomes even more important when life gets crazy. There will always be occasional emergencies that prevent you from working out. It’s part of life. The problem is that most people miss one workout and before they know it, they haven’t been to the gym in 4 weeks.
But when you have a schedule for your training, you have a way of pulling yourself back on track as quickly as possible.
Top performers make mistakes just like everyone else. The difference is that they get back on track quicker than most. Miss your workout on Friday because you were traveling for work? Guess what? Your next training session is already scheduled for Monday at 6pm. I’ll see you there.
Let your schedule govern your actions, not your level of motivation.
3. Focus on the best exercises.
Great results come from great focus, not great variety.
Too many people waste time in the gym because they bounce around without any real goal, doing a little bit of this machine and a little bit of that machine. Thankfully, there is a simple rule that will always guide you toward the best exercises: the more an exercise makes you move, the bigger the benefits it will deliver.
This is why the clean and jerk and the snatch are the kingpins of weightlifting. They are the exercises that force your body to move the most (and the quickest). As a result, the people who do these exercises see incredible results.
Here’s a short list of the best exercises. In my opinion, at least one of the first five exercises should be included in every workout.
- Bench Press
- Clean and Jerk
- Overhead Press
- Good Mornings
4. Start light and train for volume before intensity.
Ask most people if they had a good workout and they’ll say things like, “Oh yeah, it was so intense.” Or, “I’m going to be so sore tomorrow.” Or, “I finished my workout by doing a set to failure.”
It’s great to push yourself, but the biggest mistake that most people make is not building a foundation of strength. Everyone wants to jump in and max out with a weight that is “hard.” That’s exactly the wrong way to do it. Your workouts should be easy in the beginning. (See: How to Start Working Out.)
Training to failure is a good way to wear yourself down, not build yourself up. You should have reps left in you at the end of your workout (and at the end of each set). Take point #5 (below) to heart and your workouts will get hard enough, fast enough. Trust me.
The phrase that I like to keep in mind is “train for volume before intensity.” In other words, I want to build the capacity to do the work before I start testing my limits.
Just to be clear: volume doesn’t have to mean “do sets of 20 reps.” (I rarely do more than 10 reps in a single set.) Instead, I like to think of volume over a period of weeks and months.
For example, right now I’m doing a 5×5 squat program (5 sets of 5 squats). I started light. The first week, I lifted with a weight that was very easy for me. Then, I slowly added 5 pounds each week. For weeks, it was still easy. Eventually, when I built up to a weight that was heavy, I had the capacity to handle it because I had already done dozens (if not hundreds) of sets over the previous weeks and months. Focusing on volume now allows you to handle the intensity later on.
5. Make SLOW progress each week.
Most people walk into the gym every week, do the same exercises with the same amount of weight, and wonder why they aren’t getting stronger. You’ll see people step onto the same treadmill, run two miles like they always do, and wonder why they aren’t losing weight.
Here’s a little story that explains the problem and the solution…
Imagine that you are in a quiet room and someone turns on a loud and noisy fan. At first, it’s obvious and irritating. But if you are forced to stay in the room long enough, the fan starts to become part of the background noise. In other words, your body registers the sound at first, but eventually it realizes “Oh, this is the new normal for this environment.”
Your body adapts and the noise fades away. Something similar happens when you exercise.
When you start to train, it’s like turning on the fan. Something new is happening in the environment, and your body registers the change by getting stronger and leaner. But after a few workouts, your body realizes “this is the new normal.” Your body finds a way to adapt to this new environment, just like it did with the noisy fan. As a result, you stop getting stronger and stop losing weight.
What got you here won’t get you there. If you want to see different results, you have to do something different. If you want to see progress each week, then you have to progress each week.
This is actually very simple to do. Add 5 pounds each week. Add an extra set this week. Do the same exercise, but rest for 15 seconds less between sets. These are all ways of changing the stimulus and forcing your body to slowly and methodically get better.
6. Record your workouts.
What gets measured, gets managed. If you can’t even tell me how many sets and reps you did with a particular weight two weeks ago, how can you guarantee that you’re actually getting stronger?
Tracking your progress is simple: get a small notebook and write down your workouts. (I use a little black moleskine notebook that I bought at a bookstore. Read more about my workout journal here.)
At the top of the page, write the date of your workout. Then, simply write down the exercise you are doing. When you finish a set, record it in your notebook while you’re waiting to do the next one.
Recording your training is especially important because it brings all of these points together.
You can look back and see how you’re making long-term progress (point #1). You can see on which dates you trained and how often you were on schedule (point #2). You can verify that you did the best exercises each workout (point #3). You can see how you are slowly building up volume and developing a foundation of strength (point #4). And you can prove that you’re making slow, methodical progress each week (point #5).
What You Should Do Now
Your could spend your entire life mastering these six points, but these are the basics that will make a real difference in your training.
Here are your action steps:
- Set a schedule. When and where, exactly, are you going to train?
- Get a notebook and pen to record your training.
- Focus on the best exercises that make you move a lot.
- Start with a weight that is very light and train for volume before intensity.
- Slowly increase the weight each week.
Looking for awesome workouts you can do at home? Check out CosmoBody, the new fitness and lifestyle channel.
If you’ve ever tried to work out after happy hour or drunch, you know that booze and burpees (or any other activity that doesn’t carry you directly to your couch) can be a killer combination.
But a new study recently published in Health Psychology suggests that people tend to pair exercise and alcohol on the same days, anyway: When researchers surveyed 150 adults between the ages of 18 and 89 on their alcohol consumption and physical activity during three 21-day periods, they found that people are more likely to imbibe on days when they’re more active than usual, namely Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. While you may think exercise directly drives you to drink, a more likely explanation is coincidental (and actually pretty obvious): As the weekend approaches, most people shift out of work mode and focus more on leisure and social activities that may include drinking, says lead study author David Conroy, Ph.D., professor of preventative medicine at Northwestern University.
So while going to the gym won’t make you binge drink, you might unconsciously compensate for the calories you burned at a gym session by taking in extra liquid calories afterward, Conroy says. Or maybe, by the time you get your butt to the gym, you’re stark out of willpower to resist that second margarita later on, and you treat yo’self thinking you’ve earned it.
Of course, you may naturally be more active when you drink because instead of staying in and walking to and from your kitchen, you go out and end up walking to and from a bar. (And hit that dance floor hard.)
The thing is, the association between drinking and exercise could come back to bite you (hello, Vicious Hangover) if you sweat a ton before you drink a ton. Because alcohol and exercise both contribute to dehydration, it’s important to drink up (water, you lush) any time you intend to party hard — and especially after a grueling workout.
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Elizabeth Narins Senior fitness and health editor Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn, NY-based writer and a former senior editor at Cosmopolitan.com, where she wrote about fitness, health, and more.
This Is the Best Time of Day to Work Out, According to Science
Finding time to exercise can be challenging, and the most important thing is to squeeze in any amount of it whenever you can. But if you want to optimize your workouts to get the widest range of benefits, you might want to try exercising in the morning.
Here’s what the science says about the best time of day to exercise — and what to expect if you opt for later workouts.
Morning workouts have an edge
Working out in the morning — especially on an empty stomach — is the best way to burn stored fat, making it ideal for weight loss. That’s largely because the body’s hormonal composition in the morning is set up to support that goal, says Anthony Hackney, a professor in the department of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
“In the early morning hours, you have a hormonal profile that would predispose you to better metabolism of fat,” Hackney says. People naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone in the morning—both of which are involved in metabolism—so you’ll “draw more of your energy from your fat reserves,” Hackney says. That can potentially help with weight loss. Research also suggests that morning exercisers may have less of an appetite throughout the day, which could also help protect them from putting on pounds.
Even if you hate early alarms, working out first thing in the morning can quickly become second nature. A study recently published in the Journal of Physiology found that exercising at 7 a.m. may shift your body clock earlier, meaning you’ll feel more alert in the morning and get tired earlier in the evening, potentially priming you to get enough rest to wake up and do the same thing the next day. Some research even suggests that it’s easier to stick to healthy habits completed in the morning.
A morning sweat may also lead to better mental health and productivity throughout the day, since exercise is great for reducing stress.
But if you’re really not a morning person, don’t force it. “You may be exercising, but it may be at such a low intensity level that you’re really not expending a lot of energy,” Hackney says.
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Afternoon workouts are almost as good
If you can swing a lunchtime workout, Hackney says that’s not a bad second choice — especially if you’re trying to do a very long or rigorous routine.
Morning workouts are ideal for burning fat and losing weight, but afternoon workouts may give your performance a boost, since you’ll have eaten a meal or two by the time you get going. “Any time you eat, your blood sugar levels rise,” Hackney says. “Sugar in the form of blood glucose…is one of the things we need if we’re trying to work at a higher intensity.”
An afternoon workout can also be a great way to avoid an end-of-the-day slump. The Journal of Physiology study found that exercising between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. can shift forward your body clock in the same way as an early morning workout. Even taking a quick walk may help you perk up and refocus.
One preliminary paper from 2018 found that your body naturally burns about 10% more calories in the late afternoon, compared to the early morning and late night. The researchers looked at bodies at rest — so they can’t draw firm conclusions about what happens when people work out — but it’s possible that you could burn a little extra energy if you move in the afternoon.
Nighttime workouts still come with perks
For many people, exercising is most convenient after work. But there’s a common belief that evening exercise perks you up so much that it’s difficult to fall asleep later.
While the Journal of Physiology study found that exercising between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. delays the body clock, translating to later bedtimes, Hackney says he’s not convinced that’s the case. “Evidence suggests that, as long as you’re not exercising, showering and then jumping in bed to go to sleep, it doesn’t interfere with your sleep pattern at all,” he says. A stress-relieving activity like yoga may even help you sleep better if it’s done at night, he adds.
And while the research about morning workouts and weight loss is more established, some evidence suggests that nighttime workouts can also set people up for weight loss. A new paper published in the journal Experimental Physiology found that nighttime workouts do not disrupt sleep, and over time can also reduce levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin, which could help with weight loss or management.
If he had to pick a best time to exercise, morning would win, Hackney says. Early workouts make the most of your biology and psychology, potentially leading to better results and adherence over time. But there’s really no bad time to exercise, Hackney reiterates, and the most important thing is finding the time to do so, whenever works for you.
“If you will do it in the morning, do it. If you will do it in the evening, do it,” Hackney says. “If your physiology is not going to match up with your behavior, then it’s a moot point.”
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Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]