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Time to join a gym!

Ok so summer has officially been and gone and a lot of us have joined a gym (or at least thought about joining). The gym is a great way to get in shape, stay fit, healthy and keep us evil physios away. Whether you train alone at home or if you have a personal trainer, having some understanding about your gym training will help you reach your goals.

Firstly it is quite daunting to join a gym. You can feel self-conscious about your own body when seeing so many fit young ones. Remember, everyone feels like this when they first join. Don’t be discouraged! This feeling will go. Remember to concentrate on your own workout and reaching your own goals. Otherwise there are other options such as joining a smaller gym, you could go to the gym at off peak times or working out at home.

Set Goals to keep motivated and monitor progress!

Once you have joined a gym, you need to set your goals. Determining whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, tone up or increase your fitness will shape your training. Keeping motivated is the hardest part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The best way to do this is to set small, realistic, achievable goals that are directly targeted to reaching your overall goal. For example; if you want to get fitter, aim to increase your running distance or speed every week. If you want to improve your strength, then keep a note pad and document your weight increase. If you want to lose weight, keep a weight log and set small, easy goals for each month.

Personal trainers:

Personal trainers are a tremendous help to stay motivated, to increase your productivity and to guide you through personalised routines. However some caution needs to be applied. Again, know your own goals and work with the PT to reach them. Remember the PT is there to facilitate your own goals, not theirs. Finally, know your own limitations and inform the PT if you have any problems. Remember getting your PT to contact your Physiotherapist, is a great way to tailor a gym program to suit your needs and to prevent injury.

Starting out:

Everyone has to start their gym program at a very low intensity. Ensure your weights or cardio level is low enough for you to have good technique. One of the most common complaints we see is that people try to push themselves too quickly during their first few sessions and begin to develop problems due to bad technique. By starting out light, you will build good technique and a good foundation of muscle strength and control and will actually improve your muscle strength/ fitness much quicker than if you start with heavy weights.

How many days will you train?

This will determine what muscles you work on each day. Remember larger muscles need a longer time to repair. Your muscles grow while they are repairing after they have been trained, so over training a muscle will not improve your muscle gains. Once a muscle has stopped being sore and tender to touch, then this usually means it has recovered and is ready to train again. Generally smaller muscles such as your calf, biceps, triceps and abdominals are all small enough to be trained multiple times a week. Other muscles such as your gluteals may require a full 5 days to repair.


If you wake up tired in the mornings and have trained excessively hard, then there is a good chance that you have over trained your body and you need a rest. For best gains, ensure you have adequate sleep and rest between sessions. Overtraining can affect your immune system, can make you feel tired and will reduce the effectiveness of your seasons. Progress your exercises wisely, ensure for slow, gradual increases.


Pick a cardio exercise that you enjoy doing to ensure you stay motivated. Again try to vary your cardio exercises, to prevent overuse or injury.

Working complimentary muscle groups:

By choosing an exercise that involves more than one muscle group, you can maximise the effectiveness of your workout time and get a full body workout with only a few exercises. These exercises are actually more functional, as we rarely use just one muscle at a time. Compound exercises include: squats, lunges, chin ups, rows etc.

Choose Free weights over machines:

Free weights are much more beneficial for your work for a number of reasons

– They are more functional

– They work more muscles

– They burn more calories

One study that appeared in the “The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,” showed that free weights exercises had a 58 percent greater strength increase than individuals who used resistance-training machines. The study also showed that free weight training had 196 percent increase in balance when compared to machine use only.

Vary your training:

The body is extremely good at adapting to exercises. If you continue to do the same exercise every session, you will soon hit a wall in terms of your gains. This is because the body quickly gets used to the exercise and becomes really efficient at it. For best results vary your work out!!! This will also prevent injury from bad technique or overuse.


Nutrition is almost as important as the work out itself. A low fat, high protein diet will ensure weight loss and muscle gain. For both cardio and weight training, sufficient protein is required to build muscle. One myth that we hear a lot is that you should cut out carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel and are needed to ensure you have an adequate energy level. High training loads require some carbohydrates.

Pre work out food:

As a general rule, you should eat 30 to 90 minutes before a workout. Keep it mainly in the carb family. Avoid high fibre meals as they are less easily digested.

If you work out in the mornings, make sure you wake up early enough to have breakfast. If you don’t have time for breakfast, sports drinks or bananas are a good source of energy. If you have to work out within an hour of breakfast, keep it light!

Cardio requires a higher carbohydrate pre work out to ensure you have enough energy to perform well. These are absorbed quickly and should be taken an hour before training. Strength training requires a higher protein intake which will take longer to absorb, so aim for 1-2 hours prior to working out.

Post work out!

The body needs protein to help build muscle. This means you should try to have some form of protein within 2 hours of training.


It takes the body a couple of hours to absorb water. Ensure you regularly drink water throughout the day not just while training!

Work harder not longer.

Try to keep your training down to around 45 minutes. This ensures that you can maintain a high intensity workout for the whole time. If you increase your work out time, you will have to increase your rest periods and the workout will become less effective.

So if you are sick and tired of waking up feeling like this: then maybe its time to get fit and try joining a gym!

I hope this information helps you to improve your understanding of your workout! A little knowledge will help you reach your goals so much quicker and with less effort. Please email us for more information or ask your personal trainer.


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