We’ve all done it. You can go to the gym every day, go on the treadmill or elliptical for 30+ minutes and still never see results. I’ve been there. I convinced myself I needed a gym membership in October 2012 because I did a Tough Mudder race with a few friends and finally realized I was out of shape and pretty overweight. I finished the race, but was so embarrassed of myself for thinking I was still in the same shape I was a year or two ago. The truth was that I had actually gained weight from being comfortable in a relationship! I promise this happens more than you’d think. You start dating someone, they ask you out to dinner. Multiple times a week/month. You feel compelled to say yes because you don’t want to turn them down. You want them to continue to like you, so you say yes. You make less than good meal choices when you go out to eat. You have dessert after, too. It happens. Trust me, I know. As it turns out, you don’t have to turn down every invite to a meal out to lose weight. You don’t have to skip desserts all the time either. What I had neglected during this time was the amount of exercise I was getting. I had gone from running 2-3 miles every day or so to only doing whatever walking my daily routine consisted of. If you neglect exercise, the pounds will be waiting to stick themselves to your thighs, stomach, arms (really wherever you carry your weight.) Making time for exercise can sometimes be difficult, but not impossible. Instead of spending countless hours at the gym, make your exercise time effective by mixing up the types of exercises you do. Here are a few things I have found helpful when first starting off at the gym:
- Instead of spending an entire hour on the elliptical, switch things up by doing 10 minutes on the elliptical, 10 on the treadmill, and 10 on a stair machine or stationary bike.
- Find a gym buddy. When I first started going to the gym, I really didn’t like it. I felt uncomfortable, out of place, and most times I lacked motivation to even leave the house and exercise. If you can, enlist a friend to come with you to the gym. You’ll be less likely to skip a session if you know you’re letting a friend down. Bringing a friend will help pass the time and will make the gym seem less like work and more like “fun” if you allow it. If things get a little boring, try signing up for a new class that interests you both.
- Incorporate weight lifting into your gym routine. You don’t have to go crazy with the amount of weight you lift at first, especially if your goal doesn’t include building a ton of muscle. Consult with a trainer or friend with some prior experience using different weight machines. By lifting weights you help your body burn more calories after you have left the gym. This How Stuff Works article explains what I’m saying in more detail, and also gives some examples on what weight lifting exercises are good for women to do. Here’s a video I found helpful when starting to lift weights:
- Don’t go to the gym every single day! Although at first it might seem like that is the only way you’ll lose weight, it simply isn’t true. Taking a rest day (or two) every week is crucial for muscle recovery. Make sure to actually rest and not go on an extended run just because you were bored.
- If you don’t have/want a gym membership, try running! As with all exercises, start small and work your way up to more difficult runs. Begin by warming up for five minutes before you run. Walking at a brisk pace is a good way to warm up your muscles. Set aside a few minutes for a quick stretch so you don’t pull any muscles. Go at a pace that feels comfortable to you. As the runs become easier, try pushing yourself to run either farther or faster based on your own personal goals. I have found running to be my most effective exercise because it burns calories so quickly.
- To actually make your gym time effective, it’s important to eat well and not undo all the hard work you put in at the gym. Yes, it is alright to indulge here and there, but by making sensible and healthy food choices you can keep making progress towards a better body and better health.
What’s your favorite way to exercise? Do you have any tips on how to make exercise more effective? Let me know, I’m always looking for new ways to make working out better!