1 July 2016

A-Z OF SURVIVING THE GYM

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A - Attitude! It is a cliche to say that if you enter the building feeling like you 'can't do much today' then, chances are, you won't. I like to psyche myself up with music that gets me energised on the way to the gym and feed my head with positive talk. I also map out in my mind what I will be doing on that day, so I am prepared before I go in there. 
B - BCAA's. This stands for Branched Chain Amino Acids and is a pre/during workout drink that, to put it simply, is the building blocks of the body. Taken when weight training, this supplement benefits the muscle development and recovery.
C - Cables. Personally, my favourite place to train is over in the free-weights and cables section of the gym. But, if you can't quite make it to the benches for fear of some huge man dripping his sweat on your face, then aim to try the cable machines. You can do a full body workout on there (providing your gym has a variety of attachments and bars etc). Cables are great for super-setting exercises (doing two exercises back to back) and save you walking off and losing your machine whilst you do your second movement.
D - Download something. Planning on doing a 20 minute cycle? Download a podcast or a programme to get you though it!
E - Evening training. For me, the evenings are a nightmare in the gym but, as I have to go to get my four lifting sessions a week done, I have started to learn things that help overcome my anxiety about being there at the busiest times. Having my headphones plugged in really helps, as it makes me focused and calm. Also, thinking about your goals and how they will be effected, if you let people intimidate you away from a certain area, can spur you on to 'just do it'. 
F - Footwear. I have recently invested in the best trainers I have had in a long time. Having good support is making all the difference when I am doing multi-directional movements or plyometric exercises. It is worth looking into something that will fit your needs. If you are not sure what your needs are go to a reputable sports shop and speak to someone.
G - Gymwear. I am certainly no fashionista when I am training, but I know that when I am feeling good in what I wear to the gym I workout harder. That has got to be worth something.
H - Habit. It takes a few weeks of consistency to feel like the gym becomes part of your routine. It will get there in the end and the more results you see, the more you will love your new habit!
I - Individuality. When you find something that works for you don't worry about what everyone else is doing. It is easy to compare what you are doing with someone else, or someone elses body with yours. I often get strange looks in the gym because I am lifting heavy or doing a particularly un-common exercise, but I am motivated to continue because I know what I am doing. It pays to pre-plan so you feel confident where you are going next and can get set up with what you need without concern. Remember that everyone is working towards their own ideal, so just stay focused on you.
J - Jot it down. Keeping a note of the weight you lifted, how many and rest time, will help you to keep track of progress. 
K - Kettlebells. If you have never tried them ask an instructor to show you a basic routine. They hit pretty much every muscle in the body and are something that will make a nice change to the usual machines in the gym. Plus, when it is really busy, you can tuck yourself away with one or two KB's and get a full workout done!
L - Lifting. Don't be a cardio bunny. Be positive about lifting weights and be proud to lift heavy. I promise you it will be worth it and you won't 'look like a man'! It is so darn good for you to lift weights. The more muscle to fat ratio you have the more calories you will be burning at rest, in contrast to the 'after-burn' you get for a few hours after cardio. You certainly need to do both but not hours upon hours of cardio (unless it is event specific of course).
M - Music. Recently my iPod decided to give up on life, something which drastically changed my psychological state when training. I need good music and I need loud music. Get it right and you will have a really good session!
N - Nutrition. I have always known nutrition is the main factor to consider when wanting to lose fat or gain muscle but, until very recently, I had never been consistent enough for long enough. I now count macros, thanks to the help of Olly Foster, and it really changes everything.
O - Open mindedness. This speaks for itself, but try introducing new things. Try adding a class to your weekly exercise plan or swap something high intensity for a yoga or flexibility class for variety. The body will thank you for it in the end!
P - Protein is your friend. Lifting weights means you have to stock up on your protein intake to ensure your muscles recover and develop, in short, they need refuelling post-workout, so eat that chicken or have a shake (this is my favourite - specifically the salted caramel!).
Q - Quick bursts. Otherwise known as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can be really beneficial to add variety and fun to your workout. Whether it is 30 seconds sprint on the treadmill, followed by 40-60 seconds of walking, repeated 5-10 times, or a distance sprint on the rowing machine, followed by a much slower pace to recover, getting your cardio in this way is a great way to boost heart rate and fitness! 
R - Rest and recovery. It has taken years of over-training and not resting properly to realise how important this step is. If you don't recover and fail to rest you will increase the risk of injury but, more worryingly, you will increase the stress hormone in your body which can have a detrimental effect on your desired goals, such as fat-loss.
S - Smile at people. I find that the gym can be a really isolating environment, especially now we are all plugged into our iPods, phones or whatever it is. Although I definitely get some interesting looks sometimes, I try and smile and say 'hello' to whoever is in the gym because, chances are, they will be in there with you at the same time again and it makes it feel like a more approachable, less intimidating place if you know people a bit better.
T - Towel. Take one!
U - Underwear. This maybe too much information....but (!)... be aware that if you are wearing leggings and you do squats, for heavens sake, wear some big black pants underneath or else everyone will see your undies. Just sayin'!
V - Variety is key. Don't stick to the same routine for months and months. Change it up. It will not only keep you interested, but also keep your body changing too.
W - Water. Drink it! Hydration keeps your energy levels up and helps you function at your best. I usually have water in my BCAA's and then re-fill my water-bottle with more water for the rest of my workout.
X - X-Trainer (phew! thought of an 'X'). I cannot run, due to a long-term back issue, so the x-trainer is my best friend in the gym when it comes to working my heart and lungs. It is a great all over body workout too and works well for HIIT training (discussed above).
Y - YouTube. Not sure about technique or healthy recipes? Search on YouTube! I love watching training vlogs from fitness competitors and athletes as they keep me super motivated, but there are so many people making health and fitness videos out there that it is almost impossible not to find someone you connect with. 
Z - Zone. I try and stay in the zone at all times when I am in the gym. I am very competitive with myself and like to push my body, but I also have a high anxiety level in the gym, so I try and remember that everyone is in 'their zone' and that there is a high chance that they also feel intimidated or self-conscious too, so just try and remain focused in on what I came to achieve and not let anything side-track from that.
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