New Year's brings hordes of resolution hopefuls to the gym, each trying to force themselves to do something to which they are unaccustomed: exercise.
While they're attempting to change their lives, the influx of newbies changes your gym routine. Between the crowded parking lots, overpopulated cardio areas, and dudes doing anything but squatting in the squat rack, January can turn your iron sanctuary into something much different. For a month or two, everything you know and love about the gym completely disappears.
Don't let it ruin your workouts! Here are three ways you can stay on track amidst the madness.
1. Be Adaptable
Nothing is more frustrating than walking into the gym with a specific plan in your head, only to find every single machine you need is taken. And if you feel frustrated, just imagine how a new person must feel.
Being an expert at exercise means knowing how to adapt your workout plan to virtually any situation. If you want to call yourself a serious lifter, you need to know how to get a great workout when equipment is limited. Use crowded conditions as an excuse to try something different.
Planned on using machines but they're all taken? No problem! Grab some dumbbells and do free-weight variations of the same exercises. Wanted to work on your bench press PR and all the racks are taken? Big deal! Shatter your unbroken push-up record instead.
Gym equipment is designed to help you, not limit you. Don't let crowded equipment and lack of space ruin your day. Know what your workout goals are and find something to help you achieve them. Whether you're new to the gym or you've been lifting for years, you'll enjoy your workout more if you're willing and able to modify your plan as needed.
2. Make It Easier
I'm not talking about going to the gym and spending 40 minutes chatting before hitting the juice bar. All fitness requires some degree of effort, whether it's prepping meals every night so you don't have to burn off extra calories from cheat days, or spending more time lifting during the week so you can relax and enjoy your weekend.
If you're already struggling to deal with a crowded gym this time of year, the last thing you want to do is pick an exercise, muscle group, or time of day you know will put you in a bad mood. If something about your workout routine frustrates you, the time to change is now.
Don't like lunges? Try single-legged squats instead! Hate training calves? Hop on the treadmill and crank up the incline for a killer HIIT workout. Tired of fighting the after-work crowd for your favorite equipment? Get a quick lifting session in during lunch, so after work you can head straight home and relax.
Even if you don't particularly like exercise, there's always a way to make your workout more enjoyable. Try switching to a task-based challenge or AMRAP to break up the monotony of your regular set and rep scheme, or use a stopwatch to see how quickly you can get through your workout. You could also drop in on a new group class or check out one of your gym's other locations. Getting in better shape is hard enough as it is, so do what you can to make your workouts feel easier.
3. Offer To Help
This may seem like advice for gym regulars, but it goes both ways. If you're a veteran of the gym who's tired of tripping over newbies, offer to show them the ropes so you can get them dialed in and out of your way. And if you're new to the gym, be courteous to those who look like they have a set routine and offer to work with them on a particular machine.
The gym is a shared space, so it's up to all of us to make it a great place to be. We naturally look to those around us for cues on how to behave, so if you're helping make the gym better, others will follow suit. If you see dumbbells and plates lying around, put them back where they belong. If you notice someone left sweat marks on a machine, offer to show them where the towels and spray bottles are. If you see someone struggling, ask if they need a spot.
Getting fit is a very personal process, but being part of a fit community isn't. The more you interact with and assist your fellow gym goers, the more you'll get to know them and the more you'll enjoy coming to the gym.