In This Series
- Gym Guide
- Three Things To Do With Your New Gym Membership
- Gym Tips
- How To Use A Treadmill Like An Expert
- Weights Room Guide
- How To Warm Up At The Gym
- Five Gym Machines You Should Try
- What To Do At The Gym To Get Results
Aim for the minimum
Hitting the gym six times a weeks seems like the ultimate goal, but it’s easy to slip up on – and hard to recover if you miss a day. Aim to go two or three times a week: it’s enough to make big gains, and the best way of keeping up the momentum. If you find you’ve got the time, you can always go more.
The most important thing isn’t to have a Herculean session every time, but to keep up the habit of working out regularly. “Behaviour design” expert BJ Fogg suggests encouraging yourself into micro-habits, or doing the absolute minimum necessary to keep going. Do a single press-up before you brush your teeth, or head to the gym for a shower in the morning – whatever gets you moving.
Embrace your chronotype
Looking to maximise your results by harnessing the power of your circadian rhythms? Of course you are, so answer this: if it were up to you, what time would you (a) get up, (b) go to bed and (c) schedule an important job interview? The earlier each answer is, according to sleep experts, the more important it is that you rearrange your schedule to train in the morning.
- 8 Common Gym Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
- Gym Etiquette: 20 Things to Never, Ever Do
- The Best Workout Apps
How do I keep progressing?
Plan for progress now, before you first stall, and you’ll last longer before you have to worry about it.
Shift the goalposts
“Each week, set yourself a challenge that gets you outside of your comfort zone and makes you try something new,” says trainer Adam Wakefield. “You could run a 5K, try a CrossFit workout, do a month of rowing workouts, or go on a hike or trail run.” Want to stick to lifting? Aim to improve your rep records: how much weight you can shift for three, five or ten reps.
Get a notebook
“Write stuff down,” says strength and conditioning coach Joel Dowey. “If you aren’t measuring it, you aren’t managing it. I don’t mean sit down and write out some goals on a bit of paper you’ll lose in two weeks. I mean on a daily basis, write down what you want to achieve for the day – and log your workouts. It’s five minutes of your day – get it done.”
Find strong friends
“You’re the total of the people you hang around,” says James Adamson, owner of Skorpion Fitness. “And you’ll base what you consider possible on what they’re doing. If everyone you know squats double-bodyweight, you’re going to aim higher than if they’re all happy with a couple of dumbbells.”
“Find a sport,” says strength coach Will Purdue. “It gives you a reason to train harder, and – eventually – to eat and sleep better. Even if you’re going for a solo sport, find a team to train with: the group work ethic will drive you to work to new levels. And make sure you compete rather than just practising. The extra push of knowing that you’re going to hit the platform, ring or track in 12 weeks will get you laser-focused.”
Talk about goals
“Tell people about what you’re trying to achieve,” says Purdue. “Then your goals go from being something you’re hoping to achieve to something you’re actively working towards. Having people checking in to see how you’re doing is going is great for adding extra motivation.” Don’t want to confide in friends? Stickk.com automates the process – and you can even get a referee to keep you accountable.
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From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.