April 21, 2024

The Right Gym by Jennifer Austin

So you’re ready to join a gym, but which one? There really is a workout location for every personality from big health clubs to small private personal training studios.  However, it may be so overwhelming it is difficult to know where to begin. Begin with what you want in a workout facility. The first consideration is answering the question, “what type of fitness experience do you want?” Knowing this right from the get-go will insure you actually use the facility!

A larger healthy club facility will offer amenities to make your exercise experience luxurious, stocked locker rooms, maybe a pool, a wide variety of classes and instructors, as well as offering a social calendar or family focused events. A smaller studio may allow more individual attention specific to your workout goals, more private space, more control over the environment such as music, parking and changing facilities, along with less used and less crowded equipment. And there are many options in between. So which is right for you?

Atmosphere. Choosing the right atmosphere is critical when joining a facility. Remember a goal of healthy living is to decrease stress, so if you’re going to become grumpy with music blasting, you’re really defeating your purpose. Answer the following questions: Do you like to exercise when it’s quiet or do you like music? Do you like to be around others when you exercise? It’s safe to assume all workout facilities will be busy in January. Most people are able to exercise before work hours, about 5am until 8am and then again after work hours, about 5pm until 8pm. If the facility you’re considering offers childcare, assume it will be busy during those hours as well. So, if you’re one who likes to exercise alone, make sure you can exercise in the afternoon hours where you’ll have more space all to yourself or choose a smaller facility with fewer members and less traffic in general.

Equipment. What’s the primary equipment you’ll use? Large facilities will have lots of options making having to wait for equipment a non-issue. However, if you’re working toward a particular goal or event, a smaller facility run by Fitness Professionals will allow you space and resources to be as specific as you need and require.

Amenities. Will you need access to changing facilities? Do you need childcare services? Will you bring your own towel or do you prefer to pick up one there and then leave it as you exit? Would you like food and drinks available for purchase? Is paid parking or simply adequate parking a consideration? Are you interested in a health club social scene like seminars, outdoor or off-site workouts or weekend social gatherings? Do you want a space to lounge and chat before and after your workout? A larger health club in many cases offers social activities and they often have food available. Smaller locations may have limited showers and changing facilities, both important considerations if you’re on a tight timeline pre and post workout.

Classes. Do you like the social aspect of working out? Do you like the variety a group fitness schedule offers? Do you like a rotating schedule of classes? If you are not interested in a group workout and are happy doing a solo workout, choosing a location that doesn’t offer classes may be more economical.

Getting what you want out of your exercise experience, means you need to be clear on what kind of exercise experience you want!  It’s your healthy living plan, so make it work for you.

Manners Matter: Year-Round Gym Etiquette by Sarah Johnson

Yes, this is the time of year when gyms seem to quadruple their memberships overnight. The regulars, the newbies and the ‘resolutioners’ are all back in full force.

So now is as good a time as any for a friendly ‘Gym Etiquette’ reminder.


1. Share. If someone asks if they can work in a set on the machine you’re using, let them. And while waiting, do a set of push-ups or squats! Be efficient!

2. Be patient. When waiting for a user to finish their treadmill run, please don’t hover over them until they step off. Give them a chance to finish their workout, cool down and clean the equipment.

3. Wipe it down! On that note, clean up after yourself. Grab a towel and spray bottle or wipe, and make sure the next person using the equipment doesn’t have to see your sweat as proof of your efforts.

4. Smile. And finally, there will be plenty of brand-new exercisers out there using YOUR machine or standing in YOUR spot in the group ex room. Be friendly and welcoming: smile, show them where the dirty towels go, and remember you were once the newbie too.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahJChicago

Strength Training: How do I start?

Many put off joining a gym because they don’t know where to begin in regards to a strength training program. There are three questions to ask yourself when choosing your exercise program:

What is my goal? This determines your priority exercises. There are many types and modes of strength training exercise.

Is there an event/specific task for which I need to prepare? If you are focused on achieving a particular outcome by a specific date, it is in your best interest to seek professional assistance. Upon a fitness evaluation a Professional Fitness Trainer will be able to recommend the appropriate course

What time commitment am I willing to make?  Any time is better than no time.

Upon answering the questions above you will be set to take action. There are three keys to building strength:

Stimulating the muscle, done through intensity and variety. To stay in your anaerobic pathway muscle fatigue must be reached within a 30-90 second time period/per set. This ensures you’ve recruited the muscle fibers and overloaded them sufficiently. For variety, change a component of your program every four to six weeks. This will create a new neurological pathway so your body will have a stimulus to adapt to and continue to become stronger.

Proper weight lifting mechanics. Firstly, every movement should begin with neutral posture: Line your ears up over your shoulders, and line your shoulders up over your hips. Secondly, draw your belly button in tight. Now you are ready to begin the movement.

Controlling the movement. Control the weight throughout your range of motion to reduce risk of injury.

Every strength exercise you perform in the gym should serve a specific purpose. If you’re not sure which to choose, consult a Fitness Professional to assist you.

Working out at the Gym: Is it for you? By Crystal Reia

Working out at a gym or at home? How do you know what’s the best and most effective venue for you?

Here are three major pro’s and con’s of working out a gym, as well as expert tips to get your best workout and pitfalls to avoid.

1. Pro: Group Exercise.

If you are outgoing and love group exercise, the gym might be right for you. Most gyms have a variety of group exercise classes you can choose from that will challenge you and keep your muscles guessing! Bring a friend and try out a class together! It is a fact that most people who participate in group exercise stick it out longer than going it alone.


Pitfall to avoid: Sometimes, classes can fill up quickly and be too crowded. So you may have to go early to ensure you have a spot. It is also harder for the instructor to stay on top of everyone’s form/technique in a larger class. So ensure you listen really well to what he or she has to say when it comes to performing the moves safely and correctly.


2. Pro: Variety.

There are plenty of machines and equipment at your disposal to incorporate into a variety of workouts. Be sure to learn how to use equipment correctly by enlisting the help of a personal trainers there who can show you if you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! They are there to help!


Con: Again, sometimes gyms can be overcrowded, especially before or after regular 9-5 work hours. It can be hard to get on the machine you want, or use the equipment you want in a timely fashion. Instead of waiting for a machine, keep moving and ensure you are flexible enough to pick another exercise instead to keep your heart rate up and your muscles moving.


3. Pro: Focus.

Going to the gym usually offers less distraction to get your workout done. You are going there for the purpose of attending a class or doing a workout on your own.


Challenge: Getting to the gym can be half the battle. It’s easy to make excuses and choose to sit at home on the couch! However, this is bad for the pocketbook! You are now paying monthly for a service you are not using! Joining with a friend can help, as they may make you more accountable. However on the flip side if you have a lot of friends at the gym, it can turn into more of a social hour and you spend more time talking than actually working out. Picking a class can help you avoid this.


By: Crystal Reia, Personal Trainer

Owner of Your Health-Your Choice



4 Common Workout Mistakes by Julie Mulcahy

Congratulations on your New Years Resolution to exercise and get fit! Following some simple guidelines in the gym will maximize your fitness gains and reduce risk of injury.

Here are 4 common workout mistakes new exercisers make at the gym:

Overtraining: The gym is always full of new exercisers in January. They are wearing all their bright and shiny fitness gear, ready to tackle their New Years Resolutions. They hit the ground running, literally! These can be sedentary people just starting out, or seasoned exercisers who don’t listen to the messages their bodies are sending. These folks push themselves so hard to try to make fast gains, the next day they can hardly walk down stairs or get out of a chair without muscle soreness and then they hit the gym again.  Starting a program too intense and never letting your body rest can lead to numerous injuries. Muscle soreness can result from high volumes of stress to the muscle. Stressing the muscle further in this state can slow the process of growth. The remedy for this is to listen to your body! If you work hard on squats and lunges,  work your upper body the next day. After a long hard run, try yoga or swimming the following day. This allows the muscle fibers the rest and growth they need to perform better. Although consistency is important, most proper, safe training plans allow for rest days. These are well deserved breaks to help grow muscle. Listen to your body!

Same routines: One huge mistake I have observed in the gym is doing the same routine day after day. I often see runners on the treadmill logging miles while they never venture into the free weight area. I see the muscle bound weight lifters pumping iron and never leaving the weight room. Your body gets accustomed to the same exercise routine and will become more efficient. This efficiency can lead to plateaus in weight loss and slow your fitness gains and can lead to repetitive use injuries. Change up your program! Try a new activity that will recruit different muscle fibers and build strength and endurance in new and different ways. Consult a trainer to teach you how to use other pieces of equipment you may not be familiar with. Make sure your fitness program has a strength, endurance and stretching component that is varied regularly.

Poor Form and Posture: Form and Posture are critical for proper performance. I frequently see gym goers lifting weights with rounded backs and protracted shoulders and moving so quickly that accessory muscles kick in  causing improper muscle substitutions. Many injuries can result from this technique including back pain and shoulder tendinitis. This is not unique to the weight room,  I have observed people in a forward bent posture leaning over the elliptical and resting on treadmill handles as if they will slide off the end if they let go. Proper pelvic neutral posture is the solution for all these scenarios. Gently cue your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Keep shoulders aligned with ear lobes, do not let shoulders roll forward. Try all new activities slowly, with light weights and progress the weight when you have correct form.  Check your posture frequently in the mirrors. The mirrors are actually there for that reason. Your posture on your last repetition should be as good as your first.

Machines, machines, machines: Most often weight machines isolate specific muscle groups . Muscles in our bodies rarely work in isolation. Most weight machines do not simulate real life and often put the exerciser in a non functional seated position that does not fully engage the core. Our bodies benefit more from functional training. This means training in positions that occur in daily activities such as pushing, pulling, squatting and lifting with core activation. For example, standing in a pelvic neutral position while performing a free weight bicep curl also works your core. To singe even more calories, do the same bicep curl standing on the bosu ball, which challenges balance and gets leg muscles activated. Doing standing squats and lunges with medicine balls or free weights works many muscle groups of the upper, lower body and core simultaneously.  Incorporating weighted pulley systems, physioballs, and medicine balls challenge core and balance, while strengthening multiple muscle groups which torches many more calories than isolated weight machine moves.

Julie Mulcahy M.P.T is a licensed Physical Therapist with over 19 years experience in sports medicine and orthopedics. Julie is also busy mom of 4 children and a marathon runner. She may be reached by email, jam82296@hotmail.com or via Twitter @PTrunningmomof4