By Andy Haley STACK.com
Working out in a gym after New Year’s can be incredibly frustrating. It’s overcrowded with people who typically have no idea what they’re doing. They’re well intentioned, but they lack the knowledge of gym regulars.
For those of you who frequent a gym, you’re probably dreading the resolutions crowd. It can seriously screw up your workouts and make the whole experience less than enjoyable. When I was younger, I once walked into a gym and promptly walked back out after seeing a crowd that looked like a zombie herd from The Walking Dead.
You can’t wait for the weeks to pass and the crowd to disperse, as it inevitably does when people lose focus on their goals. Only eight percent of people succeed at the resolutions.
Rather than letting newbies ruin your workout or prevent you from working out altogether, here are a few tips to consider.
Tip 1: Schedule the First Week of January as a Recovery Week
Your gym will be packed during the first week of January. It can be the most frustrating week since lots of new members generally sign up around this time.
Getting a good workout in can be next to impossible.
To avoid this mess, take week off from the gym with a scheduled recovery week. A recovery week gives your body a much needed break from lifting heavy or other intense workouts, setting you up for better workouts once you get back into the gym. Best of all, you can do recovery workouts in the comfort of your own home. Try yoga or any other bodyweight strength routine.
Really, it’s a win, win.
Tip 2: Hit the Gym on Off Hours
Crowds in the gym can vary dramatically at different times. If you’re trying to miss crowds, your best bet is to go between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30p.m. This obviously isn’t possible for everyone, given school and work schedules. But if you have some flexibility, take advantage of it.
Tip 3: Choose Your Exercises Wisely
Most New Year’s resolutions are centered on some type of aesthetic goal. Workouts focus on mirror muscles, such as the chest, shoulders and arms, rather than on muscle groups that aren’t as flashy.
For athletes, this is a good thing! You should be able to do most of the important exercises in your program with little problem. Squat racks are typically vacant—unless some bozo is doing Curls in them—and you can Deadlift as long as there’s an open barbell and some floor space. In general, free weights are your best bet.
Also, be smart with your supersets by using as little equipment as possible. For example, do a Dumbbell Bench Press and Dumbbell Rows instead of a Bench Press and Pull-Ups. This allows you to stay in one spot, and you won’t go in a full rage when someone takes over the piece of equipment you’re not using for the moment.
The Bench Press will undoubtedly be your biggest challenge, since it seems to be everyone’s favorite exercise—which leads us to our next point.
Tip 4: Be Flexible
Inevitably, you won’t be able to do one or two exercises in your program. Maybe every single bench is taken or there’s a line to do Pull-Ups.
It happens, and when it does, you need to be flexible. Rather than just skipping that move altogether, think about what muscle group the exercise works and find an equivalent move. For example, if the every single bench is taken, try Floor Presses, Landmine Presses or even basic Push-Ups.
Although it can be frustrating when you can’t do an exercise you had planned, there are always great alternatives. In the worst case, you can get a fantastic workout with a single dumbbell.
Tip 5: Avoid Cardio Equipment
The cardio area of your gym will probably be the most crowded, since amateurs think cardio is the key to losing weight. Whether that’s true or not is the subject of a different article.
As an athlete, you should typically avoid the cardio area of your gym. Rather than jogging for 30 minutes, try this mobility circuit workout. If you’re planning to do intervals on the treadmill, instead do an interval workout with bodyweight exercises, such as the routine shown in the video above. Or just do Burpees.
The result? You’ll get a better workout and won’t have to fight for a spot on a treadmill.
Tip 6: Don’t Try to Help Everyone (Unless Your Know Them)
You’re going to run into bros. You’re going to encounter the old-timer doing Richard Simmons-style calisthenics. And you’re going to see people lifting with horrible, horrible form.
Despite your desire to help, it’s best to keep to yourself unless you know the person. Sometimes, advice is appreciated but typically people scoff at unsolicited tips. That’s the job of the employees on staff at your gym. It’s also kind of a bro thing to do.
As a matter of fact, it’s better to keep communication with others to a minimum. Focus on your exercises, picking the proper weight, taking the proper rest intervals and writing down your results. This will make for a better workout.