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Fitness Friday – Choosing The Right Gym

It’s October. The leaves are changing. You’ve started wearing gloves on your runs and bike rides. Unless you live in Arizona, then you may just need an air-conditioned break.

Regardless of why or when, choosing the right gym for you is serious business! Pricey payments aside, the gym you choose has a direct affect on your fitness success. Choose the wrong one and you’ll never go.

Seeing as I spend ALL day in a gym, (work in one, exercise in one, eat in one, and sometimes even nap in one) I wanted to offer my readers things to look for when picking a gym that’s juuuuust right ;)

 

1. Location.

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Clearly, you want a gym close to where you either live or work. Think about when you are most likely to work out. Are you committed to going before or after work every day? Are you more likely to go when you’ve got downtime on the weekends? What is the surrounding area like? Can you run or bike there? Having the option to do part of your cardio component outside is a luxury you don’t know you’re missing until you have it.

Additionally, what kind of businesses are in the area? I went to a gym once that was in a grocery store and made running errands a cinch. I also went to a gym that was next door to a place that served the best pizza in town :\

 

2. Change rooms

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Being comfortable enough to shower at your gym is a huge convenience. Especially when you’re dropping in between priorities. Besides being clean, are there soaps and shampoos in the showers? Extra things like lotion or hair product? Are there enough lockers? It can be pretty darn frustrating when there isn’t. Also, it’s worth taking note of how many people in the change room are comfortable enough to parade around in their birthday suits. Seriously! In my experience, women don’t feel the need to hide behind curtains in gyms with a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.

 

3. Weight area.

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The weight room should have at least two of all the essentials: flat benches, incline benches, bench press racks, squat racks, dumbbells, barbells, and cable machines. These are such commonly used pieces of equipment that it can quickly grow frustrating when you always have to wait for the only incline bench in the whole place. I also tend to judge a gym by how many fun toys they have kicking around – swiss balls, bosu balls, jump ropes, balance plates, kettlebells, etc.

Keep in mind, strength training equipment doesn’t have to be brand spanking new to be effective. But everything should operate smoothly. No squeaky cable machines!

 

4. Cardio machines.

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While I may be lenient about the condition of the strength training equipment, the newest cardio machines make a world of difference. Newer treadmills are more sturdy and quiet. Newer elliptical are better designed to move with your body. When you’re on a piece of cardio equipment for 40 minutes straight, you want it to be the least painful possible.

Some people may have differing opinions on this, but I’m a strong supporter of no sign-ups or time limits on cardio machines. Especially if you’re looking to play around on a bunch or hop on for quick sprints during a routine. Plus, having to change treadmills 20 minutes into a long-run because of a time limit is a pain in the butt.

 

5. Entertainment.

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Tying in with the cardio discussion, there should be lots of big TVs visible from at least the cardio area. Many gyms now have earphone plug-ins to listen to the TVs. If they don’t, make sure they at least put on the closed captioning, otherwise it’s really boring (trust me). Even better is if the cardio machines have individualized screens on each piece! Also note the music that’s playing in the gym. My current gym plays good music most of the time which is a really nice bonus. My old one played nothing but Beyonce.

 

6. Space.

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A gym doesn’t necessarily have to be 2-3 levels to qualify as “spacious.” I’m talking about blank floor space. An area where, if you wanted to, you could jump rope, swing around kettlebells, jump over benches, etc. Even more important is a big matted area for stretching. Or at least an area that you can bring a mat to. This is probably the most overlooked design component of most gyms.

 

7. Sanitary.

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Look for sanitizing spray bottles and hand sanitizer. There should be one only a few steps away no matter where you are in the gym. The hippie in me gets irritated by gyms that provide paper towel instead of cloth towel for wiping off equipment.

 

8. Parking.

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Parking should be free! If it isn’t, the gym should validate it for you. Also, make sure there is ample parking. It is SO frustrating when you finally drag your butt to the gym, only to find there’s no place to park!

 

9. Fitness classes.

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First, there should be fitness classes you would actually go to. Second, they should be at times you can attend. Third, they should mostly be included in your membership (sometimes things like bootcamps aren’t). Fourth, the instructors should be good! Make sure to take a good look at the fitness schedule and ask to try out at least one class first. Even if you don’t picture yourself going to them, it’s really nice to have the option when you find yourself suddenly lacking motivation.

 

10. Hours.

If you plan on working out before your 8am job, and the gym only opens at 7am, that could be a problem. Also, be sure to check out the weekend hours. A lot of gyms close around 5-6pm on weekends, which may not be conducive to sleeping in and getting a late brunch ;)

 

 11. Lighting

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Try to find a gym that is bright and open with natural light pouring in. Avoid gyms that are dark and windowless. The sunlight really will have an effect on your mood, energy and stamina during your workout! Danky basement gyms are just depressing.

 

12. Staff.

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Obviously, you want them to be welcoming and friendly! Be wary of anyone who seems too pushy right off the bat. At some gyms, they are constantly trying to sell you something, be it training sessions or an upgraded package. Watch how the staff interacts with other clients and with each other. Do they know everyone’s name? Can they recognize people on the floor? Gyms are a business, but you shouldn’t feel like you’re in one when you’re there.

 

Question of the Day: Chime in! What are things you look for in a gym? Anything that turns you off a gym?

Back to School

Greetings from Saint John!! A little bit of background about the city – it’s a dank hole. Sorry to any Saint John-ers out there, but let’s be honest with ourselves ;) It’s a smelly port city with a giant oil refinery. It’s my province’s largest city, but also my least favourite.

Since my grandparents don’t have the internet, I am currently blogging from Starbucks.

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They told me the first two hours of wifi was free – that better be right!!

So. My personal training class! For those of you with bad short term memories: I’m here for personal training specialist classes with Can-Fit-Pro (Canadian Fitness Professionals). The course is available entirely though distance, but it’s strongly suggested that you take the classes. They’re being offered here in Saint John for the next two weekends – so here I am!

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These pictures are all taken from the Nubodys website, as there are understandably no cameras allowed in the club.

Nubodys is a chain of Atlantic Canadian gyms that falls under the Goodlife Fitness umbrella (ie my gym!). I of course think my gym in Fredericton is the best, but this one’s pretty nice too ;)

Our class is in a small studio with tables and chairs, etc.

I broke down yesterday and splurged on a bunch of store-bought bars. I didn’t want to bring a cooler to my Grammie and Grampie’s, I’m trying to stress them out as little as possible. My Grammie was downright flabbergasted that I brought my own oatmeal for breakfast!

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As per usual, I entered the day armed with snacks. I usually get strange looks for this, but what didn’t occur to me was that everyone in the class would be the same way! At 10am and 3pm we were all digging into our snack bags. One guy was even mixing up protein shakes and had a container of cottage cheese :P

We only had 30 minutes left for lunch, so I was also able to make use of my backup snacks instead of rushing out for Subway for something.

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A couple small cans of tuna, a few pieces of rye crackers and an orange. I actually ate an apple with my morning snack, so the orange got pushed over till lunch :)

So! I bet you’re what you’re wondering what the hell we’re doing in that classroom! :P Well, there are about 15 of us, an even split of guys and girls ages 18-35. We have an instructor, or “PRO Trainer” who is essentially going into detail about all the course materials with us.

This weekend will be all about the textbook. So today we went through the training principles, respiratory system, bioenergetics, and muscular and skeletal concepts. Basically all the headache-inducing stuff and it cleared up so much of it for me! Our instructor is super knowledgeable and really keen for us to all have a good understanding of how and why the body works. For example, I learned that the lower back shouldn’t twist or bend backward (ahem! back extension machine!) and I learned sun salutations are pretty much the best way to stretch ever, by combining static and dynamic stretches and hitting all the muscles. Fun!

Next weekend we’ll move on to the practical stuff – including a fitness assessment and determining our VO2 max. Eep.

For the record, I did just have to pay for internet. Stupid Starbucks.

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But at least they gave me a grande instead of a tall by accident ;)

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A vanilla rooibos tea latte made with skim milk and sugar-free vanilla syrup.

Despite all my snacks today (which included the half a Builder Bar, apple, Simply Bar and beef jerky), I’m starving!!! It is a rest day after all. I’ve been munching on some nuts & fruit. 

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I have dinner plans with an old friend in about 30 minutes. She lived on my couch for a few months in university. I’m excited to see her again! After that, it’s back to my grandparent’s place so all of us can make our 9pm bedtime ;) It’s really nice seeing my grandparents, but I’m not entirely comfortable staying with them. I feel like I’m causing them TONS of extra work and stress. Contemplating just commuting the hour drive next weekend… we’ll see!

Hope y’all are having a great weekend and that the weather is gorgeous where you are too :) xoxo

 

Question of the Day: Have you done any sort of further education? I have an undergraduate degree in Journalism & Communications, and now I’m doing the PTS certification with plans on doing the Nutrition & Wellness certification asap. I lovelovelove learning and was my very happiest as a university student. I think if I won the lottery, I’d spend all my money on taking courses!!

Beat the New Year’s Crowd

Mooooaaaan. That’s the noise I’ve been making all “Moanday” :P For the third week in a row, I had high hopes of making it to a Monday morning spin class. And for the third week in a row, I failed to go! I’m not very good about going to bed early Sunday nights, so the idea lost all appeal by the time I set my alarm last night. Oh well, the sleep and nice breakfast was well worth it!

I went through a period where I was buying a lot of stuff at the Bulk Barn. I thought it was awesome because I could scoop out just as much as I wanted and the price was right. But the more I did it, the more I realized the product quality sucked. Everything was stale, and the oats were a “bad cut” (you oatmeal snobs know what I’m talking about). I finally finished up my bag of bad bulk oat bran last week and went back to my Golden Box.

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It’s like reuniting with an old lover. I made 1/2 cup custard style with a whole egg whisked in.

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Topped with Bekah’s Coconut Chia Granola, cashew butter and molasses. Heaven.

Also bought yesterday was a $3 lunchbag! I’m quite proud of it. The top separates from the bottom, so I don’t have to lug the whole thing to lunch with me if I don’t need to.

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Hiding in that bag  was…

Morning snack:

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Yogurt mixed with vanilla protein powder and granola.

Lunch…

IMG_3022Pita with mustard hummus, pickles, turkey, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach. The mustard hummus with pickles was awesome.

Afternoon snackage…

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Homemade protein bar. I used just chocolate protein powder on this batch and it actually made it taste more bland! Next week I will spice it up a bit ;)

Had a good day at work today, despite being in a daze for most of it. Have to work tonight too, filming a lecture for the website. So dinner was quick! Good thing I had leftovers ;)

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Bean and vegetable chili. Chili leftovers rock my socks. So does turkey. I don’t know how I was a vegetarian for so long when I’m clearly a heartless carnivore :P

 

Crowded Gyms

I figured it’s pretty much safe to assume that everyone’s gym is crowded these days. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of some helpful tips to beat (or tolerate) the crowds.

1. Stay away during peak times. This is the most obvious one. Everyone goes to the gym at 5pm. If there’s a way you can sneak it in elsewhere – do it! Friday nights and weekend afternoons are some of my favourite times to workout because it’s always abandoned there.

2. Try new machines. Good luck getting a treadmill or elliptical this time of year. Instead of throwing a hissy fit, try something new! Churn out some sprints on the stationary bike, work your arms on the rowing machine, or even (yes) climb onto the dreaded stairmaster. It’s your chance to step out of your comfort zone.

3. Hit up the weight room. New years resolution-ers tend to stick to the cardio equipment. Gym newbies are a little more apprehensive of free weights, so you’ll likely be in there with all the usual suspects. Perfect excuse to incorporate more strength training into your routine ;)

4. Take turns. Forget what I just said – sometimes the weight area is packed! I’ve gotten into the habit of asking people who are obviously doing alternating sets if they mind I use their machine or weights while they’re on their other set. Just because weight lifters are big and scary looking, doesn’t mean they’re not polite and sensible too :)

5. Be a hog. Okay, forget that polite thing I just mentioned too :P If I see a window to grab popular machines or weights, I grab them and hog them for all their worth. I was once the most hated person in the gym by hogging the 10, 20, and 25 lb dumbbells for 30 minutes.

6. Get there early. Exercise classes fill up fast in the New Year! I know getting there is sometimes hard enough, but make the extra effort to get there 10-15 minutes earlier. You can take the extra time to do a slower warm-up, which will boost your performance while you’re at it.

7. Be flexible. Don’t ditch your workout just because you can’t get your favourite treadmill, second last from the water fountain. And do not kick someone off your favourite spin bike! (yes, I’ve heard of both of these things happening before) Now is a perfect time to practice going with the flow.

8. Keep your cool. Don’t let the newbie incorrectly hogging the squat rack ruin your workout. There are worse things in life than having to sub out a set, or opt for a different machine. Remember, we go to the gym to relieve stress, not instigate it!

 

Question of the Day: How do you deal with busy gyms?

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