What Should I Wear To The Gym?

Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

How to Travel and Train

Travelling can throw you off your training routine, whether it be for a holiday abroad or at home or a short break or work trip.

However, there are a variety of ways you can keep active whilst travelling: 

  • Hotel Gyms

Many hotels now have gyms – albeit the quality of equipment can vary from a full gym worth of equipment to a couple of pieces of cardio equipment and a single dumbbell.  If you are staying in a hotel with a gym then taking your gym kit and an open mind can be one option.  You may be able to get an idea of what equipment the facility has from their website beforehand so you can plan a workout ahead of time, but if not you can probably work with what is there to keep moving- even if it means departing from your normal routine.     

  • Running

Free and something, you can do anywhere.  Often if I’m staying overnight, in a hotel I’ll just take my running gear and go for a 15-20 min run in the morning.  No checking gym opening hours required so you can fit it to whatever your schedule is.  The added bonus is running somewhere different to usual can be interesting – a run around the city’s sights or along the beach is often more inspiring than running round your local park (or for me down the local cycle paths) and the fresh air first thing can set you up for he day.

  • Yoga

Something which you can do in even the smallest of hotel rooms without worrying about people complaining about you jumping up and down and making noise!  If you already practice yoga you can probably run through your own sequences of moves but if you need inspiration, You Tube has lots of free guided yoga sessions which you could follow.

  • Virtual Services

There are lots of workouts you can do from home now- think Les Mills On Demand and Beach Body.  Some of these require equipment but plenty do not.  If you travel a lot it could be worth a subscription so you can workout in your hotel room when you are away.  If you don’t travel that often many services offer week long trials for free which you could utilise whilst on holiday.

  • Local Gyms

A great option to consider – especially if you are travelling in the UK.  Check if your current gym membership allows you access to any gyms in their chain, as you may be able to access without additional charges.  If not gyms such as The Gym Group and Pure Gym tend to do day and week pass options / trials for less than a tenner.  The benefit here is you can pretty much guarantee the gym will have all the equipment you need to stick to your normal workout routine without having to make changes.  You may even be able to get to a few classes if that floats your boat.  I did this when I went to my mums last Christmas – visiting the local Nuffield (I have a Nuffield membership) on Christmas Eve and then getting a day pass for The Gym on Boxing Day.  Managed to get my workouts in for an extra £7 without having to make any adjustments to what I wanted to do.

  • Body Weight Workouts

You can put together an entire cardio and / or resistance workout using body weight only (think push ups, burpees, lunges, squats, jumping, plank work).  This can be done indoors or outdoors to suit you.  I’m quite keen on short bursts of running (say 500m) with sets of jump lunges, squat jumps, burpees and press ups performed after every run- gives you a quick all over workout and lets you take in some fresh air. If space is tight you could focus on core stability moves and work the trunk of the body, taking out impact work.

  • Tabata

My favourite HIIT tool- 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest x 8.  You can do any moves you want.  7 rounds gives you about a thirty minute workout which will elevate the heart rate.  The ability to do any moves means you can do it anywhere with any equipment you have or just your body.  Type tabata timer into the app store and you will find lots of timers you can use.

  • Tennis / Golf

If you are on holiday abroad there will often be tennis courts or similar at your hotel.  Getting involved in some sports whilst you are away is a great way of getting exercise in – beach volleyball, tennis, golf- without really thinking about exercising.

  • Sight Seeing

Walking might seem less intense than your normal training sessions. But if you are on holiday and planning on visiting lots of sites remember that the walking you do will count towards keeping moving, so perhaps you want to leave the gym kit at home and just get in lots of steps whilst away.

  • Rest

If you travel all the time finding a system for training whilst away is a good idea.  However, if you are only away for a week or two on holiday there is no harm in deciding to just take a break from training completely.  This could be the perfect time to let the body rest so you are eager to go again upon your return.

I would love to hear other people’s ideas and methods of staying active whilst on the move.

How to Guess the Season by your Group Exercise Class

I have two jobs so quite often do not see much day light / weather as I go from gym to office to gym day by day.  If like me you lose track of the seasons worry not – your classes can provide handy hints as to where you are in the year, rendering the need for a calendar unnecessary.

January – Every class will be fully booked with a waiting list of one million. You will spend 50% of the class taking the register and persuading people to share the kit around fairly.  You will not recognise half the room and everyone will be wearing brand new kit bought half price in the sales.  The air con will break but it won’t bother anyone too much because it feels like it might snow,

February – Class numbers start to settle and will be busy apart from one particular day when you will see a dramatic drop in numbers as lots of people go out for hideously overpriced set menu meals instead of coming to the gym.  The day after this happens make sure you pop to Tesco as there will be lots of half priced heart shaped chocolate available for purchase.

March – There will probably be about two inches of snow and your classes will be cancelled as the country grinds to a halt.

April – It starts to get lighter outside so numbers creep up a little, especially around Easter when everyone wants to burn off the 400 easter eggs and 500 units of alcohol they consumed over a 4 day period.

May – The start of the summer months.  You will know when it’s sunny because class numbers will drop dramatically and the air con will break.  If your gym is near a university people will start heading home for the summer.

June – The number of attendees will continue to indicate the quality of the British weather without you ever needing to step outside.

July – Is the air con working? Yes = It’s probably chilly today.  No = We are definitely in the middle of a heat wave.

August – You will still know whether it is raining or sunny outside by how busy your classes are.

September – The summer is over and familiar faces will start to return after months of spending evenings having BBQs and other outdoor activities.  If you are near a university a flurry of fresh faced people will start to arrive – and you will swear they look even younger than last years intake of students (they are not – you are just getting older) .  Every class will be full with a waiting list of one million.  You will spend 50% of the class taking the register and persuading people to share the kit around fairly.  You may be a bit confused at this point that January has come around so quickly then will notice that the air con is broken and it’s far to warm to be January.

October –It’s getting dark now and some people will start to hibernate. Numbers will start to settle.  It’s getting colder so the air con will definietly definietly work.

November – Numbers will continue to remain stable.If you have windows in your studio there will be no natural light – at any point of the day.

December – The ‘Sod it, it’s Christmas’ phenonomen means class sizes will start to half the day you open the first door on your advent calender.  Everyone who does attend classes will mutter things about needing to burn off all the mince pies as they enter and leave the studio.  You will start to see novelty gym kit as the big day gets closer.

World Cup – During the group stages you will know when England are playing because there will be a 50% reduction in attendance.  If England progress the number of people in attendance during any England game will drop dramatically until finally when the semi finals come around you can be relatively confident you will be spending an hour in a studio alone.  We will not even tempt fate by mentioning the possibility of England reaching the final!

15 things they should tell you on your first Group Ex training course:

15 things they should tell you on your first Group Ex training course:

  1. Someone will always think the music is too loud. The person next to them will probably think it’s too quiet.
  2. Regulars will have their spot – everyone who does classes has a spot – and if they change spot one day it will probably throw you off kilter so much so you forget how to teach.
  3. Your hair washing standards will drop dramatically. Before teaching “I wash my hair every time I exercise.” Now, “I washed my hair 15 classes ago and it is now held together by dry shampoo – and I’ll still get another 2 classes out of it yet .”
  4. You will never have an empty washing basket. Ever again. Never. It’s not possible
  5. Every song you ever hear from here on in, you will either have choreography in your head you want to do to it, or you will try to fit your own choreography to it.
  6. The air conditioning will nearly always be broken- get used to it.
  7. If the air con is working the mic will probably not work.
  8. If the mic is working you probably won’t have enough weight plates… or clips… or steps.
  9. Gyms don’t like it if your classes are under subscribed. But they also get annoyed if you let too many people in!
  10. You will now need to carry every size battery and type of aux lead known to man with you at all times and will be that weird person that when someone say I don’t suppose anyone has a AAA battery you can produce 20 from the bottom of your handbag – even though your actually in the pub at the time.
  11. Music systems are confusing.
  12. You will never again be able to provide directions as left and right become meaningless due to the fact you’re not quite sure if you are referring to instructor left of real life left anymore in any given situation.
  13. The person who teaches the class before you can make or break your spirit – don’t be the person who runs over by 20 minutes every week and leaves a pool of sweat on the instructor spot for the next instructor to find… or the one that adjusts every knob on the stereo and hides the mic!
  14. You will end up being in 100 different local cover groups and everytime someone posts you will see the same request 89 times across these various groups.
  15. And you probably won’t be able to cover – mainly because the person has forgotten to mention where the cover is need… or at what time.

HIIT: What, Why, How

 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been big in gym land for a while now.  Most people who train will have probably tried to incorporate some form of HIIT training into their programm

The main selling point to HIIT is it can provide maximum benefits in a relatively short time period.  It consists of short maximum effort bursts of work repeated with even shorter periods of rest in between.  Generally, a HIIT session would take no longer than 20 – 40 minutes and you can do almost any type of exercise depending on what your focus is that session.

Pros to HIIT training include:

  • Increased fitness – stamina, strength, endurance, agility etc.
  • Promotion of muscle growth due to the increased production of testosterone
  • Increased fat burn
  • Calorie burn not only during the workout but also for several hours after

With the rise of HIIT training within the gym it is natural that HIIT based classes have also become popular and are a great place to try this type of training out, so if you are thinking of trying a class here’s some pointers on what’s out there and what to expect:

  • The number of different options is huge! You could try Les Mills Grit Series, Beachbody’s Insanity, Mettafit, Virgin’s Twentyfour to name a few.  Most gyms will also have freestyle HIIT classes on their timetable (under the name of HIIT or Extreme Intervals or similar)
  • Many HIIT classes will be based around body weight exercises but not all will (Les Mills do a GRIT Plyo and GRIT Strength which used benches and barbells), I do HIIT Group Cycle classes.
  • They are designed to be hard and push you to your limit. People worry about going to classes that look ‘hard’ because they fear they will look unfit.  The truth is as you get fitter you should be pusher harder so the class should always feel ‘hard’.
  • Another truth is that nobody will be looking at you. It’s human nature to be a bit nervous about the potential embarrassment of doing something we might not be very good at but to be honest most people are too wrapped up in what they are doing to notice the person next to them!  I’ve seen someone slip (not badly, it’s ok!) as they were going for it during a class and not one person surrounding them so much as stopped what they were doing or looked over to them – they were concentrating on their workout- so you’d be surprised how unintimidating the classes are once you’ve got passed the initial walking into the room stage!
  • A final truth is that to get better at things you aren’t great at you have to actually do them. So no, you might not be able to nail every move the first time you try a class (and we are talking any class here) but you have to start somewhere to improve.
  • The classes are designed to push you to your edge – but they will be inclusive. When you start out a squat burpee tuck jump may not be attainable and body weight squats might be enough to push you to your limit.  With time and persistence, you will progress and whilst that progression happens the instructor will be able to provide you with options to push you.  Working to your limits is the aim – don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  • Technique is key. Listen to the instructor and focus on execution of moves over speed – speed will come with time.  Results will come from doing moves well.

A final word of warning – Don’t over do it.  Studies have shown that HIIT has great benefits – however it also puts a reasonable amount of stress on your body so you ideally want to be aiming for no more than three HIIT sessions a week for maximum results.

  • If you take part in HIIT sessions four or more times a week your body will not have sufficient recovery time and you will start to negate the benefits
  • Excessive HIIT training can actually result in muscle loss and create hormonal imbalance – when the Central Nervous System gets stressed the production of testosterone can decrease and your body can start to store fat rather than loose it.
  • HIIT is hard so naturally there is a small increase in the risk of Injury the more you take part
  • Quick bursts of work can help improve stamina but if it is all you ever do it won’t help improve endurance much. A well balanced training plan with a variety of training methods will yield greater results.
  • Online coach Ricky Long (check him out on Instagram @rickylong42) suggests using HIIT a couple of times a week as part of your programme for 6-10 weeks followed by a couple of weeks away from HIIT, sticking to more steady state training to allow the body to replenish.

So ultimately- try HIIT but like everything in life don’t over do it and be sensible!