By Justin Gibson, B.S., CSCS
For many of us, just making it to the gym is a victory worth celebrating. It’s a small miracle to have the time, willpower, and foresight to pack a gym bag and make that turn into your fitness center when it would be so much easier to go home and plop in front of the TV. But maybe you’re fed up with how you look and want to make a change. Maybe your doctor gave you a scare and convinced you of the need for exercise. Maybe you just want to be fit and healthy into your later years. For whatever reason, you’ve decided to make the effort to work out.
Everyone has their reasons. But not everyone has a goal!
While commendable, it’s not enough just to push and pull handles on some machines until you feel tired. All the effort you’re putting in needs to change something.
Few of us start up a fitness routine thinking, “I’m going to work out so that I can stay exactly the same as I am right now!” You want to see yourself change…or, more accurately, you want to see yourself get better! But if you’re just going through the motions, picking weights that feel kind of heavy without remembering what you used last time, staying at the same speed on the treadmill for the same amount of time, or never venturing outside the same four machines you’re comfortable using, how do you know if all of your efforts are going towards what you were trying to improve?
Here at Body Structure, we know that the most important part of any fitness routine is the goal behind it; if you don’t know where you’re headed, how do you know if you’re getting there?
No matter what the goal, the backbone of your program should be progression. Every time you step into the gym, you want to make an effort to be just a little bit better than you were last time. That could mean staying an extra minute on the elliptical or adding five pounds to the leg press. Whatever your goal is, your progress in the gym should reflect your efforts to reach it.
Here’s a great example set by one of my own clients, Harry:
Harry slipped on the ice back in February and broke his ankle. After two months in a cast and a bit of physical therapy, he wanted to regain the strength and mobility he had lost through his weight training routine. Starting back with me, we decided that an exercise called the goblet squat, which builds strength and balance of the ankle as well through the knees, hips, and core, would work for his goals and should be a staple of his routine. When we first tested his ability on this exercise back in early April, he could do 5 repetitions with 25 lbs. We set a goal to be able to do 5 repetitions with 50 lbs by August 1st.
Here’s a video of him this past Friday, doing 3 repetitions with 50 lbs:
With two weeks to go, he’s only two repetitions away from his goal. Now that’s progress!
The best way (and really the only way) to know if you’re inching towards your goal is the keep track of what you’re doing now. Keep a journal of your workouts, and write down all of the weights, reps, sets, speeds, and times you’ve been doing. Then, try to beat them the next time!
Did you walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill last week at 3.0 mph and at a 2% incline? This week, try keeping the same time and speed, but up the incline to 3%!
Two weeks ago when you did the leg press you did 3 sets of 10 reps using 100lbs. This time, on your third set, try doing 12 reps!
Have you only been using machines? Maybe this week, try learning some basic free weight exercises.
If you’re not sure what you should be working on or if you don’t know where to start, you might want to consider consulting one of our many qualified personal trainers to put you on the right path.
Going to the gym is too much of an investment to come away with nothing. When your health is on the line, spinning your wheels just doesn’t cut it. Know your goal, know your plan, and start building a better you!
Justin Gibson, B.S., CSCS, is a personal trainer at Body Structure Medical Fitness in Lexington, Kentucky