I hope it’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of big commercial gyms. But I understand you may not live within a short drive of Coastal Performance or another facility geared towards results, and you still have to workout, so I won’t let that be your excuse to take up jogging or any other dangerous activities!I’ll give you a couple pointers I would use to get the most out of this sometimes inevitable experience. This comes from years of personal tragedy and triumph trying to navigate the bad workout attire and atrocious exercise form that make up the bulk of the commercial gym going population. It is possible to succeed in this environment, it just takes some careful planning.
This should go for all workouts, but especially in a commercial gym. You need to know exactly what you need to do and when it needs to get done. That way you can be on the offense once you set foot outside of that locker room (the one with the tan dude taking shirtless pictures of himself in the bathroom mirror with his cell phone and the old guy wandering around looking for the non-existent steam room). You can’t leave it up to chance that you’ll stumble upon the right exercises for you, it’s too hard with that many bad options to chose from (including but not limited to anything made by Precor).
Pick “Low Floor Space” Circuits
I like to group non-competing exercises in alternating sets, trisets, or sometimes even quad sets. These are basically mini-circuits done with rest in between each set. In a commercial gym you can’t just pick whatever you feel is perfect, you have to remember that the guy in the tight $100 t-shirt, gelled hair, and jeans is probably going to grab your dumbbells as soon as you abandon them to go pick up something heavy. You need to ALWAYS be right by your equipment. So if you wanted to do a horizontal pushing exercise, a hip dominant exercise, and a core exercise in a triset you might pick the dumbbell bench press, dumbbell RDL and Plank. All those can be done right at the bench without giving the old guy with the headband and khakis on time to swoop in!
There’s nothing wrong with a LITTLE socialization in the gym. I get sidetracked once in awhile during a workout myself. But I never look back at a workout wishing I had spent more time talking and less time actually doing stuff. Headphones are like the international signal for leave me alone. You don’t even have to listen to anything, just put on the headphones and you can concentrate on getting an efficient workout in leaving more time to socialize in an appropriate setting. The point is, you go to the gym to workout, so workout. You’re not getting any skinnier listening to the giant 5’3 orange man talk about how many steroids he’s NOT on…
Take anything you hear or see with a grain of salt
There are lots of people at the gym. There are even going to be a few that can do everything wrong and still look awesome. Some of them might even be trainers there, so be careful. The girl with the abs doing two hours of crunches is WRONG. I don’t care if she has abs, it’s not what’s best for you and she didn’t crunch her way to abs. She has mom and dad to thank for that, and possibly a descent diet too. Take your fitness advice from people that get paid to get people fitness results ($8/hr at the commercial gym doesn’t count). They are going to know what’s best. Have a look at the Men’s Health Top Gyms in America List (here), these guys get paid a lot of money and get a lot of people results. You’re not going to see a lot of cardio or crunches in their programs, do you really think the guy with the 1998 Triathlon Participant t-shirt knows better than them? Just accept it all for what it is and concentrate on what’s best for you!
So those are my quick tips to surviving working out in a commercial gym. Good Luck!