How To Be Successful…In The Gym

So often people start going to the gym expecting all kinds of results just for showing up. Unfortunately, that’s not how any of this works….

YOU HAVE TO HAVE A PLAN! And I’m going to tell you how to create one.

Before we begin, let’s discuss the one desire that so many of us have in common….TONING. Yikes…just hearing (or writing) that word feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. This word gets thrown around too often, often accompanied by “not wanting to get bulky” and “I want to lose fat in my stomach.” But I get it. I used to say I wanted to tone too because it was a commonly used phrase that is associated with a certain leanness right? So of course I wanted to get toned! However, it took awhile before I actually understood what that meant. When you say you want to “tone” you’re actually saying that you want to build muscle and reduce your overall body fat so that everyone can see said muscle. Sorry to tell you ladies, but this will not and cannot be achieved by lifting 2lb dumbbells at high reps, doing one set on every machine in the building while texting or talking on the phone, or spending your days wasting away on the cardio equipment. No, everything must be done tactfully. So put your earbuds in, put your phone away and get ready to WORKout!

Step 1: Create a Split

This means that you will be breaking up your muscle groups into a specific schedule so they can each be worked one time per week. You need to give your muscles time to rest and recover before you break them down again. Start by deciding how many days per week you will dedicate to working out, then assign certain muscle groups per day.

Common examples include:

3 Day Split: Monday-Chest/Triceps, Wednesday-Back/Biceps, Friday-Legs/Shoulders (abs can be worked in on “rest days” or with any of these 3 days)

5 Day Split: Monday-Chest, Tuesday-Back, Wednesday-Biceps & Triceps, Thursday-Legs, Friday-Shoulders

The goal is to do whatever works best for you. Just make it happen.

Step 2: Strength Training

You HAVE to do some form of strength training to build the muscles you want to see. This happens through lifting weights, using machines, doing body weight or band exercises. Better yet, incorporating a mixture of these in your program will allow your muscles to experience different types of resistance. Strength training promotes muscle growth due to mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress. So don’t be afraid to lift some weight!

*Additional Benefits-Not only are you building muscle, but the more muscle you have, the more FAT you will burn! That is because it takes more energy to move muscle than fat. It’s a win-win!

**Side Note-No, you will not get bulky! Women naturally don’t have the same testosterone levels as men so it would be extremely difficult to achieve a “bulky” look without using some sort of enhancer (steroids). And if you ever did get to a point where you felt like you were looking too muscular or bulky…GREAT NEWS! It’s called bodybuilding for a reason! You get to build your body to look however you want it to! (Also a win-win)

Step 3: Do MINDFUL Cardio

This is another thing that I learned only by reading, researching and taking my classes. Let me preface this by saying, everything is dependent upon your goals, but as a general conversation I am addressing those who are interested in fat loss.

Mindful cardio means manipulating your equipment to help you reach your individual goals. If your goal is to burn fat…why are you running for hours and hours and seeing no results? Because you should be working within your fat burning zone, duh! Your fat burning zone is 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

How to calculate: 220-Age= Maximum HR. Maximum HR x 60-70%=target fat burning zone! This is a general calculation that can be found anywhere on the internet.

Now that you have your magic numbers, you want to participate in a form of cardio that keeps your heart rate within this range. I prefer the treadmill and hubby prefers the stair master. Or use a combination of different machines to keep things interesting. The biggest take away is that you should be keeping a steady heart rate while doing this exercise. Keep the time to 45 minutes or less of this type of cardio. Depending on my personal goals, I do anywhere from 20-40 minutes.

Another proven effective option for fat loss is HIIT (high intensity interval training). This is not my preference but studies show a great contribution to fat loss. This can be done in many different ways using a jump rope, kettlebells, bodyweight exercises, cardio machines or by simply doing sprints. HIIT uses high intensity intervals followed by short rest intervals in order to burn fat. Interval training is typically done in a shorter amount of time and, due to the affect on the central nervous system, requires more recovery between training sessions.

Step 4: Have a Nutrition Plan

The most important part of being successful in reaching your goals literally boils down to everything you put in your mouth. From which nutrients to eat to nutrient timing to supplementation to drinking water to your goals. It all matters. And you can not out-work a poor diet. So have a plan.

If your goal is to lose weight, you need to eat less calories than you burn. If your goal is to gain weight, you need to eat more calories than you burn. And if your goal is to maintain weight, you have to eat the same amount of calories that you’re burning. So how do you know how many calories you should be eating? You can use online calculators (in which results may vary), you can do research on different equations to understand your intake,  or you can hire a coach who can figure it out for you. In all events, you will have a period of trial and error to figure out your exact daily expenditure but once you find that “sweet spot”, you’re basically golden.

Other alternatives that may not be as effective but are a step in the right direction would involve popular and well known programs/trends/diets. Though these might not get you to your final goal, you may learn something along the way. If you take anything away from this, remember that you MUST have a nutrition plan in order to succeed.

There you have it, the four steps you need to have in order before you step into the gym next time. Utilize the resources you have available to you (me, internet, books, etc) to ensure you are getting the most out of your workouts. If you’re already putting in the time, then why not make it worth it! If you follow all of these four steps I can guarantee that you’re already headed in the right direction. How do I know? Because these are the exact same steps I learned over the course of my journey.