Using Your Gym Time Wisely?

I am always curious of other people's gym routines. I stare at other people's machines while I am at the gym myself. I scrutinize people's tweets. I scan a ton of people's blogs. I am intrigued by how different everyone's gym routines are. Yes, every person is different so this makes sense. But, it is still fascinating how people spend their workout time. When I first moved to Chicago in 2008 and before I joined WW, I would spend hours at the gym. I was reminded of this last weekend when I was at one of the WW center openings with El.

On a normal day, I would go to the gym for 1.5-2 hours after work ... and sometimes even longer. I would get on the elliptical for an hour or so then spend some time on the Stairmaster or the treadmill. I would walk out burning (or so I thought) well over 1,000 calories. (At this time I was trusting what the machines told me I burned - I know better now)

But, when I got home from the gym? I would eat. I would graze. I would drink. I would snack. I would, subconsciously, intake the amount of calories I had just burned. Basically nullifying all the hard work I had just put in.


Well, after searching and studying and seeing what other people do, I realized. I don't need to spend hours at the gym ... unless I want to/have the time to do so .. to succeed and actually lose weight.

As you all know, I have gotten the nutrition/eating/drinking portion of my diet under wraps. Once I started to get a handle on that, I saw the lbs start to come off. Not only that, I feel stronger and fitter (did I make that word up?) than I ever have before...


How long do I spend at the gym now?

I average anywhere from 30 min to 1.5 hours ... again depending on how much time I have available.

What have I changed to make it work?

I took a hard look at what I was doing when I was at the gym.

Elliptical? I took my easy 45 minute session and turned it into a power 30 minutes - by setting a goal. I now work to hit at least 1,500 strides per 10 minutes on the Elliptical (Incline 10 - Resistance 6). This came in super handy while I was just coming back from my back surgery. Now, I can go ahead and play around with the Incline/Resistance or increase the strides goal.

Stairmaster? Instead of keeping the level at an even 7 or 8 for 45 minutes to an hour, I now work on intervals. I will go 2-5 minutes at one level, then increase it for the next 2-5 minutes, then increase for next 2-5 minutes, etc. This keeps my body fresh and I feel more of a work out.

Treadmill? A lot of people will either do a walk/run combination. Run for 1 minute - walk for 1 minute - run for 1 minute - walk for 1 minute, etc. You can also do this if you want to run the whole time. You can run for 2 minutes - then Sprint for 1 minute - run for 2 minutes - Sprint for 1 minute, etc. It is all about keeping your body guessing...

In addition, I have thrown in some classes that I would never have done before.

I Spin at least three times a week. I usually go to a Hip Hop class on Sundays. If someone can persuade me, I will also hit up a Zumba class. I have also dabbled in Yoga and Pilates as well - not as much my style, but happy to throw them in to the rotation every once in awhile.

The biggest change?

I now hit the gym in the morning. This has made a huge difference for me. I love to have free reign of the machines since the gym is a lot emptier at 6am. But, I like feeling the burn in the morning because I know it will help me along the day. I like waking my metabolism up so that it works in my favor while I am fueling my body throughout the day.


I know my routine is basically cardio heavy, but that is something I am working on. There needs to be a more balanced approach to my work out so that my body gets the full experience.

In terms of weights, people need to remember to switch up those routines as well. Otherwise your muscles will get used to the same actions and you won't see results. Good to do arms one day, then legs, back, chest, etc. Spread the love throughout the week. :)


So what have I really taken away from my workout redo? It doesn't matter how long you are at the gym - it matters have you spend the time while you are there. Dedicating everything you have to the Stairmaster for 20 minutes is going to pay off a lot more than taking an easy 45 minutes on the Elliptical.

If you are feeling lost in your workouts, ask for help. There are tons of people at your gym, on Twitter or Facebook that would be happy to offer advice.

Just remember, you are only going to get out of your workouts what you put in. Make it count! Push yourself every day! Bump up the resistance in Spin ... Push for an extra 300 strides per 10 minutes on the Elliptical ... Finally hit 9.0 for a solid minute on the treadmill!


What do you do to get the most out of your trip to the gym?