Going to the Gym: Not the Same as Working Out

I hate to break this to you: Joining a gym will not make you fit. Just like reading a Top 10 Killer Moves to Get Michelle Obama’s Arms magazine article while seated at the smoothie bar will not get you Michelle Obama arms. (Trust me, I’ve tried it.)

To get in shape, be healthy and enjoy real results from your fitness routine, you must show up and do the work.

Harpers Fitness, a U.K.-based health and fitness center, conducted a survey of 1,000 gym members and asked how they spent their time at the gym. The researchers found that the average gym goer squanders 30% of their time in the gym on non-exercise activities such as taking water breaks, fiddling around with music and detangling headphones, and checking their look in the mirror.

According to Michael Wood, exercise physiologist and Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, the numbers are actually worse than that. “The study doesn’t factor in recovery time. Most people rest too long in between sets during their strength workouts. For example, a person who does 30 minutes of strength training with extended rests in between sets might spend as little as 15 minutes actually performing the exercises.”

The problem is that most people simply don’t know how to exercise properly. According to Michael, “Without guidance or a predetermined plan, many people tend to wander around the gym, wondering what to do.” And when you’re not working out properly, you don’t see results, and you ultimately lose the motivation to get to the gym at all.

If you are nodding along thinking, “Yep, that’s me,” don’t beat yourself up. It’s never too late to adopt smarter strategies for maximizing the time you spend in the gym.

With these simple changes, you’re sure to see improved results from your workout time. And there is nothing more motivating than that.

  1. Claim your goal. Commit to it. Go public with it. Goal setting is perhaps the most powerful motivator when it comes to exercise. If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you get there?  Sharing goals with friends, family and publicly through social networks helps to it makes it real. This kind of accountability will put you in a more focused mindset to work harder at the gym.
  2. Have a plan of attack. Know in advance what you’re going to do at the gym. Be specific on what exercises you’ll complete. Change up your workout routine weekly to keep yourself challenged. Decide how often you’ll exercise and mark it on a calendar, ideally a digital one that sends you a reminder.
  3. Set a timer. With your plan in place, put a time limit on your workout and hold yourself accountable for finishing everything you set out to do in a specific amount of time. Don’t allow yourself any free time for dawdling.
  4. Consider replacing your gym. Is your gym cutting it, or do you need a new fitness solution that is more tailored to your needs? Perhaps you need more guidance, or a less intimidating environment where you can be more focused. Look at other fitness studios and options that might be a better fit for you.
  5. Find a simple way to track progressThe simple act of checking “exercise” off your list and keeping tabs on what you did (30 minutes strength, 15 minutes on cardio, etc.) helps to create an exercise habit and the momentum to keep going. Try a simple daily habit tracker like Lift, or find a digital gym that automatically tracks results for you.
  6. Brag a little. If you’ve been dogging it at the gym in the past, you’ll feel good about stepping it up, and you should brag a little! Social media is also a great way to seek encouragement from friends on your progress. This can be the just the “pat on the back” needed to keep you going.

Try visualizing what your fitness life could be if you worked harder towards your health and fitness goals. What would you do with a healthier, leaner body? What other changes and opportunities will that bring to your world?  Taking the time and care to manage your workout strategy will be worth the effort, and will help you to spend your workout time wisely.

 – Lauren Dell’Olio, Koko Fitness Life Correspondent


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About Michael Wood, Chief Fitness Officer
Michael Wood, CSCS, is Chief Fitness Officer at Koko FitClub, driving the development of integrated strength and cardio training and nutrition programs for Koko members nationwide. A nationally acclaimed fitness expert, Michael has conducted research as a Senior Exercise Physiologist at the Nutrition, Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Laboratory at the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, and has lectured at Boston University and the University of Connecticut. He has been named Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston” Personal Trainer, and made the Men’s Journal “Dream Team” list of the nine best trainers in the U.S. Michael and his family live in North Attleboro, MA.

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