The Better Guidelines to Enjoying Exercising
“Alan, how do you have fun working out?”
“Alan, what do you do to make fitness enjoyable?”
“Alan, why do you think exercising is cool?”
Relax, relax. I have heard your prayers, and I am here to answer.
But seriously, I’ve gotten plenty of gym related questions over my years training and the most synonymous curiosity deals with how to make working out more likable. Fitness is hard, through and through. But, it’s also vital for anyone’s health and well-being, no one can argue that point. How you look at working out varies person to person, with the most serious advocates vouching that you can’t go a day without it, and on the other side are the ones who are helping creating shows like My 600-lb Life. Sorry not sorry, that’s just the authentic truth of the fitness spectrum. Most of us though can happily fall somewhere in the middle between Mr. Olympia and Mrs. Cholesterol. This is my UNORTHODOX advice to all who want to improve their workouts, with words of wisdom from yours truly to aid you in your journey to becoming the best version of You.
You don’t know what to do at the gym. You’ve done the same exercises with no progress change. You’re not sure how many reps and sets to do. You are lost. It’s okay though, because I am the angel on your shoulder with the solution to your perils: volume. Volume, volume, volume. Whether you do powerlifting, bodybuilding, pyramid, HIIT, low-intensity cardio, whatever term you want to define your workout style, volume is the perfect middle ground for all.
Volume-focused workouts show consistent results, albeit it might not cater to your specific goals. However, volume exercising is, in my opinion, the most gratifying, purposeful, and malleable form of working out. My definition for it is repeating a given exercise at a comfortable duration and weight. Duration encompasses three details: how long you do one specific exercise for (in minutes), how long one set takes (in seconds), how many repetitions and sets you do in total, and how long you rest in between sets. Weight is more self-explanatory: what the weight of the gym equipment you use is. Duh, right? I don’t need you to start manually counting your seconds to yourself, that’s not necessary. Rather, it’s useful to take mental note of your exercises’ time spans. Volume exercising allows you to tear whatever muscle groups you are targeting, but at a more convenient weight, higher focus, and greater quantity of reps/sets. As an example, if you’re doing lat pulldowns on one of the heaviest available settings for 3 sets of 6 repetitions, level yourself to say 8 sets of 14+. Volume exercising targets your muscles by means of burning fat and toning your muscle with a sufficient momentum, rather than taking longer breaks for higher muscle shredding. This isn’t to discredit other workout styles by any means. If you already have an adequate style, keep to it. I recommend volume exercising as an optimal common ground style that will get you the results you seek, so long as your consistency is intact.
Queue the Next Song
I don’t know how people work out without headphones. Future serial killers in the making, right in front of our eyes. But hey, if that’s you and you enjoy it, feel free skip past this section (and don’t murder me). However, I think any and all of us can agree that music aids in our workouts. There are now plenty of studies to back this claim up, with general consensus being that motivational / synchronized music has shown magnifying physical and psychological effects.
Besides the obvious though, how can you reap the most benefits from music? By taking the time to thoroughly organize and restructure your music to your ideal listening methods. Many people claim to have a “gym playlist,” but really, it’s just a collection of songs that they shuffle through endlessly until 30 clicks later, a decent song plays to distract them just enough for the next set. Rebrand your gym music. Go through your library and take a few dedicated hours out of a lazy day to redo your playlists. There are various ways of even going about playlist categorizations: by mood, by form of exercise (squat / leg day, cardio day, arms day), by genre, by BPM or soundscape, by similar artists, etc. I too long had my gym playlist as an arbitrary assemblage of sounds. Then, I began dividing them up more by three main music groups that I enjoy — hip-hop, EDM, and rock / metal. You won’t believe the clarity that music restructuring brings you, from decluttering songs you don’t care for anymore to discovering old and new material. The trick is to keep adding. Discover music that you relish the most during your workouts and you’ll find yourself absorbed, zoned in, and locked down to your vigorous work outs.
O, Gym Buddy, Wherefore Art Thou?
This is a double-edged sword recommendation. On one hand, you’ll have a good friend who will workout the same exercises as you, pushing you to your daily limits while you push them back, and both of you leave satisfied with your growth. On the other hand, they will flake on you and you will hate them forever.
Okay, so it’s not really as cut-and-dry as that sounds, but yes, going to the gym with a workout partner can be greatly beneficial. If done right, you two (or three, no more than three, please, the bench is begging you), will keep each other in consistent check from showing up to the gym, to doing more comprehensive workouts, to both looking better for your next Instagram gym selfie. Gym partners can truly be the make-it-or-break-it point between skipping out some days due to laziness, or becoming intrinsically motivated enough to work out as much as you want. They are there to help you, and you are there to help them. It’s like a marriage without the ring or the arguing. If you are looking for one, it’s important to acknowledge one single thing: be the gym buddy you want yours to be. If you can’t do the same days / times as them, don’t lie. If you want to completely different workout regimens than what they want to do, don’t tie them down to your goals. Gym partners need to have open communication and similar fitness objectives to work. Otherwise, you two will fall out and face a heartbreak more painful than divorce.
Come Join My Gang
As a former group fitness class hater, I can admit I was wrong. Shit is tough. If you have a good instructor, you will be pushed and uplifted to your limits for an hour or so. But as a former class teacher myself, I can say it is rewarding as hell. Seeing your dedicated members grow and progress over time is ineffable, truly. From the member perspective, you are also benefitting from meeting new people and workout pals. Even if you’re not looking to befriend someone from a class, it’s an appreciable facet that you and the same group of people are working hard, together. Whether you’re pedaling miles on a bike, doing Army-esque bootcamp sessions, or simply meditating your way through yoga, the communal appeal resonates to all who want to improve. Try something out! If it’s not for you, you’ll find out usually pretty quick. But if you come across just one group activity that you indulge in, those sessions immediately become a natural booster to your fitness holy grail.
Lend Me Your Energy!
We all have days where we’re tired, drained, or lackadaisical. It’s okay, it’s normal. Yet you still want to go to the gym, even if your mind is telling you “nah, not today.” What do you then? Do you stay in, rest, be lazy, and think ‘what if?’
Absolutely fucking not.
Those thoughts are what fuel the marketing teams of every brand energy drink and the preworkout industry. Because those businesspeople know that we all have those days, and therefore, they have will always have room for growing their consumer base.
I’m not an expert on stimulants. I doubt even experts these days know what exactly is in some of the cans or containers because some of the ingredients just sound dangerous (what the hell is yohimbe or sodium bicarbonate?). Regardless, if you need a boost, you need a boost.
You can play around with energy drinks or coffee, or go deep in the realms of finding the right preworkout for You. And trust me, you will never do it. It’s never going to happen. You’ll just keep trying new powders, convince yourself it’s better or worse than the last one, and then try again. It’s a never-ending purchasing game. That’s why I (again, not an expert) recommend accessible energy drinks or merely coffee to get you going before your workout. Take it AT LEAST 20 minutes before your first exercise though. Please don’t ignore that. I don’t care whether you sip, chug, shotgun, or down a scoop of dry preworkout like a barbarian, be safe about it. The worst is thinking your body can handle it, only to find yourself either puking, scratching your face off, or a mixture of both in the gym bathroom stall. Do your research online, trial-and-error carefully what’s best for you and your body, and go kill that treadmill with sweat.