Gymming for a Fit Life
No doubt there’s a friendly neighborhood gym close to where you live or at least in your town. While the first gyms sprang up at around the time the Olympics came to be, the first commercial gyms only opened in Europe during the 1840s. These original gyms were focussed on gymnastic exercises and battle manoeuvers more than anything else.
These gyms were reinvented during the 1960s and 70s and populated mainly by men wanting to emulate the physique of celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was only during the Dance Revolution of the 80s led by figureheads such as Jane Fonda that gyms became more accessible to both sexes and popular among those seeking slim, toned bodies instead of bulky muscles.
Gyms have come a long way since those early days of neon fashions, leg warmers and headbands but they still draw in the crowds for the same reasons. Working out at the gym remains one of the most versatile ways to work out, whether it be as part of training for another sport or as a way to work towards a fit life.
The Versatility of Gymming
What makes gymming so flexible and accessible to a wide audience is the fact that there are so many different ways to exercise at the gym. You can work out alone or in groups, with or without weights. You can exercise every muscle in your body, or just one type, using your own body weight, machines, bands, balls and steps.
These are some of the most common ways you can take advantage of the benefits of gymming.
Cardiovascular Work Outs
Getting your heart and respiration rate up is one of the best ways to burn fat and promote a healthy cardiovascular system and there are many ways to get your system pumping at the gym. These include:
- Elliptical Training
These machines are one step up from an exercise bicycle and work best when you include some static bike work and treadmill exercise in your routine too. Elliptical trainers target the glutes, hip flexors, thighs and your lower and upper body and help to increase stamina too.
Running on a treadmill is every bit as beneficial as running outdoors except the surface is a lot gentler on your joints and for those that love the outdoors, you miss out on the fresh air and scenery.
- Stair Climber
A stair climber takes the treadmill to a whole new level. Climbing an endless succession of stairs is a tough workout and will help to tone and shape your legs quicker than a treadmill or elliptical machine. The drawback with using this machine is that it can place strain on your joints. It’s best to use the stair climber sparingly in your fitness regime. Experts recommend about 15 repetitions of 30 seconds of exertion followed by 2 minutes of rest.
This classic cardio exercise is popular among boxers because it hones your coordination while improving your footwork and shoulder strength. Jumping rope is like sprinting in place.
- Cycling and Spinning
The stationary bikes are not always the most popular apparatus at the gym. This is because you need to go the whole hog if you want to get the maximum benefit out of stationary cycling. If you’re not great at motivating yourself to keep going flat out for a specified time, a spin class is a fun way to get the fast-paced workout you need to benefit from a bike.
While swimming is not always associated with gymming, many gyms do have indoor pools for the convenience of year-round training. Swimming is an excellent low-impact cardio exercise and deserves a place in everybody’s schedule.
We’re not talking gently-down-the-stream rowing here. To gain the lean muscle and defined shoulders of a competitive rower, you’ll need to get your heart rate pumping. Coaches recommend an intense workout of at least 20 minutes flat out with a few breaks in between.
Hi-Intensity Interval Training
This kind of training is extremely versatile in that it is custom designed to each participant. How it works is that you carry out a series of high energy exercises, with or without weights, until you’re exhausted. Only short breaks are allowed in between to catch your breath. The benefit of this training is that you can perform a wide variety of exercises to suit your needs as you go along, and the fitness benefits are cumulative.
The primary purpose of weight training is to build strength, yet weights can be used in conjunction with cardio exercises for greater impact. There are a few ways to utilise weights in your gym sessions:
- Free Weights
Free weights take the form of barbells, dumbbells, ankle and wrist weights. When you use free weights to perform lifting and pushing exercises you place strain on your muscles. This encourages them to adapt and become stronger, much like cardio-vascular activity strengthens your heart and lungs.
You can adjust the areas you target every day and alter the number of repetitions to suit your needs and progress. It is advisable to get the help of an experienced instructor when working with weights to avoid overstraining your muscles or performing the exercises ineffectually.
- Weight Machines
When you work out on a weight machine you can exercise more parts of your body than you can with free weights. Weight machines can be adjusted to target the legs, arms, back and shoulders. They’re good for working only one part of the body while another rests.
Weight machines use a system of pulleys, cords and handles to help you target specific areas. Some of them are designed to be adjusted for an all over workout, while some are designed only for a specific muscle group.
- Body Weight
It’s possible to use your own body weight in a variety of workouts. Push-ups spring to mind immediately but there are a host of other exercises too. These include:
- Leg raises
It’s easy to see that you don’t need any special equipment at all, although it pays to have a gym instructor on hand to ensure you reap maximum benefit from these exercises.
Like HIT, circuit training involves using a variety of cardio and weight exercises to tone your whole body. These exercises follow a course of gym ‘obstacles’ in a circuitous route for a specified number of repetitions. Circuit training is a great way to add variety and impact to your fit life routine.
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Different Types of Gyms
While we usually associate gym with an indoor facility, there are a number of outdoor gyms too. These fitness or gym parks usually have permanent apparatus such as bars and climbing frames which you can use for bodyweight exercises or in combination with your own free weights.
Some major cities have full-on gym equipment and trainers on hand at these venues, for example at Muscle Beach in California.
Setting up a Home Gym
If you simply can’t fit a visit to the gym into your daily schedule, it’s possible to get a great workout at home. Gym machines, weights and other equipment are easy to come by, albeit expensive. You don’t need to set up a full-size gym in your garage though many gym activities don’t need much equipment at all.
A gym mat is all that you need to get started. As you progress you can add resistance bands, medicine balls, a skipping rope and an exercise bench. It’s very convenient to have a place to work out at home. You save the hassle of driving to the gym and having to shower and change there and provided you have the motivation to stick to it, you are the master of your own fit life goals.