17 Smart Ways to Be More Productive at the Gym

Want to get more out of your workout? Here are 17 tips to hack time spent at the gym and be more productive.
17 Smart Ways to Be More Productive at the Gym

Hectic lives full of long workdaysdinner parties, and trying to do laundry means fitting in fitness may be hard enough. So if we’re headed to the gym, we might as well make the most of it. Whether it’s training the whole body at once or working out with a friend, here are 17 ways to be more productive at the gym (just in time for the New Year!).

We Can Work It Out—Your Action Plan

1. Dodge distractions. Smart phones can be a big time suck. Avoid texts, calls, and Twitter updates by putting your phone on airplane mode. (I’m doing a pushup. … Can I call you back?)

2. Avoid rush hour. Try going to the gym during off-peak hours to steer clear of crowds and avoid waiting for equipment. Extra points for going midday to stay productive all day long!

3. Know where to go. If you’re unfamiliar with the gym, scope out the scene before the workout. Figure out where all the equipment is so you’re not running in circles looking for the kettlebells.

4. Download an app. Not sure exactly what to do at the gym? Don’t waste time wondering and use a fitness app to have a plan in your palm! Try a strength training or running app to get started.

5. Turn on the tunes. Studies show listening to music while working out can help people workout harder, better, faster, and stronger Effects of music during exercise in different training status. Baldari, C., Macone, D., Bonavolonta, V., et al. Department of Health Sciences, University of Rome Foro Italico, Rome, Italy. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2010 Sep;50(3):281-7. Music and light during indoor cycling. Shaulov, N., Lufi, D. Department of Behavioral Sciences, Emek Yezreel College. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2009 Apr;108(2):597-607. The characteristics and effects of motivational music in exercise settings: the possible influence of gender, age, frequency of attendance, and time of attendance. Priest, D.L., Karageorghis, Cl., Sharp, N.C. Department of Sport Sciences, Brunel University, West London, UK. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2004 Mar;44(1):77-86..

6. Set a goal. Figure out what you want to do at the gym before arriving. (Arms? Abs? Cardio?) Write down the number of sets or even a specific workout to avoid cutting corners.

7. Stay hydrated. Water doesn’t only hydrate—it can fight fatigue, too Fluids and hydration in prolonged endurance performance. Von Duvillard, S.P., Braun, W.A., Markofski, M., et al. Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Health, Kinesiology and Sports Studies, Texas A and M University--Commerce, Commerce, Texas. Nutrition, 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):651-6. Fill up the water bottle or frequent the fountains to stay energized all workout long.

8. Fuel up. Make sure you’re not running on empty on the gym room floor. Try a pre-workout snack like an apple and peanut butter or a protein smoothie to have enough fuel for a killer workout.

9. Time your rest. Stay aware of the clock ticking between intervals or sets. That one-minute “rest” could turn into three or four minutes if you’re not conscious of how much time is slipping away.

10. Do supersets. Want to really save time and challenge the body? Do two exercises in a row that focus on the same muscle group (read: superset). Decreasing rest will engage muscles and burn more calories.

11. Up the resistance. To avoid the weight room plateau, begin to increase your weight safely. Upping intensity will help build muscle so we can start getting stronger in no time Exercise intensity matters for both young and old muscles. Moore, D.R., Burd, N.A. Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada. Journal of Physiology, 2009 February 1; 587(Pt 3): 511–512..

12. Take a class. Sign up for a yoga, spinning, or Japanese samurai sword fighting class. That way there’s a definite start and end time, help from an instructor, and accountability. (Thanks, classmates!) It'll be pretty hard to slack off.

13. Tabata. Short on time? High intensity interval training like Tabata can burn fat in no time. (Well, four minutes...)

14. Choose compound lifts. Kill multiple birds with one stone and work the full body all at once. Compound lifts like deadlifts and squats will give muscles way more bang for their buck.

15. Run intervals. Instead of spending an hour on the treadmill, try running intervals instead. Short bursts of intense running boosts metabolism, builds lean muscle, and burns more fat in less time Muscle metabolism and performance improvement after two training programmes of sprint running differing in rest interval duration. Saraslanidis, P., Petridou, A., Bogdanis, G.C., et al. Department of Physical Education and Sport Science, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece. Journal of Sports Sciences, 2011 Aug;29(11):1167-74. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Talanian, J.L., Galloway, S.D., Heigenhauser, G.J., et al. Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2007 Apr;102(4):1439-47. Epub 2006 Dec 14..

16. Pick a partner. BYOF to the gym. Having a friend with you may increase accountability. (Don’t skip that last set of pushups!) Try these exercises and work out side by side.

17. Try a personal trainer. To prevent any sort of slacking (we’ve all been there) sign up for a session with a trainer. Science suggests  a personal trainer can motivate people to up the intensity at the gym.

This post was presented in partnership with Warrior Dash, the World's Largest Running Series, a 5k obstacle course race held on the world's toughest terrain. Train, run, climb, crawl and celebrate with free beer and live music and entertainment! Sign up for a Warrior Dash near you today.

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