I didn’t get around to my Healthier You post last weekend, but as a Bears fan I was in mourning.

I wanted to branch out from the typical food and diet related articles, so for the next few weeks I will focus on the gym. These are not necessarily absolutes, nor is it an exhaustive list, but these are some of the rules I adhere to in the gym in no particular order.

  1. The Reps Don’t Go Down Unless the Weight Goes Up – This is a mental rule I use to keep driving through a set. If you don’t increase your weight on a successive set, the number of repetitions you do can’t go down.
  2. Never Sit – You’ll have plenty of time to sit around on your couch at home. Unless you are performing an exercise that requires you sit, or you are stretching, never sit and relax.
  3. Never “Max Out” – I’m constantly asked by family, friends, people at the store, etc. “how much do you lift?” This is a hard question since I have not lifted for a one-rep max (max out) in almost 7 years. The reason being, the stress it places on the joints. If you are a strength athlete or powerlifter, this rule doesn’t apply to you, if you are, on the other hand, a general exerciser or just getting started, don’t fall into this trap.
  4. No Brain, No Gain – A majority of newcomers to the gym are quick to give up. In fact, many healthclubs like Bally’s and 24 Hour Fitness base their business on people who sign up and then never come in after the first few weeks (if they did the club would be over capacity). One major reason for this is the awkward felling people get when they first start lifting weights, just like shooting a basketball for the first time or throwing a ball after several years. You need to give both your muscles and your brain time to adjust to the new activity. The reason for this has to do with the efficiency of our bodies, it tends to eliminate both muscle fibers and neurons that are not used or needed. You need to give yourself at least 3 months to allow your body and mind to adjust.
  5. Feel the Good Pain – Good pain is almost a contradiction of terms. Who would possibly enjoy pain? You are going to be sore after your first few workouts. You will be sore after changing your workout program after you’ve worked out for a while. What you don’t want to do is mistake muscle strain and joint damage for general soreness. If you have sharp shooting pains you’ve probably gone too far.
  6. No Cell Phones – Just like driving, a cell phone is an added distraction to your workout. During an afternoon workout, I witnessed a man walk into the gym talking on his cell. He started his first set and got another call; 5 minutes later he got through two sets and got another 10 minute call. How effective do you think his workout was? Don’t let cardio be an excuse to talk also. I’ve witnessed people on cardio equipment, that just like in a car; their speed is all over the place. You have to focus.
  7. Don’t Go to the Gym Pretty, Go to the Gym to Look Pretty After You’ve Been – I always found it fascinating when I was at Purdue during the beginning of each school year, the gym was always full of scantily clad freshmen girls, full make-up and perfume, come on girls. I still see the model wannabes in their $100 matching spandex suits. If your job is to pick someone up, by all means continue what you are doing, but if you want to work out, forget the makeover and lift some weight. Let’s face it, you’re going to sweat, you’re going to be disgusting by the end of the workout (if you are doing it right), so why dress up?
  8. Nix the Chatter – There are two people who violate this rule, those who come to the gym to have a conversation and those that scream. It’s time to channel that energy into some weight lifting.
  9. Balance – Once again there are two kinds of people: those who get energized by their workouts and those who are completely drained (see Rule 10). You should balance your workout with your lifestyle, if you are the energetic type, you probably don’t want to schedule your workout in the late evening. Conversely if you are seriously fatigued following your workout you shouldn’t train before work (unless work performance is not a concern then you probably want to read some of my other posts).
  10. Leave it on the floor – If you are one of those who are drained by your workouts, or are not faced with having to go to work, leave it all at the gym. Don’t walk out having only done half a workout, crawl out.


Next Week: How to Pick the Right Gym for You.