Hi and welcome back!
This article is about gyms – how to find them, and how they can be an inexpensive alternative to walking, cycling and exercising especially during the evening and in bad weather.
The word Gym comes from gymnasium which itself comes from the ancient greek word gymnos meaning naked, and when the greeks used them, they exercised naked in preparation for public games. I think most gyms would now take a particularly dim view of this, so some hunting out of long put away adidas gear may be necessary.
If you’re a little older than average like me, the thought of using a gym might be quite daunting, but it shouldn’t be. When I go there’s a mix range of ages and shapes attending. If you’re a little self conscious of the piled on pounds I wouldn’t worry, after all the fact you’re in the gym means you’re doing something about it. On top of which I’m fairly confident most people there aren’t paying very little attention to what anyone else is doing.
Finding a gym
The first stage is finding a gym, and there’ll be some damn expensive ones so watch out – if a reasonably priced one isn’t on your doorstep, a little bit of mileage in the car may mean you can go to a much less expensive but still perfectly useful alternative.
Local authority gyms are reasonably priced but they can be rudimentary, so don’t go looking for jacuzzis afterwards. Their equipment can vary in terms of how recent it is, but they do offer the advantage that they often have several sites that you can use, obviously not all at the same time, but if you commute to work, an alternative gym site can be useful if its on the way to or back from work. Their staff are extremely helpful too, and able to build a fitness programme for you if you’re unsure of how you’d like to exercise.
You can often tailor your experience to your taste so that if you want or don’t want swimming or other services, you can add or leave them out.
In the USA, you may find it useful to read this article on affordable gyms by Well & good Editors.
Whatever exercise you prefer at the gym, it is worth warming up first. Sudden frantic activity on machines is not something your body can accommodate well unless you warm up first, and if you do it often you risk injury. Simple stretching exercises will help.
This marvellous book is written by Nina Barough and includes comprehensive sections on preparation including stretching exercises.
Useful calorie control exercises
If you walk, run, cycle or row you can do that at the gym, on treadmills, rowing and cycle machines and steppers.
If your experience is normally changing scenery, a treadmill may sound awful but if you have music with you, or there’s video media on the machine you can zone out from the repetitiveness of it. You can set a specific pace or set it to varying. You can also set target time or distance or heart rate. Heart rate can be monitored and is useful if you want to remain within certain limits.
If you have trouble running, e.g. damaged knees/shin splints, and walking just doesn’t seem energetic enough (after all you can only walk so fast without looking comical) you can use more calories by steepening the angle of the treadmill walkway, as you simultaneously imagine striding up Skafell Pike. (shown below courtesy of The Enlight Project on Unsplash ).
A word of warning though – If the machine gets away from you, and it can do even with steep walking, you’ll run off the treadmill backwards. Unless you have that capability that cats have to look cool even in their most embarrassing moments, you can prevent this happening by clipping the safety string on. This stops the machine immediately if the string is tugged – it does the same as the Stop button). If this is just too uncool just be careful with the speed settings. NB: These can be different at different gyms, so you can’t always use the same number.
You may find that you’re still moving when you step off the treadmill! Or at least it feels that way. This is caused by the fact that despite all your frantic activity on the belt, in terms of position you haven’t gone anywhere. Your brain, clever thing that it is, temporarily changes the way message feedback is handled (to prevent you feeling ill).
People who get car sick will recognise this – to prevent yourself getting car sick as a passenger you have to look outside now and again to provide your brain a reason for the motion of the car that it can detect but cannot see. Otherwise it gets very confused about what is happening and gives you motion sickness to let you know.
The treadmill is similar but there’s no feedback possible, (unless you’re at a real swanky gym with moving scenery on a screen in front of you) so your brain makes its own artificial feedback to cope with movement that isn’t natural. The problem is that its not quite so quick to switch it off when you finish which is when you can feel a bit funny at the end, as you step off. Give yourself a minute – normal service will resume.
It isn’t like being on a bicycle. There’s very little noise, no moving environment, feedback from the road, bumps, pedestrians, dogs or lunatic car drivers.
You may find that putting your hands on the ‘handlebars’ helps. Of all the machines at the gym, I find cycle machines the least satisfying – probably because I’m a rider and the previously mentioned feedback isn’t there. The plus thing is that you’ll get through calories a lot faster than when on the treadmill.
I find that these return the highest calorie count for exercise and as you’re the speed regulator you’re in full control. I tend not to use the swinging handles and do most of the work with my legs which is probably wrong but I’m not working on my arms so its fine for me. Some machines are better than others and can get you stepping in unusual gaites – some you can adjust, and for those that you can’t and can’t live with, you’re probably better using a different stepper or different type of machine.
Surely that’s all arms I hear you say! It isn’t if you’re doing it properly. Your legs should be doing the majority of the work. You’re pulling the row handle with your arms sure, but only to a certain point when your legs moving into the straight phase.
Curiously row machines in gyms don’t simulate single handed rowing. What they do is more closely represent skulling on a team boat with a steering skipper like you see compete in the Oxford/Cambridge race.
Be careful to set the weight on the machine to something you’ll be comfortable with for a while. Unless you set a fast pace and a lot of weight, rowing is a relatively poor calorific exercise so it takes a while, and you don’t want to risk neck strain or back pain by overdoing the speed or weight.
Swimming is great for losing calories and involves less stress than most other exercises.
I can’t really go into it here because I’m not a big fan of swimming for exercise. If people who are reading are, and would like to share their experiences please feel free, and I’ll add them here for you.
Not all on one machine
Its worth saying you shouldn’t spend your whole session on one machine – try doing 100 or so calories on 3 or 4 machines, dependent on how many calories you want to burn, or the time that you have. I notice time flies at the gym.
Don’t go Mad
If you’re used to specific local walks or cycling circuits, there isn’t an underlined stop point. If you set each of the machines that you exercise on, to show you calories, add these up as you go and aim to stop at the calorie count you’d normally walk/run/cycle.
Don’t overdo it. Gym exercising is different to other types of exercise and its not so easy to work out when you’ve done enough. When you reach your calorie count, it may feel like you’ve not done enough – you have, stop and get on with the rest of the day. If you still feel ok to carry on, set a point to re-evaluate and check how you feel again when you reach it.
You’ll probably be more comfortable exercising in shorts and top so ditch the tracksuit before you begin. You’ll need to put it on when you leave though because you’ll cool down really fast when you finish.
Use good trainers as you would ‘on the road’. You’re not travelling anywhere but your feet are still in locomotion and need the support and protection of good footwear none the less.
Gyms provide either towels or disposable cloth for wiping away sweat. If you take your own you’ll find it easier.
Its normal to dry down gym equipment when you’ve finished, otherwise sweat of your hands is left on the apparatus which isn’t cool for the next person using it.
If there’s only a small number of machines which are in high demand, there may be an enforced time limit. If not, bear in mind that other people may be waiting to use the machine you’re using, so be fair.
Last and not least …
This is the last article of 2017. I hope that these 2017 blogs have been informative.
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Have a smashing Xmas and New Year, especially to the followers. Nice to know this blog is appreciated guys.
I’d say take it easy, but hey its Xmas! Enjoy!
See you in 2018. Best wishes. Ian.