In general, I don't go to conventional gyms all that often. But right now I am in Estonia where there is so much snow outside that doing burpees and double unders outdoors isn't really an option. So, for past couple of days I've worked out at a gym.
First, I want it to be clear that I have nothing against gyms. I actually really like some gyms that have a lot of fun, a bit unusual equipment, like battle ropes, tires, sleds and of course, a ton of kettlebells.
But you can't find those in every gym. I get bored in regular gyms… For some reason, going there quickly starts to feel like a chore.
I get tired of waiting for the equipment free up so I can use it.
I will also start to miss fresh air.
Also, in general, after working out at a gym, I just don't feel as energized as I do after a good outdoor workout, especially HIIT workout.
But sometimes going to the gym is fun. And sometimes even just a regular gym is the best option, for example, if there is so much snow or it's so cold outside that gym saves your day, which is exactly my case now.
But there are ways to make also gym workouts interesting and versatile. Similarly to my usual outdoors or at home workouts, I make sure to keep also my gym workouts pretty short and pretty intense. I'm usually in and out of the gym in 30 minutes.
Weight Training at a Gym
My workouts at a gym consist of mostly full body compound movements, just like they do in pretty much always, outdoors or at home.
Here are some things that I do:
- Overhead Squats
- Split Squats
- Forward lunges with weight overhead
- Shoulder Presses (strict or with dip)
- Pull Ups
- Sometimes Deadlifts
- Compound movements with dumbbells or kettlebells, like Swings or Snatches – similar to what I do at home
- Metabolic Chain workouts.
So, for the most part, my workouts are similar outdoors and at the gym in that the exercises are the same. When I go to a gym, I usually pick two to three exercises from this list and combine them with some higher intensity / cardio exercises.
If the gym has them, I use kettlebells. Most gyms have decent dumbbells, so I use those. I may use a barbell for shoulder presses, squats and deadlifts.
Cardio Training at a Gym
One thing that I almost never do at a gym is running on a treadmill at a slow steady pace. For me, that's one of the most boring ways of working out.
Interval training is a different thing though! You can spend 20 minutes on a treadmill actually working super hard and make the time pass by very quickly.
Here's how I use cardio equipment at a gym:
- Treadmill. I love a good interval run. It could be something like this: 30 seconds sprint, 45 seconds recovery run. I don't go all out right at the first round of sprinting but keep increasing the speed a little bit every round. Repeat for total of 15 minutes.
- Rower. Rowing is fun! Similarly to treadmill, I prefer to use the rower for interval training and not long steady state workout. I may use it for a warm up though.
- Bike. I rarely use the stationary bike, but I may do it if I see a good magazine article that I want to read while doing my 5-10 minutes cool down… But that's about it.
Yesterday's Gym Workout
Yesterday's gym workout was pretty simple. I combined some strength training with high intensity cardio work. Here's what I did:
- Walked to the gym – 35 minutes of trudging in the snow is a pretty good warmup.
- 5 minutes rowing for additional warm up at the gym.
- 4 rounds of the following: 6 Barbell Squats and 5 Burpees
- 4 rounds of the following: 10 Forward Lunges holding a barbell plate overhead and 30 seconds of fast Boxing
- 4 rounds of 10 Clean and Press with Barbell Plate.
I alternated slow lifting exercises (like squats and weighted forward lunges) with high intensity cardio exercises (burpees and boxing). I tried to keep the rest periods pretty short to keep the intensity relatively high throughout the workout. But I am still not feeling quite “myself” (because of the time difference and jetlag) so I took my time to catch my breath whenever I needed it.
After the strength part, my husband and I did a “fast and furious finisher” on the rowing machine:
- 3 times 300 meters row as fast as possible
- Take turns, so you can rest only while the other person is rowing.
Here's how to do it: Row as fast as you possibly can and aim to beat your previous round's time every round. It gets harder and harder each round.
My times yesterday were 1:11, 1:07 and 1:07. It's been a long long time since I last rowed, so my butt was definitely on fire!
If you are at the gym for just a super short high intensity workout, definitely make use of the rower. You can do the same workout, but increase the number of rounds. Ten rounds would definitely make a great, super sweaty workout that takes you about 30 minutes (about 15 minutes active work and 15 minutes rest while your partner is rowing).
I keep my workouts pretty minimalist also when I do to a gym. The movements that I do are similar, no matter if I workout indoors or out. But if I go to a gym, I use equipment that I usually can't use, like a rowing machine or a barbell.
Getting to and back from a gym makes working out a little more time consuming than at home or outdoor workouts. So I try to keep my gym workouts pretty short too. It's totally doable – I'm usually in and out in about 30 minutes or even less.
Your turn: Do you go to a gym? What are some of your “staple” exercises?
Me: I go sometimes when I travel or if the weather is really bad. My “staples” are some sort of squat variations (regular squats, lunges, split squats) that I do probably every time when I go to a gym.