Making the most of time at the gym

Constancy, the right choice of exercise and personalisation are all key factors

Old habits die hard and even when we've given up the academic life for good, September feels like a time for new beginnings.

After the excesses of summer we're determined to start new diets and exercise routines and we head off to the local gym en masse to sign up for the latest trend in work outs.

Sadly, just like those failed New Year's resolutions, this burst of enthusiasm is unlikely to last, and lack of motivation, simple laziness or slow results combine to make us abandon our good intentions.

Knowing this, we've put together some tips that may help stick to your guns and get the most out of your time at the gym.

  • Keep at it. Be prepared that you won't see results immediately and just keep going. Remember that constancy is key.
  • No excuses. Be disciplined and organise your time, reserving at least three hours a week for gym sessions.Try writing your gym trips in your diary and treating them with the same respect as you would a work meeting or a date with a friend.
  • Better together. Almost any activity is more fun if done as part of a group, as it brings in an element of competition and mutual support as well as enhancing motivation. Going for a work out instead of for a coffee or a drink at the pub is a way to encourage one another to stick to your goals. Do remember, though, that you each have different needs and aims, so don't let the competitive element get out of proportion.
  • Take expert advice. After choosing the gym, why not put yourself in the hands of a personal trainer? Once you've clarified your personal goals – weight loss, muscle gain, general fitness – your trainer will advise you about the most appropriate work out activities and will adjust the exercises as you progress.
  • Be obedient. If you've agreed a series of exercises with your personal trainer, try to stick to them, without overdoing things or skimping. If there's something that isn't working for you, don't just drop it, check with the trainer and see how you can adjust the work out to compensate.
  • A mix of activities. Don't focus on group activities such as aerobics, water aerobics, salsa, etc., just because they're more fun. Combine them with individual exercises to strengthen and tone muscles.
  • Don't forget. Keep a bottle of water and a towel handy while you're working out.
  • Take your time. Don't obsess about your weight. If you lose weight gradually, you'll be more likely to keep it off, so focus on general fitness and health and let your weight adjust over time.
  • Above all. Try and think of your work out as something positive rather than an obligation. Quite simply, being active is healthy, and you can look forward to feeling better mentally as well as physically.
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