Fitness Coaching for Me’s Guide to Gym Etiquette

newbie-759x500The Gym is a place that encourages each individual to be at their element: to work hard, push more, and strive for perfection. But everyone should remember that the Gym is a shared space where everyone has the same privileges and accountability as anyone else.

 

Sometimes, people go beast mode on their workout, and remain like beasts after they train, leaving a trail of their remains behind – used dumbbells on the floor, scattered plates, and the dreaded butt-sweat stamp. I am sure that whatever gym you go to, there will always be at least one beast like this! It is annoying, and plain wrong to be such.  To minimize the spread of these creatures, Fitness Coaching for Me has come up with 5 Simple Ways to Practice Gym Etiquette. There are no rule books on how to behave yourself in a gym while also doing your best. We don’t need one. Politeness and acceptable behavior should be practiced even when you’re going all out on your reps. There are other ways to practice gym etiquette, but we think these 5 should be basic:

  1. Respect the no-lift zone

Don’t EVER lift a weight within 5 feet of the dumbbell rack. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing Side Raises, Bicep Curls, or Goblet Squats — Pick up your weights and take 5 giant steps back. Allow other people to walk in front of you and pick up the weight they need. Now you might say, “I need to check my form in the mirror!Well, you don’t need a close-up look on how your veins pop each rep, right? Take those 5 steps away from the rack and from the mirror, and you’ll still see your form well. You’re just doing one set of 8 reps? It doesn’t matter. Don’t be rude. Step back and finish your quick set so that other people have access to the dumbbells.

Special note: Never do a Dumbbell Bent-Over Row on the dumbbell rack. If you do this, you’re taking the “bell” out of the dumbbell to describe yourself. Find a bench and do your rows! If you say the weight is too heavy to move somewhere else, then heavy lifting is not for you.

 Compare the two photos below. Get the point?

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  1. Avoid the “Ab zone”

Most gyms have a designated area for mats, balls, stability balls, medicine balls, etc. These specialty equipment have their special place because it can pose risks when used together with solid, metal objects. Don’t bring heavy weights into that area. It’s designated for stretching and ab work. By taking up the designated space you force other people to take up your space (see point #3).

 

  1. Keep your mats out of the way.

Don’t set up a mat in between two benches in the free weight zone and do crunches unless you want a weight dropped on your head! It’s inconsiderate, and just plain dangerous not just for you but for other people as well. If you’re doing a circuit or something, find another area that has less traffic. The size of the Gym doesn’t matter – there will be one.

Even if the gym is empty, set up your mat out of the way. Either stick to the “ab zone” or place your mat in a corner out of the way. Think pro-actively. Where might somebody want to work out over the course of your set? Don’t set up there.

 And no, you don’t have to do this:

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Or this:

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  1. Avoid walking in front of somebody else in the middle of a set.

If somebody is in the middle of their set NEVER cross their field of vision when they are in front of the mirror. It doesn’t matter if they look like they’re just adoring their biceps. Be nice and take the long way around if you have to. Respect other people, and you’ll get respected too when it’s your turn to lift. If you can’t take the long way around, wait for them to finish their set before walking in front.

 

  1. Put your weights away properly.

I know you might think this should be number one because it is the most common, but these 5 are not in sequence of importance. It is frustrating how other people don’t put their weights back after they finish using them. It is also frustrating how they might put the dumbbells back on the rack, but not in their proper place! Don’t assume that someone will ‘clean-up’ after the weights you leave on the floor.  Most importantly, don’t expect other gym members to just pick up the weight their need from your area. The gym is maintained for everyone’s satisfaction and so that you will have an efficient workout. Imagine if you can’t find the weights you need! Each equipment whether it’s a barbell, dumbbell, weight plate, medicine ball, or mat, have their own designated place so that they could be easily accessed when you need them. Be mindful of how the gym is arranged and maintained, and do your best to keep it.

 

If you have been going to the gym for a while now, I’m sure there’s at least one occasion where you have seen one of these 5 have been broken – or worse, maybe all of them at once! Or you may be one of those people who tend to be too focused on their workout that they forget to share the space and resources of the gym. Don’t be offended. Be better than before, and simply follow this guide on your following workouts.

Remember that you are training to be fit for life! Be courteous to others and put your weights back to their rightful place.

Train Hard, but most importantly, Train Smart.
* Do you have other ‘rules’ that you think should be added in the list? Let us know in the comments!

Your Weight Doesn’t (Always) Matter.

weight-scale-funny-picturesAs a trainer in a gym, I always see people checking their weight every time they come in – before, during, and after their workouts. There’s nothing wrong with keeping track of your weight and trying to lose some, but there are a few who get obsessed and frustrated when the numbers don’t move!

Maybe you yourself have been in one of those situations where you thought you always crush your strength training, do an hour or more cardio, kill your HIIT, be consistent in your workouts, yet all your efforts doesn’t seem to affect your weight. This might make you feel unrewarded in the short term, and sometimes lose motivation.

Remember this:

“Your Weight is not a direct result of your Workouts.”

Tweet:

Instead of sulking in a corner and feeling disappointed, always keep in mind that there are other accurate factors to measure your progress. It’s not all about your weight! Here are some reasons why:

1) Your Weight Fluctuate EVERY DAY.
It doesn’t matter how long you stay on the Treadmill, or how much squats you did – your weight will vary, and will keep varying everyday. Simple things that happen every day like eating, drinking, sweating, etc. causes your body to gain or lose some. For women, you will see fluctuations of a few pounds throughout a month. If you still want to measure your Weight, write each measurement with the date on a journal and compare it on a monthly basis.

2) Your Weight Means TOTAL Body Weight.
Remember this when you step on the scale: You are not composed of just muscle, bones, and fat.
What the weighing scale shows is a combination of these three, plus every single cell of your body. It includes your internal organs, skin, hair, etc., and even the food you just ate. Think of this: the weighing scale shows how much weight you gained after eating (or drinking), but it does not mean they’re all get stuck in your body and become fat. Most of the food digested will be converted to energy, some to maintain and rebuild tissues such as muscles, and some will be excreted (or go down the ‘can’).

3) Muscle Weighs More than Fat.
You probably heard this before. But I’ll tell you that this is a common misconception! I just wrote it because it’s what some Personal Trainers (unfortunately) always say to potential clients to somehow make them feel good about their weight: ‘Muscle weighs more than Fat.’

It is wrong in the sense that one pound of muscle is the same as one pound of fat. The difference is, fat is composed of bigger, ‘fluffier‘ cells, and one pound of Fat takes more space. Also the kind of fat that you want to get rid of is the ‘subcutaneous fat’ – the Fat that is just hanging onto your skin. Take a look at the picture below:

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See what I mean? The same amount of fat in terms of weight takes up more space than Muscle. Of course, those 5 lbs. of fat is distributed all throughout the body, but it’s still taking up space and adding jiggles. Muscle is more dense and they actually give the contours of your body. If you want to look slimmer, jacked, and toned you got to go for muscles!

Tweet: If you want to look slimmer, jacked, and toned you got to go for muscles!

4) Food is Fuel.
Your body is more awesome and complex than any machine ever invented. It always goes for ‘homeostasis‘ or balance in its system for it to function properly. And like any machine, it needs fuel. Whatever food you give to your body, whether good or bad, it uses for fuel.
If you have a nice sports car in your garage, you don’t just feed it crappy, low quality fuel. You want the best hi-tech, hi-grade fuel that you can find. Same applies to your body. If you feed it crappy food, it will take longer for your body to use it and it sits in your body for a while, affecting your weight! If you treat your body and give it the right food, your body will be more efficient in digesting them and give you the energy you need for your workouts!

5) Weight is Not a Reflection of Health.
You read it right. Your body weight doesn’t say if you’re healthy or not. You are probably thinking right now ‘What about the BMI?’ or the Body Mass Index. The problem with the BMI is that it was designed to assess the health of a large population, and should not be used in a per-person basis. Even the guy who invented it in the 19th century, the Belgian statistician Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, said it shouldn’t be used to determine an individual’s overall health (yes, he was a mathematician, not a doctor). So you can stop aiming for an ideal weight for your height. It just doesn’t work that way.

Look at the guy below. He probably weighs a good 300 lbs.
I bet you won’t dare tell him he’s ‘Obese’ according to his BMI.

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Get the point? Now, some of you may think ‘I don’t want to look like that!’ — remember, he’s about 300 lbs of muscle. An average person would weigh around 120 to 180 lbs. Maintain that weight and go for muscle, and you’ll simply look toned and jacked.

Application

You can keep track of your weight but don’t obsess about it. The weighing scale doesn’t tell who you are and what you’re about! Don’t let numbers affect you!

Tweet: The weighing scale doesn’t tell who you are and what you’re about! Don’t let numbers affect you!

Use the numbers you see from the weighing scale to track your long-term progress. Remember that there are other things that give you a more accurate measurement of your gains like your strength, stamina, body circumference measurements, how your clothes fit, and even how you feel. Keep working hard. Make every workout count. Be consistent in your diet. Eventually you’ll get rewarded and get the nice toned, jacked look that you’ve worked hard for.

Fitness Coaching for Me can help you reach your goals. We’re here to provide you not just cookie-cutter programs, but custom made training plans that fit your needs and goals. We can help you figure out how to work on your nutrition so that you can reach your goals faster. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply look good — we have the right tools for you!

Contact us here and we’ll be happy to help!

On Exercise Intensity: How hard (or easy) should I workout?

141_1Exercise Intensity – or how hard or easy your body is working – is often misunderstood or neglected, but it is an essential aspect of exercise because this determines whether you are burning enough calories and challenging your body to reach your goal, or you are just wasting your time in the gym! You want to get the most out of your workouts, but you also wouldn’t want to burn yourself out and get injured by working too hard.  Knowing the right intensity for your workouts will help you train effectively and maximize your time in the gym.

So how do you know if you’re working hard enough or too much? I’ll teach you three ways to measure exercise intensity:

 

The Target Heart Rate

First is through knowing your Target Heart Rate (THR). To reach your goals, you should exercise at a specific intensity based on your THR without going overboard and push your body too much! Now because you have a ‘target’ there is also a base heart rate known as the Resting Heart Rate (RHR). This how fast your pulse is while at rest and you’re not doing anything. According to the National Institute of Health, the average RHR for 10 years old and up is 60 to 100 bpm. Elite athletes could have an RHR as low as 40 bpm!

Follow these steps to know your heart rate during exercise:

  • Sit down and put your left hand on your lap, palm facing up.
  • Use the tips of your index and middle finger of your right hand to get your pulse by placing them together on top of your left wrist on the thumb side.
  • With a timer, count your pulse for 20 seconds and multiply it by 3 to find the bpm.
  • Compare your result to the table below:
Age Target Heart Rate Zone (50-85%) Average Maximum HR
20 100-170 bpm 200 bpm
30 95-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 93-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 90-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 88-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 85-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 83-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 80-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 78-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 75-128 bpm 150 bpm

This table only shows an estimated THR for different age ranges. Your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is 220 minus your age as a standard. The Maximum Heart Rate, as the name implies, is the maximum amount of beats that your heart can make in a minute. When you’re doing strength training at a moderately intense level, your heart rate should be about 50-69% of your MHR. When you’re working at a heavy intensity, your THR should be 70-89% of your MHR. During rest periods, your heart rate will definitely start going lower the moment you stop lifting weights – and this is what rest periods are exactly for: for your muscles and your heart to recover.

If you’re just starting to exercise, aim for the lower range of your THR zone (around 50%) during the first couple weeks of working out. Gradually build up to the higher range (up to 85%) and as you progress you will be able to exercise comfortably at that THR zone.

If you have been exercising for a while now, it’s time to evaluate your exercise intensity. Are you working hard enough? Or you may have been working out too hard every time and this will lead to fatigue. You can also “reset” your program and start at a lower range. You can build up faster to your Target Heart Rate, but now you will be more aware of your heart rate and the exercise intensity.

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The Borg Scale

Now, you probably think ‘I can’t always check my heart rate every time I do a set!’ and you’re right! It is objective but not always practical (unless you get a heart rate monitor), and this is why a guy named Dr. Gunnar Borg devised a simpler and more accessible way to measure exercise intensity. This is called the “Borg Scale” (obviously named after him) also called as the Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE. It is a subjective scale that measures how you “feel” while exercising with numbers from 6 to 20.

The scale starts at 6 which is equivalent to “no exertion” and ends at 20 which equates to “very, very hard.” Physical activities at moderate intensity register 11 to 14 on the Borg scale (“fairly light” to “somewhat hard”), while vigorous intensity rates from 15 to 20 (“hard” to “very, very hard”). Dr. Borg set the scale from 6 to 20 to make it a simple way to estimate heart rate. See the table below:

Exertion Level Borg Rating Examples of Physical Activities
None 6 Reading a book, watching television
Very, very light 7 to 8 Writing, Tying shoes
Very light 9 to 10 Chores like folding clothes, washing dishes, that seem to take little effort
 

Fairly light

 

11 to 12

Walking through the grocery store or other activities that require some effort but not enough to speed up your breathing
 

Somewhat hard

 

13 to 14

Brisk walking or other activities that require moderate effort and speed your heart rate and breathing but don’t make you out of breath
 

Hard

 

15 to 16

Bicycling, swimming, or other activities that take vigorous effort and get the heart pounding and make breathing very fast
Very hard 17 to 18 The highest level of activity you can sustain
Very, very hard 19 to 20 A finishing kick in a race or other burst of activity that you can’t maintain for long

You don’t have to remember the specifics of the scale. You just have to know that when you work out, a warm-up or light exercise should be around 11 to 12 out of 20, and a near-maximal effort should be at 17 to 18 out of 20. Check yourself every now and then and estimate the intensity you’re at.

 

The Talk Test

The “Talk Test” is the simplest and easiest way to measure your exercise intensity.  This technique is based on your ability to talk (or not talk) while working out. When your effort is at light to moderate intensity, you can talk, but not sing during exercise. If your effort is at hard or heavy intensity you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.

Compare walking, jogging, and sprinting:

When walking, you can easily hold a conversation with someone and even sing a tune. Your effort is very light and the does not affect your breathing.

When you’re out jogging, you can say a few words if someone suddenly asked you for direction or you want to say ‘hi’ to a neighbor. Your effort is at moderate intensity because the activity raises your heart rate and is a little bit demanding on your breathing.

While sprinting or running fast, all you can do is to hear your legs scream and breathe deep and fast! This is high intensity when the effort requires your heart and lungs to work harder that you are not able to do other tasks.

 

Application

To increase your cardiovascular endurance or stamina, you have to challenge your muscles, heart and lungs enough for them to adapt. When weight training, your heart rate does not go up as fast so you have to watch your rest periods in between sets. After you finish your reps, don’t talk too much to your gym bro or stare at your phone for a long time – do the next set whenever you feel ready so you still get the benefit of exercise intensity.

Be careful when you always exercise at a high intensity level. If you don’t give your heart some time to recover, you may be straining and overworking yourself.  Your body can’t sustain this heart rate for a long time and it will eventually lead to fatigue. If you have always been overworking at the gym or on your runs or whatever exercise you’re doing, you are just getting your body to over-fatigue and the effect of your workouts will be negative in total. So slow down.

When you go to the gym and you say hi and talk with every person you know, you might be exercising at a too low intensity. To be frank, you will be wasting your time in the gym if you are not reaching your Target Heart Rate and you’re not exerting enough effort. Whatever goal you have, whether to lose fat or build muscle or be fit, you won’t reach them this way! You will not gain any significant adaptations in your heart, lungs, and muscle if you are always exercising at a low intensity. Sweat it out. Push yourself a little harder. Run a little faster.  Start light but gradually increase the intensity and challenge yourself every time.

 

Being aware of how hard your body works can help you adjust the intensity of your exercise by speeding up, slowing down, changing the weights you are lifting, or simply reducing the rest intervals. When you know how your body feels, it will be easier for you to reach your desired intensity and stay on track to reach your goals!