How to hit the gym like a pro

Are you a regular gym goer but not getting the results you want? Or maybe you’ve just joined a gym and want to know where to start? Here’s LIVING’s 10-step gym guide to help you train like a pro

gym advice
This gym guide will help you work out like a pro – let’s sweat!

There’s more to getting fit than simply joining a gym and turning up regularly, and many of us feel lost wondering who to ask for workout advice and training tips. So, LIVING asked Craig Silkens, a personal trainer and sports massage therapist at M Club Spa and Fitness, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, to share his expert advice. Here’s our 10-step gym guide to ensure you get the most out of your training.

1. Find a gym you feel comfortable in

Before you choose a club, do your research and pick a venue that is right for you and how you want to work out. Some clubs are more niche, whereas many others offer a broad range of facilities from gym equipment to swimming pools and workout studios. Craig says: “If you’re not comfortable going somewhere, you’re not going to go. Most gyms these days should be able to cater for anyone and everyone.”

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2. Ask for advice

It’s important to talk to the professionals about how best to train for your fitness level and to reach your goals. If your club offers programme reviews – use them. Craig says: “Speak to the instructors and the personal trainers. A lot of people come into clubs and don’t really know what they’re doing but a personal trainer can correct you and make sure you perform spot-on.”

3. Warm up

“There are a million and one ways to warm up,” reveals Craig. “Again, it’s about getting advice from an instructor or personal trainer, who can take you through it. Some warm-ups aren’t suitable for everyone.”

4. Make it a lifestyle – not a whim

Many of us have no doubt been guilty of half-heartedly joining a gym after Christmas or because we have a beach holiday looming on the horizon. But Craig says: “Stop and think about what you want to change in your life. Don’t just join a club after Christmas and then give up. It’s important to take care of your health and your fitness.”

5. Use the right equipment for your level

Resistance machines are usually more suitable for beginners, while the next step up is plate-loading machines, followed by free weights such as dumbbells and barbells. Craig says: “When you’re using machines or free weights, always tense your stomach, because that will support your spine. Even on a resistance machine, sit up against the pad to reduce the risk of injury. And if you’re unsure about what to do, speak to a professional rather than another gym-goer.”

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6. Do what you enjoy

Craig says: “When it comes to using cardiovascular equipment, find the one you enjoy the most or the one you get the most out of because you’ll be more willing to push yourself harder. Don’t go on the treadmill if you don’t like running. And remember to read the instructions, use the equipment as it’s supposed to be used and seek advice.”

7. What if you have a cold?

When you’re afflicted with the common cold, should you train through it or stay at home? Craig says: “It’s down to the individual, but leading up to a cold I’d say to let your body recover. However, when you’re on the back end of it, you can start coming back to the gym because it will help clear everything out.

8. Take your gym kit to work

Don’t confuse feeling mentally tired with being physically tired, as Craig explains: “If you work in an office, you’re likely to be mentally fatigued, while your body will be crying out for a workout. Go to the gym before work or straight afterwards – don’t go home first!”

9. What about rest days?

“It depends on you, your training and what your goals are,” says Craig. “Personally, I’d suggest at least one day off from the gym in a week.”

10. Get your nutrition right

There’s much more to getting fit and losing weight than simply exercise – it’s also about what you eat and drink. “If you don’t get the diet right, you’ll find it very hard to meet the goals you want to hit,” says Craig. “You don’t have to give anything up – it’s all about moderation. Be mindful of what’s going in your mouth.”

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