Choosing the Right Gym: Our Top Five Things to Consider Before Signing on the Dotted Line

It’s that time of year again. Time for New Year’s resolutions, goal setting, and game plans. Although resolutions come in all shapes and sizes, many people are choosing the old standby:  slim down and get fit. Typically the first step of this process is joining a gym, but in today’s world this means sifting through a wide variety of overwhelming options. Not sure where to start? No worries. Here are our top five things to consider before lacing up your Nike’s and signing on the dotted line.

  1. Cost. Some gyms will pull you in with all of the bells and whistles. Some people like bells and whistles, but not everyone will actually use them. Of course it is nice to have a swimming pool, a wide variety of classes, a rock climbing wall, a fitness apparel store, and a smoothie shop conveniently located at the foot of your treadmill, but it is important to ask yourself how much you are willing (and able) to pay for those conveniences. Large, fancy gyms come with a price tag. If you can afford the extra amenities and believe that you will utilize them, then they might be worth the investment. If you are looking to focus on basic cardio and strength training, then you might be better off joining a smaller gym with more standard features. Smaller gyms tend to be more affordable and a bit less intimidating. This can be perfect for beginners, or anyone looking to forgo all of the spectacle and simply get their sweat on.
  2. Location. Gym location often plays a crucial role in our fitness success. Motivation can be difficult to find. It is important to keep this in mind when choosing your gym. If your gym requires a 10 minute drive, followed by a 3 minute walk, an hour long train ride, and two bus transfers, then the likelihood of dragging yourself out of bed on Saturday morning is probably going to be pretty slim. If your gym is conveniently located in the strip mall across the street from your two bedroom condo, then your odds of success are going to lean a bit more in your favor. When choosing a gym try to remember that the easier it is to make it to the gym…well…the easier it is to make it to the gym.
  3. Hours. Some of us are morning people. Others of us are night owls. A few of us perk up in the afternoon, while others of us tend to fall into a mid-afternoon slump. Knowing which category you fall into is important when it comes to committing to a gym. Night owls might require a 24-hour location, while afternoon people might need to choose a gym closer to work in order to be able to pop in on their break. Morning people will obviously want to choose a gym with early morning hours. Likewise, if you work from 9 to 5 and your gym closes at 6, then you are probably not going to be a very prominent member. Be aware of which hours work best for you and choose a gym that best accommodates your needs.
  4. Amenities. As mentioned above, some gyms will pull you in with bells and whistles. For some of us that is perfectly alright. It all depends on what amenities you are looking for. If you are just looking for the basics, then it is likely a waste of money to pay extra for the fluff. If you are someone who needs variety, is motivated by having a wide range of options, and looks forward to a recovery smoothie after a successful day of Zumba, then it might be worth it to splurge on a high-end fitness membership. Only you know what you are looking for and only you know what will keep you motivated to work out every day. Be aware of your needs and choose a gym accordingly.
  5. Support. Everyone is different. When it comes to a fitness routine, some people prefer to fly solo, while others are more successful in a group setting. If you find working out to be your moment of peace and tranquility and you are easily self-motivated, then your ideal gym likely offers individual machines and solo activities. If you thrive on the energy of others and require a bit more guidance and motivation, then you might want to look into gyms that offer more of a group experience. Something along the lines of Orange Theory or Cross Fit might be a good option. Gyms are not one size fits all. What works for some might not work for others. Knowing your preferences and personality will help you to choose a gym that best suits your needs.

Choosing the right gym can be crucial to your fitness success. It is not only important to choose a gym that fits your schedule and location needs, but also excites and motivates you. It should offer a comfortable level of support and otherwise fit your personality and lifestyle. Don’t just join a gym this New Year, follow our tips and join a gym that is right for you. Happy New Year and happy health!

Winter is Coming! Follow These Tips to Stay Active All Winter Long

As we say goodbye to the warm days of summer and usher in the cool winter air, many people are wondering how they will ever be able to stay faithful to their workout routines. It is true that snow covered lawns and ice covered windshields make going to the gym seem a lot less appealing. In a season where bulky sweaters and extra layers are more than just a fashion statement, it is easy to let ourselves go and make peace with our love of holiday baked goods. But don’t go into hibernation mode just yet. Here are a few tips to keep you moving throughout the winter months.

  1. For these cold, dark days utilize the buddy system. Not only does working out with a friend help to make the experience more enjoyable, but it helps to keep us motivated and accountable. Let’s face it, we are less likely to blow off the gym if we know it will affect someone else’s progress as much as our own. Pair up with a buddy once or twice a week to help guarantee you will make it to your workouts consistently throughout the winter season.
  2. Try participating in activities that help to make exercise feel less like a chore. Many people believe that an hour at the gym is the only way to work out. But exercise doesn’t have to be mundane. Exercise is anything that gets you moving! Try signing up for an indoor sport, such as soccer or volleyball. Give wall climbing a try. How about organizing a night of roller skating or extreme trampoline with friends and family? If it gets your heart pumping and your muscles working, then it’s exercise.
  3. Embrace winter sports. Skiing anybody? Most people shut themselves up during the winter months and wait for the world to thaw, but there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep our heart rates up and our muscles working. Cross-country skiing, down-hill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or simply sledding and playing in the snow with the kids are fun ways to stay active throughout the season. Finding activities that help you to embrace the cold weather will not only keep you physically conditioned, but will help to stave off some of those winter blues as well.
  4. Focus on your favorite indoor activities. Winter is a great time to put a little more emphasis on the things we let fall by the wayside during warmer months. Summer is great for keeping us active because its warm weather and bright shining sun entice us to step outside and enjoy the fresh air. Although we might spend more time in the pool or circling the local track, we might fall off the wagon a bit when it comes to yoga, weight training, or other indoor activities that we enjoy. Winter is the perfect time to sign up for that Pilates class, finally focus on your resistance training, or maybe test out the latest workout craze at your local gym. We often view winter as the “off season”, but with a few tweaks it can just as easily be a time for progress.

Winter is usually the most difficult time of the year for people to stay focused on health and wellness, but it doesn’t have to be. Cold weather will undoubtedly bring a change to your routine. With the right kind of planning cold weather activities can be just as enjoyable and easy to stick to as summertime exercise. Don’t dread the cold, embrace it! And keep your eye on The Leafy Kiwi for more tips and tricks to keep you moving throughout the winter months.

Injuries, Healing, and Continuing to Train

Injuries happen. Whether you are training for an event or simply working out to lose weight, it is likely that at some point you will be sidelined by a pesky pain somewhere in your body. Of course the first goal should always be prevention. Proper stretching, warm-up, and cool-down can help prevent most issues. Proper form and cross training can help prevent others. But if you have taken all necessary precautions and have somehow still managed to wind up on the side lines, there are a few things you can do to stay in the game as you heal.

  1. Hit the Pool. Depending upon the specific injury, swimming can be a great way to maintain your fitness level while still allowing your body to heal. The water offers resistance training, as well as an aerobic workout. At the same time, swimming gives your muscles and joints a rest from the pounding they receive through other forms of exercise.
  2. Switch to the elliptical. Again, depending upon the injury, the elliptical is a great way to maintain an aerobic routine while preventing the stress of high impact exercise. This can be particularly helpful for shin splints or minor muscle strain.
  3. Break out the yoga mat. Yoga can be a great asset for those who simply need to lay off the cardio and recover. The stretching can sometimes be helpful in the healing process, and might even play a crucial role in recovery. Practicing yoga is a great way to keep the body active, while providing mental awareness and relaxation.

Injuries are never pleasant and taking time off to heal can feel like the worst possible scenario. Modifying your workouts is one way to maintain an active lifestyle without further aggravating an injury. However, not all injuries are created equal and sometimes it really is necessary to give your body a rest. Pushing through an injury can lead to further complications that will simply leave you out of the game for a longer period of time. Always consult with your doctor or trainer to find the best possible option for your situation and remember to always listen to your body. Best of luck and happy healing!

 

Getting Started

Alright, so you have decided to make a change. You woke up this morning and suddenly realized that the world is your oyster! You will eat your veggies today, you will make it to zumba class, you will skip happy hour. Heck, you will even floss! And when all is said and done you will crawl into bed at a decent hour. These are all admirable goals and I applaud you for wanting to jump in and grab the proverbial bull by the horns, but when getting started it really is important to go easy on yourself. A lot of people believe that when starting a new routine it is best to dive in head first and never look back, but in reality this method can be extremely overwhelming. The side effects of expecting too much too soon include evenings of binge watching Netflix, while drinking beer, and snacking on salty foods straight out of the package.

In all seriousness, one of the toughest aspects of deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is simply getting started. The first few days of a new workout regimen will likely result in sore muscles. The first few days without junk food will likely result in cravings. Your body might even go through withdrawal as it detoxes from various addictive foods, such as sugar and caffeine. In addition to this, it is important to note that people are creatures of habit. We often become accustomed to certain patterns in our lives and it can be extremely difficult to shake up our normal routines by adding something new. This is especially true if that “something new” requires a lot of effort, such as going to the gym, or choosing healthier foods over less healthy, often more convenient, options. Deciding you want to change is a huge step, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you journey towards a new, healthier version of yourself.

First of all, it is perfectly okay to have slightly lax expectations for the first week or two. The primary goal should be to simply get moving in the right direction. Change can be difficult. Having overwhelming goals before you have even begun can set you on the fast track to failure. Do not expect yourself to go from couch potato to triathlete over night. Instead of setting a strict goal for yourself on day one of your new routine, perhaps start by simply requiring that you put forth some kind of effort. Rather than expecting yourself to log a specific number of miles on the treadmill, or to bench press a specific amount of weight, start by simply requiring yourself to make it to the gym. The early stages of change should be about creating new habits and easing into new patterns, rather than achieving your ultimate goal. Giving yourself a small stepping stone, rather than expecting yourself to make large leaps to the finish line, will help you to be more successful overall.

Alright, so you have eased into your new routine and day one of your healthy lifestyle has proven to be a great success. You told yourself that you would put in 10 minutes at the gym and you stayed for a full 30! Kudos. Your new, healthy lifestyle has begun. But what about day 2? Your muscles are feeling a bit tender and you are not exactly thrilled with the idea of pushing through another workout. My advice is to continue to go easy on yourself. Again, no need to push yourself through a grueling workout on day 2. The goal should be to create new habits. Simply requiring yourself to make it to the gym for a brief workout is more than enough at this stage of the game. Once you arrive  you will likely be willing to do more, but requiring it could be the equivalent of creating a mental roadblock.

So you might be wondering exactly when you should begin asking a little more of yourself. The honest answer is whenever you are ready to give more. Obviously you will have to kick it up a notch eventually if you want to see any serious progress or change, but your willingness to do so will most likely come naturally. I am not suggesting that you go easy on yourself forever, I am merely suggesting that you ease into your new routine. Creating lifelong habits usually does not occur overnight. expecting too much too soon can be discouraging and counterproductive. It is important to acknowledge that any change is good change and that you do not have to be perfect to make progress. So go ahead, give yourself a few days to get into a groove. Take a whole week, or even two, if that is how long it takes your mind to adapt to your new lifestyle. There will be plenty of time to push yourself through grueling runs and intense lift sessions. Starting out slowly is a great way to ensure that you make it that far. Best of luck and happy health!

New Year’s Resolutions

Welcome 2016! It is a new year and the world is filled to the brim with feelings of renewal! What better time for a fresh start? Like most of us you are probably looking to change a few bad habits and add a healthy routine to your life, but sticking to a New Year’s resolution is not always easy. Here we offer a few tips to help you stay on track.

  1. Write down your goals- A lot of people verbalize their goals, but never take the time to write them down. Writing down a goal helps to clarify it in our minds. Once we see it in writing it is no longer just a vague thought. When writing your goal try to be as specific as possible. Decide on the goal and give yourself a time frame. Instead of writing, “I will workout more”, try writing, “I will walk one mile on the treadmill after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next 2 weeks”. Being as specific as possible and providing yourself with a deadline will help you to more fully commit to your goal.
  2. Track your success- Using a log to track your success is a great way to visualize your progress. If your goal is going well, then tracking your progress will help keep you moving in the right direction. If your goal is not going well, then tracking your progress will help you to pinpoint your weak spots and reassess your game plan. For example, if your goal is to eat a salad at lunch every day for six weeks, then simply mark an “X” on the calendar for each day that you meet your goal. If you fail to meet your goal every Saturday for the first three weeks, then you will see the pattern develop and be able to adjust accordingly.
  3. Be reasonable- We would all love to develop perfect habits over night, but the likelihood of doing so is relatively slim. Bad habits often develop slowly over time and for many of us they can only be remedied the same way. Therefore, it is important to be reasonable. If you are a self-proclaimed couch potato who has dodged all form of physical activity for the last ten years, then it is probably not a good idea to jump start your new lifestyle by signing up for a marathon. Perhaps a few easy laps around the nearby track on Sunday mornings would be a better way to go. Making your goals too difficult to reach can be discouraging. Creating small goals that can actually be met is a sure fire way to help you move forward towards bigger and better things!

Good luck and happy new year!