If you're new to the gym, you may have just wrapped up the first stage of a new program. Usually designed around 4-6 weeks, your trainer might have mentioned something called 'periodization'. Don't be misled by this term as it does not mean one month of hard work on your resolutions followed by eleven months of reflection. However, if you caught the training fever bug and have discovered a new love, it's time to be inducted into the wonderful world of gym quirks!
Quirk #1. If at all possible, do not check your phone every 30 seconds while in the gym. Inevitably, there will be those that will talk - oops, I mean text - about their 'workout'. They never break a sweat and will spend their entire workout doing 30 seconds of exercise followed by 3 - 5 minutes of texting.
And of course, this is all done while reclining on one of the most popular machines so it can't be used by anyone else. If you ask if it's okay to work in, they will tell you they have 5 more sets to do. All done in the same manner as the first: quick set, long text, ad infinitum.
There's a real downside to posting your gym visits to social media. At some point, you're going to have to LOOK like you actually use the gym while you're there...
And of course, that fabulous feeling when the equipment you want to use is available!
Wrapping up #1, while getting to the gym is a step in the right direction, if you don't focus and use your time wisely, those short sets and long rests won't do much for you. So, for those that use the gym as an alternative to Starbuck's as a place to hang out and fiddle with your phones, the members that are seriously trying to work out around you get a little guilty satisfaction knowing your body isn't going to change much (payback for being a selfish equipment bogart) while their Facebook selfie will look like the one below:
Quirk #2. There are basically 2 types of women that go to the gym: One is serious about training, is rarely seen wearing matching or trendy gym clothes, make-up or perfume. This is the woman that will use every second of available time for working out, even if it means her co-workers, clients and boss have to deal with her bed-head hair every day of the week - except for Rest day!
The other type of woman is the one who shows up in make-up, salon hair, cute little outfits, drifting on a cloud of perfume and then moans about all the men checking her out...duh! Her whining about this is really just to point out to anyone who will listen how hot she thinks she is and to see if you will also concur.
Fact: men have eyes and they're gonna look. At every chick. Fact: women have eyes and they look too. We just do it differently.
A serious girl may confuse you from time to time by showing up at the gym in stripper guise but she has intentions (and they're serious!):
This is the best way to get the equipment you want to use when you know the gym will be packed! Other than this, a serious girl doesn't bother with primping for the gym because she knows this is what happens:
The serious woman is often misunderstood. The man in her life knows her well:
She's also easy to shop for because:
Quirk #3. Members get irritated when they can't find the weights they want to use. This could add 10 minutes to your workout hunting for them. Try looking in the aerobics room, the spin room or by the pool. They may even be in the locker room or in the sauna (I found some DB's there once...).
Next time you get pissed cuz you can't find the weights you want to use, remember that you also don't put them away after you use them. Meanwhile, many of us are tripping over barbells, DB's and plates that are left haphazardly about. Note: Most gyms have signs and monitor screen displays urging members to re-rack weights after use.
No wonder weight lifters are viewed as empty-headed - so many inconsiderate behaviors practiced in the gym!
Quirk #4. There will be times when you are intensely focused and you're about to get the rep you've never gotten before with the weight you've moved up to after a long plateau. You're in the zone, all the planets are aligned, the right song is playing, the lighting is perfect, you're almost to that 'Hallelujah' moment and then suddenly, someone jumps in front of you and asks "How many more sets are you gonna do?" killing your moment and causing gainus interruptus.
Timing people, please! It's all about timing! Because trust me, when you ask something in the gym, it can either make you friends or bring you enemies! Never interrupt someone's set to ask how many more they're going to do! Also, what you ask can do the same:
Quirk #5. Weight lifters are nice people. But, in the gym, they have an alter ego. They most likely will help you, when asked, and may even be willing to mentor you. Until then, it's game on:
This is also sometimes a deliberate reason for why weights are not re-racked: the guy who just finished using the weight is daring you to try using it for your set. On the flip side, there's the lifter who loads the bar with every available plate and then does reps with a 1" ROM...
Quirk #6. Speaking of the heavy weights, it's NOT cool to let the weight stack/DB's/barbells crash to the floor after your set. Instead, learn to do a negative with that last rep and get some real work out of it instead of giving the rest of us a heart attack from the unexpected crash of iron. Besides, aren't you just hoping the rest of us will secretly think 'Wow! That guy/chick is such a beast!' I'm so impressed!?' though what we're really thinking is 'What a jerk face! Try using a weight you can handle so it doesn't fall out of your hand!'
Quirk #7. Not everyone has the same love for everything available for use in the gym. There will often be heated debates about this. Cardio lovers think they're burning a TON of calories; lifters think they'll catabolize precious muscle within a few minutes of cardio but will do it if they're prepping for a contest.
The important thing is to HAVE a plan, know why you have that plan and then use it!
Quirk #8. You will hear the funniest sounds and see the funniest faces being made in the gym.
I had a client once who never made a face or a sound through the entire 8 years of training with me. I never really knew if she was working hard aside from a little bit of sweat and that could have just been due to the Florida climate. So while we do tend to laugh at the sounds and faces we witness from others, I am guilty of making them myself though I try oh so hard not to! I don't think my little girly moans compare to the guttural grunts that sound like the wailing of walruses mating however. If that's any consolation.
Quirk #9. You will see someone dress inappropriately in the gym. I figure this is due to: having a ton of confidence to go out in public that way, all other gym clothes are dirty, or they have eclectic taste. Anyway, it's probably okay to be in the gym dressed like this but remember:
Okay, total joke! You should DEFINITELY show off your snatch whenever possible as any woman who can do this has earned the right to do so! Besides, are you gonna be the one to tell her no?!
Quirk #10. The gym can get awfully crowded. Inevitably, there will be someone who wants to use the equipment you are using and they will get all up in your space and watch every rep you do while giving you the evil eye/evil vibe to get you to move on ASAP! It's usually accompanied by an attitude effusing the message 'I'm here now so move along!' I've even heard them produce the heavy sighs, tap their toes, shift from side-to-side, whatever it takes to bother you and make you lose focus so you just get pissed and leave.
Quirk #11. You will see a lot of the same people in the gym and they will be doing the same exercises. Every time you see them.
For guys, this is usually chest/arms/back. Usually wears a muscle shirt to show it all off and baggy sweats to hide the legs. Women will be the ones hogging the leg/glute machines.
Working the same body part/using the same exercises every time you train will not give you better results. This is called 'over-training' and it is not recommended. This can cause burn-out as well as slow your gains. Even if you are totally addicted to the pump, rest is super important and is where you actually reap your greatest gains. Try to embrace this principle!
Quirk #12. For true metal-heads who do embrace REST day, it's usually spent like this:
Awww guys, come on - cheer up! There's so much more to do with your rest day:
And when that's done, make sure you keep tabs on bathroom functions...
After all, muscle is about 75% water!
Quirk #13. After rest day, there will always be that sense of excitement when heading back to the gym. Funny how such a brief hiatus still brings out that warrior mentality! You live for the Iron Battle and you are coming for it!
Quirk #14. When you get addicted to weight training, you get addicted to the mirrors...
Even if you don't see flexing in the gym, believe me-it's happening: in the locker room, at home, in every window that provides a great reflection. Girls, if you wonder why your man no longer minds going to the mall with you, it's because of all the glass and mirrors as well as other people who will 'Ooh!' and 'Aah!' when he walks by. If his gym doesn't have this most important feature, he will be depressed and looking to get his fix somewhere else!
Hopefully, this isn't him when he's in the gym...
Quirk #15. No matter how hard you workout, so much of the results you get ARE dependent on your diet. This does not mean you have to watch every single calorie - think instead of quality content.
Starving yourself doesn't get you results and neither does overindulging to keep up with the added energy demands of your workout. You need to find a balance and it will take a little work and perhaps a lot of tweaking.
If you listen to gym-floor talk about diet, make sure you know who you're listening to and what their goal is. Otherwise, you could follow advise, via eavesdropping, and end up experiencing withdrawal symptoms:
Don't feel as though you need to eliminate entire food groups as this usually backfires and just gives those foods total power over your brain! Learn about good nutrition and think in terms of nutrients per meal/snack. This way, you'll never confuse exercise with exorcise!
Cheat days should be planned for but keep those in check. For example, if your daily goal is 1,800 calories, don't go over that on a cheat day though you may decide those calories will all come from pizza, ice cream or whatever it is you're craving.
Of course, if you are prepping for a special event, you may need to change the cheat day to a cheat meal and then, exercise great caution...
The good news - you can definitely eat more than you think you can and still reach your goals!
One final note on nutrition: it's important to understand the value of knowing your macros but don't take it to the extreme as it is not the only piece of the puzzle in putting on lovely muscle. (Read as: Protein is not the end-all to gaining muscle size.)
Quirk #16. Spotting can be a frustrating experience. For the lifter, the spotter and definitely for onlookers. Make sure you discuss how you like to be spotted before you begin your set. I've learned this the hard way by just asking someone who looks like they know their way around the weights if they would mind spotting me for a set or two. Your conversation should delve a bit deeper than "Hey, would you mind helping me with a spot? Have you spotted someone before?" Guys will never admit to a girl that they haven't!
Well, sure this one looks like fun for a guy when the girl is doing legs. But seriously, communicate and tell your spotter when you want him/her to jump in and exactly how much of a spot you want. Be clear on where they are going to spot you on the equipment. Make sure you trust his attention span and the ability to stay with you for the entire set.
Having a spotter can help you make amazing gains, push you to your limit as well as help you to discover new ones, keep you safe and act as one of your best workout aids. Knowledgeable spotters are precious and will earn a special place in your heart!
With all this being said and all quirks aside, remember that the gym is an amazing tool that not even your personal tailor, no matter how talented he is, will ever be able to compare to in giving you the look you desire.