Variety is the spice of life, so it's always strange to me when people get stuck in a workout rut and don't change.
Who said you had to do the things you are doing? There are hundreds of ways to exercise. Some need equipment, some need open spaces and some just need you and a little bit of good old hard work.
Here are my top 4 ways to use your typical workout equipment a little differently.
Dumbbells: Typical body building is out the door these days. The reason for consulting a personal trainer now or for getting into a small group session is to learn new techniques and learn them right. I run a class I call No Limits Functional Fitness. It is my goal to get these to become a trend in gyms across North America. Anyone can walk in anytime and learn how to workout functionally, as well as get tips, tricks and brand new ideas. I encourage clients to bring exercises they want to try and have their form corrected. YouTube is a double-edged sword; the video sharing site has good ideas, but if you are new to exercise, you can't have your form properly corrected by a video.
Start by using dumbbells instead of typical kettlebell exercises. Try dumbbell swings and Turkish get-ups. Not having a kettlebell is not an excuse to not use these exercises in your weight loss routine.
Treadmill: The treadmill is the most under-utilized piece of equipment out there in my opinion. Who said you have to use it and do all your miles in a row? If you get bored on a treadmill, break it up! Use circuits to break up your run and challenge your body in a totally different way. If you are not much for running, start changing things up. Exercise shouldn't be forced (all the time); it should be fun. It is amazing how breaking up a long run with some weights can make your workout fly by, as well as torch some extra calories.
Exercise Ball: You have to get off balance to really develop your core stability muscles. Try easing into it. If you have never been on an exercise ball, start simple. Then move to holding weight in only one hand. Once you master unilateral work, move your weight off the center of the ball. That little move makes for a huge challenge to your balance and your core stability. Focus on form and you can get your muscles to start to fire in ways you never thought possible. Awaken your inner athlete, but do it slow and smart.
Medicine Ball: There's nothing like using the medicine ball to switch up your stability. Throwing the medicine ball around used to be something included in high school gym class. It seems to have all but disappeared. Throwing a medicine ball can also be a fun way include partner drills into your workout. I see a lot of moms and daughters training together, as well as husbands and wives. Throwing a medicine ball standing on a BOSU can be a great strength equalizer and make for a fun game in the middle of a Functional Training Class.
What you should take away from all of this, above all, is to start having fun. There are hundreds of options out there. These are just a few from the hundreds of personal training hours I do in a year. Get on YouTube, grab a few magazines, and get in a small group training session to really learn a few new tricks in the gym. Feel free to talk to me on Twitter @fitcityjordan or leave a comment below. I'd love to hear what works for you in the fitness world.
"The single biggest pet peeve of a typical member is leaving things sweaty," says Baraglia. Either bring a towel onto the machine with you, or know where the paper towels in the gym are located, and make sure you clean up after you finish exercising.
If you're doing sets on a piece of equipment and resting between each one, don't sit on the machine while you recover. "I've seen people sit for three to five minutes while someone else is waiting to work in a set," says Baraglia. If you see someone waiting for your machine, offer to let them work in while you rest. Even if there isn't someone in line, try to limit your recovery time when seated on the equipment to 30 seconds -- it's better for your heart rate and those around you.
Hearing someone gabbing away on the machine next to you is always distracting. "It's amazing how many people wear phone earbuds or Bluetooths and carry on a full conversation!" says Baraglia. Keep your phone stashed in your bag or locker while on the gym floor. If you find yourself tempted to make a call, remember that if you're able to talk easily while you're exercising, you may not be exerting much effort.
Of course, you should chug water during your workout. But bringing anything that's sugary or sticky should be done with caution, especially sports drinks or smoothies that might topple over. There isn't someone to clean up all spills immediately, warns Baraglia, so it's best not to bring these items out onto the floor.
Even if your gym doesn't post time limits for cardio machines, be mindful of how long you spend on each one. "You really shouldn't spend any more than 30 or 60 minutes on one piece of equipment," says Baraglia. "If someone is waiting for a machine, go ahead and get off, because the reality is you can find another way to work out that day that may burn more calories and let you mix it up a bit!"
Not returning weights to their rack is frustrating for other members looking for a specific dumbbell, especially if there's only one pair for each weight interval. Putting them away is just common courtesy. A bonus? "A key part of weight-lifting, believe it or not, is the exercise you get loading and unloading the dumbbells. If you don't put them away, you're missing an opportunity to add to your workout," says Baraglia.
Just as it's bad form to sit on a machine while you're resting between sets, it's no better to lurk next to a machine waiting for someone to get off. "Plus, if you're just standing there, you're wasting time," says Baraglia. "There are five to 10 other exercises you could be doing to work the same muscle group as whatever equipment you're waiting for. If you don't know an alternative way to exercise that muscle, ask a fitness professional!'
If a class has started, don't walk in, whether you're late to take the class or just want a piece of equipment from the group fitness room, says Baraglia.
"The thing you see most often in a locker room is people treating it like they would their own bathroom," says Baraglia. Be mindful of the fact that you're in a shared space, pick up after yourself and don't be wasteful.
"Your gym bag on the floor takes up space -- valuable at peak club times -- and is a hazard, since you can trip on it," says Baraglia. Use a gym-provided locker or hanging space to stash your bag.
"When people don't bring problems to the attention of the club staff, the problems don't get fixed," says Baraglia. If you notice a piece of equipment malfunctioning, let a staff member know, as it could break for the next user and cause injury. By the same token, if you see an "out of order" sign on a machine, don't use the item, since you could get hurt as well.
Follow Jordan Cieciwa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@fitcityjordan