Crowded locker rooms, lines at every machine, un-racked weights everywhere you look…the New Year’s resolutions crowd is back. The January Gym Crowd. It happens every year. December 31st there’s not a soul to be found at the gym. Then, within 24 hours, the place is so mobbed you can’t do a squat without ending up sitting on someone. Half of the time it seems like they’re there to keep you from working out, not actually to do any exercise themselves. And even though you know it’s coming every January you’re still never quite prepared. We’ve all been there, so we put together our best tips to help you get through these trying times:
Do what you can at home: figure out what you can do outside the gym. If you do cardio, that’s something that can easily be done at home or outside. There are also tons of great body weight exercises you can do at home like push-ups, squats and planks. If you do have weights at home, use these as much as you can before heading to the gym. If you don’t have any weights or equipment, this could be the right time to start building a home gym. Or it could be the right time to call a friend you know who has a sweet home gym. Also try improvising with bags of mulch, tires or anything else you have around the house that is close to the weight you’re looking for.
Claim your territory: when you see an open piece of equipment, go for it and don’t look back. While you might not be able to go through your normal routine the way you’d like to, you can make substitutions that will save you a lot of time and standing around. Finding an open bench press station is probably going to be impossible. But if you can find a flat bench and some dumbbells, you’re in business. You can also use the flat bench for incline and decline push-ups and a bunch of other improvised chest exercises. It might not be ideal, but it’s a lot better than missing chest day.
Go at weird times: weekdays after work are going to be a no-go. You’ll be lucky to find a parking spot at those hours. So if you normally roll up at 6:00 p.m., you might want to think about adjusting your schedule for the next couple weeks. Early morning and late night hours might not seem ideal, but at least there won’t be mile-long lines for the equipment. Same thing with weekend workouts. If you’re willing to change your rest day from Saturday or Sunday to Monday, you might find yourself with a lot more space.
Don’t be afraid to say something: most of these guys don’t have a plan. They’re going to spend more time standing around and “resting” than actually lifting. Which means they’re not only wasting their time, but yours, too. You don’t have to be mean, but if you ask how many more sets they have left, they’ll figure out you actually know what you’re doing and they’ll move on pretty quick. If they say they’re just starting, make a compromise: ask if you can lift while they rest and vice versa.
Suck it up: there’s only so much you can do to avoid it and working out in a crowded gym is better than not working out at all. In a few short weeks, most of them will be gone again and only a few persistent newcomers will still be hanging in there trying to figure out the Smith machine. Just try not to be too impatient with any of the newbies while you wait for them to clear out of the squat rack.