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How to Workout in a Packed Gym

Is your gym packed like this?
Is your gym packed like this?

More people join gyms and start working out in January, than any other month of the year. That means your local gym is going to be a much busier than usual when the new year rolls around. That can be a problem if you're just starting a workout program, because all those people can slow things down. Here's how to deal with the crowds.

Go during off-peak hours, if your schedule allows it. That means before 7 in the morning, between 2 and 5 in the afternoon, or after 8 at night. Those are the times when gyms are less busy and you generally won't have to deal with as many people. Some gyms even offer a discount if you only workout during off-peak hours.

Go during off-peak hours.

Shift your weekend. The two busiest days of the week are Monday and Tuesday, so don't exercise on those days. Schedule your workouts on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Shift your weekend.

Go to classes 10 to 15 minutes early. That will give you time to get your spot and ask the instructor for any pointers you might need. The majority of people who attend exercise classes don't arrive until about 5 minutes before the class starts. Show up with everybody else and you might not be able to choose where you'll be, or you may be excluded entirely if the class is oversold. You can also look for group fitness classes that take reservations so you're guaranteed a spot.

Ask to use cardio rooms when classes aren't being held. Often they'll have equipment like mats, ropes and lighter weights that you might need. If rooms like that aren't available, grab an out-of-the-way corner, set up a mat and knockout your workout there.

Be prepared with alternatives. Let's say you planned on working your back, but the machine you're familiar with is being used. No problem, there are plenty of back exercises you can do with barbells, cable machines or your body weight.

It's nice if you have a backup exercise in mind, but if you don't, there are smartphone apps that can help. Two free ones I recommend are ExRx.net or MuscleWiki.org. Search for the body part you want to workout and you'll be given options you might not have thought about.

Plan a workout using supersets. A superset involves doing two or more exercises back-to-back without a rest between them. Plan on the first exercise using equipment, followed immediately with an exercise that you just use your bodyweight on. Supersetting that way means you don't have to move away from what you're using and you won't be hogging multiple machines.

Use less popular equipment. If you're doing cardio, try out a rower, stair climber, battle ropes or an Airdyne exercise bike. Skip the treadmills and ellipticals. For weight training check out kettlebells, TRX suspension trainers or the cable machine. There are dozens of challenging exercises you can do at a cable machine and you won't have to move away from that spot.

Consider private training studios. You get one-on-one instruction and equipment that's just for people scheduled with a trainer. To get the more bang for your buck, use a trainer for two workouts a week and have them give you two more to do on your own. That way you get expert guidance to learn proper form and a professionally designed program, while sticking to a budget.

Wear headphones. They help you stay focused on your workout and ignore the chatter around you. They can also help keep you motivated with an upbeat playlist.

Most importantly, don't get disappointed if your workout doesn't turn out exactly the way you wanted. Showing up and doing something is better than sitting on the couch and doing nothing. Plus, within 60 days the number of people that show up will drop dramatically. Be one of the people that stick around and next year, see the difference in how it makes you look and feel.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.