Time Well Spent – In the Gym

Time is the one non-renewable resource we have. This makes it the most valuable thing we have at our disposal!

Because time is limited – it’s very important we spend it wisely.  The gym is no different.  We want to get the most out of the extremely valuable and precious time we spend working out.

Be effective and not just efficient

Make a to-do list. Find a way to make it your own. Whether it’s a journal, a checklist on your phone, or several sticky notes strewn across your wall.

to-do-listLists can be a great time management tool, as having all of your tasks written down can keep you focused. For me, checking things off of my to-do list is one of the most satisfying and cathartic parts of my day!

When I make a list of things to do, I’m going to prioritize the list, putting the most important things at the top. I’d rather avoid doing a ton of unnecessary busy work just to prove I can get a lot of things done.

I see a lot of people doing excessive isolation movements in the gym.  Bicep curls, tricep extensions, leg extensions, abdominal crunches for days! Isolation movements have their time and place, but you want to prioritize your workouts and focus on compound movements first.

Compound exercises involve working many different muscle groups throughout the lift. Compound Movements include Deadlifts, Squats, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pull Ups, Rows, Lunges, and Planks.

Prioritizing ensures that I’m tackling the most important and necessary lifts first.

Example:  Instead of performing 12 sets of varied bicep curls, do 6 sets of strict chin ups.  You won’t just be isolating the bicep muscles.  You’ll be hitting the biceps, the forearms, the back, and the core.  Compound movements are going to make you stronger, faster.

If I don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important.  It’s easy to fall in the efficiency trap.

I can do 10 small things that may or may not be critical in the grand scheme of my day/week. Or, I can prioritize and do a few very important things that I may be avoiding. In one of his many brilliant blogs regarding time management, Tim Ferriss says “What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well doesn’t necessarily make it important.”

Plan your day in advance

Consider writing out a list at the beginning of each day, or right before you begin your workout.  Ask yourself a couple of questions:

• “If I only perform these exercises today, will I get a great workout?”

• “Will performing these exercises help me reach my desired outcome?”

I like to literally plan out each hour of my day, if I can.  This is where my neurotic qualities really shine. For me, sticking to a plan helps me stay focused and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

At the very least, starting to do this with your workout time will help make those moments the most effective possible! It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Keep it simple.  It could be something as simple as:  Monday is leg day.  You might have a specific body part (or parts) that you work on specific days of the week. Don’t to go into the gym and say you’re going to play it by ear.  Don’t guess.  Have a plan.skipped leg dayYou want to follow an appropriately balanced training program.  This requires a little forethought.  A balanced program will ensure that you’re not neglecting certain body parts/muscle groups.  This will also ensure you’re not favoring any body parts/muscle groups, which we all have a tendency to do.

We all know that guy who only does arms and chest.  He’s going to have a major problem down the line, if he keeps it up.  Internal rotation of the shoulders, tight pectoral muscles, and chronic back pain are only a few of the symptoms of favoring “mirror muscles.” Plus, he’s the guy on the meme that forgot about leg day.

Avoid “multi-tasking”

Occasionally, while training a client, I’ll overhear someone conducting a meeting out on the floor of the gym.  They pace back and forth as they shout in to their headphones. Having a conversation on the phone while simultaneously performing some not-so-intense cardio work.

Don’t be this guy.

Are you working out, or are you securing a new client? Pick one.  If you’re in the gym, you should be working out.

Divided attention leads to poor progress.  You can’t build and sustain muscle while blabbing to your best friend about how much you hate your boss. Not to mention, it’s poor gym etiquette to hog a machine, accomplishing nothing but liking the last 30 Instagram posts or Facebook stalking your ex.

Multitasking is less productive than doing a single task at a time.  We’re never actually doing 2 things at once, just bouncing back and forth.  Our brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time.  Research has shown that multitasking reduces efficiency and performance.  Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, trying to do many things at once lowers your IQ.  Instead, it’s better to practice singular focus, and do one task at a time.

If you’re going to work out, then work out.  Get in there, work hard, get it done, and go home. Make it worth your time.

Avoid distractions

If you’re like me, and you’re hypnotized by any television screen within your line of sight, try to avoid it.  Even at the bank, I find myself looking at the television while waiting in line.  I hate it. Most gyms are filled with tv screens.

It may be cable news screaming sensational headlines in the hopes of distracting you every 5 minutes, or it may be ESPN recapping all the latest sports drama.  Resist the urge to watch, resist the temptation. They will cause you to take incredibly long and unnecessary rest periods, and this will destroy your progress.workout clothes readyMusic is great because it’s not a distraction.  The right music might help drive and motivate you. I only listen to music while working out.  It keeps my workouts intense.  I like it loud, and heavy. Sometimes, music in your headphones can simply drown out all of the environmental noise that you’re going to hear in any busy gym (weight’s clanging, big dudes grunting, etc.).

You need your time, and you have a limited supply. Don’t waste it. Be conscientious about how you spend your time in the gym. In fact, these principles can be applied to any worthwhile endeavor in life.  Quality time with your family, how you spend your time in the office, what you do with the little free time you have.

Your time is a valuable and precious commodity. Use it well.

by Kyle Devlin

My name is Kyle Devlin, and I'm a certified personal trainer based in Kansas City, Missouri. My approach is simple - Consistent hard work and dedication equals success.

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