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Is there too much choice at your local gym?                                                                     October 2009 


gymWe all know we should exercise more, but not only is it difficult to keep that discipline going, but somehow it can all get too complicated as well.

Take your local gym. Nothing sounds easier than popping down to the gym and getting some great exercise. But today, you can call in full of good intentions and leave in a total bemusement of whether you should be doing spinning or step, take up pilates or why not tai chi or yoga; then power stretching sounds good but what about cardiovascular or resistance training or even kickboxing?

The choice is too much and for beginners, or for people like me who simply want to get a bit fitter, it is all too difficult and another reason to give up!

But of course that is not good enough, we all need to get fit and now winter is coming we need to get on top of all that is on offer. Instead of being put off by the choice, we need to find the programmes that are exactly right for us. Really, we should be delighted at the choice.

The first thing to take onboard is your current level of fitness and a serious assessment of how determined you are to get fit. If, like me, it is a sort of half-hearted I really should be doing something, then you need to choose courses that won’t overwork you to the extent that you won’t want to return. It is also important to choose something you might enjoy. If you are seriously wanting to get superfit, then of course a wider more strenuous programme is called for.

Most gym clubs will explain the difference in the various activities and will also give you a good initial induction where you can talk to a fitness trainer about what you want to achieve. They will then advise you of the best programmes and classes for your own particular circumstances.

As a rough guideline, most clubs will offer different themes on the following:

Spinning. This is just a new name for a cycling machine, except that you follow a leader in the front of the class which makes it all more enjoyable.

Aerobics. Most people are familiar with this mix of impact movements with upbeat music.

Step classes are based simply on that, movements of different intensity around a step; they are especially good for the thighs and bottoms.

Body Pump. This is the new in class using a combination of weights and great music for people seeking something vigorous.

Circuits. This is where a sequence of various exercises is worked out either specially for you or for general fitness for everyone. Usually designed as a great all rounder exercise programme.

Pilates. A non-aggressive technique for strengthening and balancing all muscles of the body.

Tai Chi. Very controlled exercises linked in flowing movements.

Aqua fitness. This is where fitness classes are held in a swimming pool, the resistance of water helps to burn calories and strengthen muscles while the body weight impact is minimized meaning less stress on joints.

Total Abs. This is becoming a regular feature in many gyms now and is usually quite a short class aimed at toning and strengthening the muscles in the abdominal and lower back area.

Of course, at most gyms you will find a variety of specialist equipment including rowing and running machines and weights and you may prefer just to work on your own individual programme without joining any classes. Again, a reputable club will have trained fitness specialists who will create the best programme for you and also show you how to use the machines. This is vital as using a machine incorrectly can cause real injury.

Don’t be put off just because you see body building young men exiting from gyms – most gyms cater for all ages and are delighted to help the 50 plus generations get fit. Even better, many of us are happy to use our local gym in off-peak times, which means we are even more welcomed.

So don’t be put off by strange named classes and new words you don’t understand. At the end of the day, exercise is exercise whatever the name!

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