If you’d like to up your activity levels to give your health and wellbeing (and weight loss!) a brilliant Body Magic boost, joining a gym can be a great option. Good ones will offer a wide variety of equipment and plenty of space to exercise in (not always the case when you’re exercising at home), you can go at your own pace (which might not be possible with a fitness class), they’re often open long hours (so you can exercise when it suits you) and you never have to worry about the weather putting a stopper on your plans.
Most gyms are very welcoming and inclusive of all fitness levels and abilities, with instructors on hand to show you how to operate the equipment safely, and even offer advice on your routine. Despite this, going to a gym for the first time can feel quite daunting, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the different bits of kit and what they’re used for.
While a thorough gym induction is always essential, to give you a head start, we asked our head office fitness coach, Lorraine Carr, for a tour of the Slimming World gym – with some top tips along the way…
Cardio machines include treadmills, cross-trainers, exercise bikes, step machines and rowing machines. They each get you moving in a slightly different way – for example, the exercise bike is for cycling, the rowing machine simulates a rowing action and the cross-trainer exercises the arms and legs in a smooth walking/running motion – however, they’re all great for cardiovascular activity, which means exercise that gets your heart rate up and increases your breathing.
Using cardio machines at the gym is a fantastic option when you still want to exercise but the weather or time of day means you really don’t fancy a walk or bike ride. Some people might also feel more comfortable doing cardio exercise at the gym, as it feels less public, especially during quieter times.
Top tip: If a long stint on a cardio machine seems daunting, you could try a few minutes on each to vary your work-out and boost motivation.
Fixed resistance machines
The shoulder press, leg press and chest press are all examples of fixed resistance machines. These are used for strength training (working those muscles!) and provide restriction against a certain movement, allowing you to target different muscle groups such as your back, chest, shoulders, legs and abs. They will also guide you as you perform the exercise, making it easier to perform it correctly and meaning that you don’t need to use the other muscles in your body to keep you stable, like you would with free weights.
Top tip: Once you’ve had your induction, fixed resistance machines are easy to use, making them great for beginners and a good confidence builder.
Pulley cable machines
Pulley cable machines are for strength training and use weights attached to a pulley system. Some will have a single pulley system, while bigger machines will have several. You’ll usually find a variety of attachments available for the machines, with lots of different exercise options to work the legs, arms, shoulders or back (your gym instructor will be able to give you some ideas).
Top tip: These machines offer less guided movement than fixed resistance machines but more than free weights, making them a good stepping stone between the two.
TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise. It involves the use of straps (attached to a machine or the wall) to perform body-weight exercises which work the upper body, lower body and core. Using body weight and gravity as resistance, a TRX workout can help to build our strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, core and joint stability. TRX is perfect for all fitness levels, from beginner to advanced, as there are lots of progressions and modifications for every exercise (your instructor will be able to suggest exercises to suit you).
Top tip: Try to keep equal tension in the left and right straps – and take your time, as TRX can take a bit of getting used to.
There are several types of free weights available to use in a strength-training workout, including dumb-bells, kettlebells, barbells and plates that you add to a bar yourself. You might see people using benches to get into a variety of positions while exercising with free weights.
You can use free weights to add resistance to a variety of different exercises, such as squats or shoulder presses. They offer more muscle activation than other types of equipment, and require total body control for most exercises. They also allow us to train multiple muscle groups at once (combining a squat with a shoulder press, for example), for a more effective workout.
Top tip: This area of the gym can feel quite intimidating to beginners. Having a one-to-one personal training session is a great idea to help build confidence and ensure that you’re performing the exercises safely and correctly.
The mat areas of a gym are fantastic multi-purpose zones which can be used for doing ab exercises (such as sit-ups, crunches and planks), body-weight exercises on the floor (such as leg lifts or push-ups) and those all-important warm-up and cool-down stretches.
Stretching is basically any movement that lengthens your muscles. There are many benefits of stretching, including improved flexibility and range of motion. Dynamic stretches involve active controlled movements performed through a larger range of motion (for example, a leg swing or full arm circles) – typically these will be performed before you exercise as part of your warm-up. Static stretches involve moving into an end range of motion and then holding that position – these are usually performed after exercise as part of your cool down. Ask your instructor to show you examples of both types of stretches.
Top tip: Your warm-up and cool down should each last for three to five minutes. As well as dynamic stretches, you could choose a warm-up exercise that’s similar to a main activity but at a lower intensity. For example, setting the treadmill to a slower pace or performing several light repetitions of a strength-training move.
MORE FOR MEMBERS: Our Body Magic programme supports Slimming World members to get active, whatever your level of fitness, and includes:
motivation and activity ideas in your Slimming World group
an essential Body Magic guide in the new-member pack
support to work towards Body Magic awards
the ability to track your activity in the online planner
fitness features and videos on the exclusive member website
*If you’re planning to start a new exercise programme, we recommend you check with your GP first – especially if you have an existing health condition, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma. If you’re pregnant, check the suitability of the exercise with your midwife.