The gym can take some effort - some you need to make every minute count. How can you get the most from the machines and keep yourself motivated - and perhaps even enjoy yourself?
Enjoy yourself at the gym. Photo: Corbis
If you're going back to the gym after a break or have issues with pain or injuries, talk to your GP before you head into the gym. If you get the go ahead to work out, ask the personal trainers at the gym to recommend exercises which will help you build up strength without aggravating your body or leaving you exhausted.
Choose your moment
Arrive after work or in your lunch hour and you're guaranteed to find the gym packed with people sweating it out. Keep ahead of the crowds by exercising early in the morning or, if you have a flexible lunch break, going at 11am or after 2pm. If you can't help going at peak times, try joining a class so that you don't have to fight over gym equipment or stand around waiting for the treadmill.
Take a drink
We're not suggesting a gin and tonic to enhance your workout - instead avoid paying for an expensive isotonic sports drink from the gym's vending machine by making your own. Mix an inch of fruit squash with a pinch of salt and then fill a litre bottle up with water for the same effect at a fraction of the price.
Sort your snacks
An hour before you hit the gym, have a light snack such as a banana or a couple of rice cakes with tahini spread. If you work out with an empty stomach you may feel light-headed during your workout or just not have enough energy to push yourself. When you've finished exercising, have a tuna sandwich or a protein shake to help build muscle.
Change your routine
If you always climb on the elliptical trainer and listen to Madonna, try getting on the rowing machine and blasting out Eminem. If weights are your thing, take a spin class once in a while. Your body gets used to repetitive exercise and you'll challenge it by mixing up your usual routine. You'll also get the chance to try out something new which might transform your gym experience.
Head into the gym with a plan. If it helps, write it down in advance. Note down the time you want to spend on each machine or which body part you want to concentrate on. Have a goal for the week, such as trying a new class or doing 30 sit ups on each visit, to make sure you challenge yourself from the moment you walk in.
Don't scuttle through the door with a frown. Give the receptionist a smile, be courteous to the people around you and think of all the good work you're doing. If you see the gym as a pleasant place you'll be far more likely to visit it on a regular basis.
What are your tips for getting the most out of the gym?