5 ways to get the most out of your gym session


After leaving my personal training session today, it occurred to me that a lot of people don’t really know what to do once they’re in a gym. They sign up, they’re motivated, and then they figure out how to use the treadmill. And that’s it.

So how do you maximise what the gym has to offer, and make it worth the cost of a membership?

1. Use your freebie

Most gyms have a free personal training session available. Take it. If they don’t, check out the personal training deals. It’s worth every penny.

2. Use the weights

This applies to both sexes, but it’s mostly women who only ever use weights in pump class. It’s ok to be a little fearful of the burly men leaning against machines and grunting like nobody’s business. It’s not ok to let that fear prevent you from weight training.

Here’s one great guide to lifting weights for women (why I like this site? It has a prominent menu button that says ‘F*ck Calories‘).

And here’s an article for those of you who want to know about toning and how to get over the fear of the weights room.


3. Push. Push hard.

Not necessarily the whole time, but at least once or twice during your workout, you should feel like it’s unbearable – whether that be on the treadmill, a weight that you feel you can’t lift again, or unbearably uncomfortable squats.

That feeling that you can’t continue is what’s making you stronger, fitter, and faster.

Astrid wrote a guest post here awhile ago, and she raised an excellent point about not simply turning up, doing an easy session and patting yourself on the back.

Hmmmmm - a bit much

That might be a little too much pushing!

4. Structure is key

You can’t work unless you know what to do. You can’t make a smoked salmon creme brulee with pea and ham bruschetta and a gatorade jus without a recipe.

So how can you work out and just expect that results will happen by magic?

Here a personal trainer can really help, but the internet always has some clues, as do gym junkie friends. Have an idea of what you want to achieve, and make sure you have a program to follow.

For example, I have an intervals program that I use on interval days, and a strength program that targets my glutes, hips and core (such as 3 sets of 15 reps with a dumbell, or 3 sets of 30 squats).

Find a structure that:

1. Suits your level of fitness,

2. Is designed to help you meet your goals, and

3. Will challenge you.

If you can find that balance, you’re on the right track.

5. Ask questions

The gym managers and trainers are usually really social people, and they want to help you! Whatever you’re wondering about or doing, they’ve seen worse. Promise!

Those resources, having people around who know what they’re doing, are all part of the package. Get your money’s worth and get results.

If you don’t know, ask. 

How do you do a somersault?


Can I throw in a 6th?

Think about what you eat. Whether you want to lose weight, perform better, build muscle, or just tone up, finding the right diet is essential.

There you have it – make the gym work for you. Don’t be afraid of the staff or equipment, and don’t let yourself avoid a bit of hard work!


Want More?

Here are more workout tips and tricks to get you started.

Top 10 tips for becoming a (better) long distance runner

What they don’t tell you before training for a marathon

What they don’t tell you before training for a marathon #2

Tips and Tricks for getting through a long run



  1. Cristina says:

    now…. if only I actually made it inside a gym …. I am a workout outdoors kind of gal but relate to the weights. Not sure how comfortable I would feel going into a weight room at a gym. But I guess I would just suck it up and realize the gym is for working out not a hanging out and just do it! Nice post Kate, thanks!

  2. jenna says:

    whew! what a great wealth of info in this post! i love it. i definitely always used to be scared of weights, but then i learned how silly i was! i love to lift now, and it’s made me so much stronger!! thanks so much for sharing all this!! xoxo

    • Kate says:

      I still sometimes get all self-conscious about it! What is it with the weights section? Thanks Jenna, you’re a brilliant supporter. Keep smiling :-D

  3. Hi Kate,

    I already followed your first advice, and I got a free pilates session this Sunday. I hope it’s going to be lots of fun, I don’t want to be disappointed by this very expensive gym.
    Same as Cristina, I am an outdoors kind of person that enjoys hiking, jogging, playing sports, swimming etc. But during the winters I certainly need to go to an indoors gym.
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted Amazon Book Review: Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat SaladsMy Profile

    • Kate says:

      That’s awesome! Pilates is fantastic for you – I hope you enjoy it. Outdoors is so much better, I completely agree. But there’s also something so structured about the gym…maybe I’m just a little bit nuts that way.

      Do you have a sport of choice, or is all sport good sport?

  4. Kierston says:

    Proper form is so important when executing any type of exercise, as is asking questions. If I hadn’t asked any, I’d probably still be trying to figure out the damn elliptical machine ;)
    Kierston recently posted Staycation Update and Another Pre-Competition WIAW!My Profile

    • Kate says:

      Good point! Proper form is essential. I much prefer to have a trainer tell me I’m doing it wrong than to have them give me ‘the look’. That’s what those mirrors are for!

  5. Great informative article that’s great for beginners (or anyone who has been muddling along not quite knowing what to do).

    I’m glad you added point #6 about what you eat. Seriously, probably the most important aspect of it all. Why do 1-5 if you’re going to eat poorly and not get the results that you hope for?

    Gatorade jus? :-p

    PS My post today (talk about great timing) can be useful for someone heading into the gym too!
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted Wednesday Workout: Back to the GymMy Profile

    • Kate says:

      Yep, your post is so useful for us gym bunnies – tough I would suggest it’s a little more advanced (so head on over if you’ve already mastered steps 1-5 ;-) ). I loved it! I;m fascinated by how much the body can do, and I’m trying to soak up as much information as I can as I learn different exercises.

      I originally took out gatorade, and then realised it might look like something reeeeeally fancy instead of just a joke. Maybe I should try it. Deliciously artificial…

  6. Excellent post! I am one of those ones…the one who has a gym membership but doesn’t know what to do when I get there. This is due to me being a runner and always just wanting to run. I go to the gym to use the treadmill when I can’t run outside. But I really want to use my gym for other things. I DID do arm weight stuff today at the gym…after I ran on the treadmill lol!
    Mindy @Road Runner Girl recently posted #Plankaday PR and Support!My Profile

    • Kate says:

      Haha! That’s a good point actually – we runners tend to neglect our upper bodies and go in for the ‘t-rex look’ (muscular legs and little skinny arms). Good on you for going for balance. And I bet those burpees are working your whole body!

  7. RunInBoise says:

    I think using the free trainer session is a good idea. I used mine when I went to a new gym & I got hooked up with an awesome workout, with some moves I still use.
    RunInBoise recently posted Almost Had It Done!My Profile

    • Kate says:

      It’s awesome when you get a great PT too, and they just understand what you want. I still use exercises that I got the very first time I joined the gym. Now I just add to the collection.

  8. Love this post! So many great tips- I was one of the many who stuck to the treadmill for my first X # years in a gym, so glad I can now say I use much more of it!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted My favorite summer salad and celebrating 8 years!My Profile

  9. lizforaday says:

    I have not have a gym membership in a very long time. I agree free is the way to go. I thought that picture of the abs was yours. I can only wish for abs like that. I can dream I guess. :)
    lizforaday recently posted Fan Day Radio #19 – Olympic Spirit, Mileage Milestones, The Taliban Treadmill, Mason Bees, Chilly Pad Gear Bag ReviewMy Profile

    • Kate says:

      Lol! Nope, not mine. I think the Rake might actually break up with me if I started to look like that (well, maybe not, but he might check me into a psychiatrist). I’m not a fitness model or body builder, so I’ll stick with a bit of curve, thanks!

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