How to get the most out of a visit to the gym…
Recently I spent 10 days on holiday in Thailand. It was AMAZING. Such a fascinating, friendly and beautiful country. The temples, the people, the weather, the culture, the scenery, the beaches…all awesome, and the food – wow.
Being such a foodie, and being surrounded by so much amazing choice and freshly cooked street food wherever we went…I was very happy.
On holiday, I do really like to indulge and not feel the need to say no to things. Sampling local cuisine, enjoying the variety on offer at the breakfast buffet and having a pudding are all, for me, a big part of the joys of taking a break and being somewhere new.
I honestly don’t mind if I gain a pound or two, and try to remind my clients (if they come back from holiday in a similar situation) of the fact that it tends to fall off pretty quickly once you get back to normal life. Having said that, it’s always good to try to balance things out to an extent by making the effort to be active. This could be walking around seeing the sights, doing plenty of swimming, playing tennis, going for a run, volleyball on the beach, going to the gym, whatever. Being active and moving around is the most important factor.
To get the most from your time though, I’d always recommend a session in the gym. 30-45 minutes is all you need to get in a highly effective fat burning circuit that will set you up for the day. This is what I did – 3 visits to the gym in total, plus walking and a bit of swimming. Nothing crazy, but it all helps to lessen the impact of the extra calories coming in, and allowed me to feel happier about indulging in them too. (*Side Note* – mango sticky rice. Oh. My. God. Where has this been all my life?)
Anyway, in the hotel gym in Phuket, I saw this poster, which left me a little frustrated.
This was the only poster in the gym giving guidance on what exercises you could do, and it’s based around working shoulders and arms.
There are WAY better exercises to do than these.
If you’re like me, when you make time to go the gym on holiday, you want to get the very most bang for your buck. You’re taking precious time away from the beach / sun lounger / bar to go and sweat in a usually poorly air-conditioned room. Let’s face it, most people’s reason for going to the gym on holiday is to offset some of the extra calories you take in. You want to enjoy yourself without coming back feeling like you’ve gained half a stone.
Bicep curls and tricep kickbacks won’t do a lot to burn off the pizza, ice cream and copious amounts of alcohol, and neither will an hour of plodding away on the cross trainer (though this will help a bit more).
By far the most effective use of your time is to do a circuit of the big weights exercises that use large groups of muscle in your legs, hips, back, chest and core. This way you get double benefit – all your muscles get worked (and will continue to burn calories for hours after the session as they recover), and by following the circuit format with little rest you effectively get a cardio workout too, thereby maximising the calorie burn for the session.
Often hotel gyms don’t have a great deal of useful equipment, but you’re pretty unlucky if you can’t get hold of a bench, a couple of sets of dumbells, and hopefully a pulldown machine. And that’s all you need for this super effective fat-burning circuit.
There’s 6 exercises here that all together will cover your whole body. Done with a challenging enough weight (i.e. something that you can do safely for 8-12 reps but would struggle to do more than that with), this will burn a big chunk of calories, fire up your metabolism, and leave you feeling fitter, toned, and ready for more pina coladas. This was me about to embark on this exact circuit I’m about to give you, in the gym at Dubai airport (where we stopped overnight on the way out).
To be honest, if your goal is to get fitter, tone up and burn body fat, his kind of whole body circuit is great to do in any gym at any time. Challenge yourself by increasing reps and/or weights when you can.
The circuit is structured to work different parts of the body one after another, so you should be able to move quickly onto the next exercise without one group of muscles getting too tired.
However, if you get tired, feel free to rest or change the order to suit you better. Likewise, if the gym is busy and you can’t complete the circuit in the order set, just break it down into a couple of smaller circuits or change the order to suit. The main goal is to complete 3 sets of each exercise (making sure the weight is challenging enough to feel it working), rest just as needed, and then get the hell out of there and carry on with your day.
So, the goal is:
3 sets of each exercise.
8-12 reps per set (stop when you feel you could do a couple more and that’s it). This is 8-12 reps each side on the 1 arm row and 1 arm press.
Warm up first with 3-5 minutes on the rower or cross trainer and do any stretches or mobility drills necessary. Then, begin the circuit, and don’t forget to cool down and stretch at the end.
Here’s the exercises:
Dumbell bench press
Start sitting on the end of the bench with the dumbells upright on your thighs.Then lay yourself back flat on the bench so you end up with the dumbells next to your chest, palms facing forward. Press the weights up over your chest, then lower back down to the start. If you’re new to this exercise your arms will feel a bit wobbly to start with, but keep going and don’t be afraid to use a heavier weight if you think you can. This is a great exercise for toning the shoulders and back of the arms.
Dumbell straight leg deadlift
The goal here is to keep your back straight and stick your bottom right out behind you as you lower the dumbells down to just below your knees. This should cause you to feel a stretch in the back of your thighs (hamstrings), and these are the main muscles we want to work. From that bottom position, keep your back straight and stand up by driving your hips forwards, giving your bum cheeks (glutes) a good clench at the top.
Bench 1 arm row
Kneeling on a bench as in the photo, hang the dumbbell down under your shoulder. Keeping your body still and your core tight, pull the weight up so the end of the dumbbell meets your hip bone. You should feel this one in your arm and the side of your back (think about pulling with your elbow, and squeeze your back at the top). Keep bracing your core as you lift and you should feel that working too.
Cup your hands under the end of the dumbbell and hold it under your chin. From there, drop down into a squat, keeping your chest up and your weight pressed down into your heels. Go as low as you can with good posture, then stand up straight by pushing through the heels again. You’ll feel this one in the front of your thighs (quads), but the aim is to feel it in the back of your legs and bum too, as well as your core. Done with a decent weight this will get your heart rate up! It’s an awesome exercise for burning calories and toning legs and bum.
Standing 1 arm shoulder press
Stand with feet just wider than shoulders and a dumbbell in one hand, up at your shoulder. The temptation here will be to lean to one side as you press the weight overhead, but the aim is to keep still and straight by keeping your core tense throughout. You should feel the side of your stomach working, and also your arm and shoulder muscles. Do as many reps as you can on your weaker arm (if you have one), then switch and match it on the other side.
If the gym doesn’t have one of these you’ll have to skip this one, but most gyms do. Grab the handle with your hands around shoulder width apart (check the weight first) and sit yourself with your knees under the pads, slightly leaning back. From there, pull the bar down to the top of your chest, then return to the start under control. Common mistakes here include hunching over or curling the wrists as you pull down. Aim to keep your chest up, back straight, and squeeze into your back at the bottom of each rep. This one works your back, arms, shoulders and core.
Any questions or anything I can help with?
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