How to achieve more in the gym – and hit your fitness goals

It’s often said that just getting yourself to the gym is half the battle – and that does feel true.

Setting the intention, waking up early, putting your kit on. All that effort counts for something.

But if you feel like you’re not getting the most out of your gym sessions, you might need to shake things up.

We all know what it feels like to have a ‘meh’ workout. Maybe we spend more time scrolling Instagram between sets than actually lifting weights, or we don’t have much of a plan, so we wander aimlessly between the machines.

This approach is not only a bit of a waste of time, it can also be really demoralising. If you don’t feel great after a workout, or you’re not seeing results – what’s the incentive?

Thankfully, the experts at PureGym have shared their secrets for getting the most out of every gym session.

Beth Trueman, a PT and fitness expert at PureGym Leeds, explains how you can achieve more, get better results and feel more fulfilled when you go to the gym:

Be realistic

If you’re brand new to the gym, or returning after a long break, Beth suggests that you should aim small to begin with.

‘It’s great to start your fitness journey with a focus and goal for what you want to achieve long-term,’ says Beth. But it’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.

‘Break your long-term goal down into smaller chunks ahead of your first session in the gym. Some great first day goals are learning how to use a couple of pieces of kit, spending 15 mins on a treadmill or trying a free workout on an app.

‘Small wins add up to big change – you’ve got this.’

Be prepared

‘You’ll be able to enjoy your visit to the gym if you’ve got everything you need before you go and it’ll help to put you at ease,’ says Beth.

‘A few things that are useful to have with your first visit are a water bottle, a towel, and a padlock, alongside the obvious necessities of your gym kit itself.

‘However, it is possible to purchase these in gym if you forget and the team will be able to help you if you need it.’

Have fun

Working out can be challenging at times, and it is meant to be – but never forget that it is also supposed to be fun.  

‘Only do what you will enjoy on your first visit,’ says Beth. ‘This will set you up for success and you’ll be more likely to go again.  

‘Lots of people find going with a friend or partner is great and can help overcome the natural nerves we all experience.’

Know your ‘big why’ objectives

As you get into the swing of your gym routine, the focus needs to shift to consistency and progression.

‘One of the most important steps for beginners is to understand what your fitness objectives are and ultimately, why it is you want to build your fitness.

‘Do you want to get stronger? Lose weight? Tone up? Is your new fitness journey part of a larger self-care lifestyle change? Or are you simply wanting to take better care of your body?’ 

Whatever your reasons, Beth says that knowing and understanding your motive for building up your fitness levels is a fantastic way to stay focused.

‘So, even if a workout feels tough or you’re not in the mood for exercising, you can remind yourself of just why it is you’re making these changes,’ she adds.

‘Your “big why” is your key motivator and your purpose for exercising, keeping you inspired as you get stronger, fitter and as you build your confidence. 

‘Once you know this, you can move onto the next step.’

Set fitness goals

Now you know why it is you want to work on your fitness, the next step is to think about how you’re going to achieve this.

‘If you want to get stronger, then you could consider resistance or weight training,’ says Beth.

‘If you want to be able to move further and faster, then you can work on your speed, cardio endurance and power.

‘If your muscles feel tight, then mobility and flexibility movements and taking adequate rest can help you.

‘You can then set your fitness goals. We always recommend setting small, simple goals to start with. If you’re a total beginner then you could find one of the following helpful:

  • 15 minutes of yoga every day: this is a great place to start as you’ll begin to loosen up any tightness in your body and start building mobility and strength.
  • Learn to plank for 60 seconds: there are many different plank variations you can try, and by practising every day, you’ll be able to increase your time and build up your core and upper body strength. Perhaps see if you can get to a 60 second plank over the course of a month.
  • Couch to 5K: gently improve your running ability week-by-week with a 5K plan. 
  • Commit to three gym sessions a week: head to the gym for at least 30 minutes, three times a week and you’ll start to feel a difference in no time. Try these 10 minute mini workouts) that you can combine, or perhaps consider signing up to a fitness class for extra motivation.

Create a fitness plan

‘So you know what you want to achieve, and how you’re going to achieve it – but before you start your first workout, I recommend setting your goals and intentions down in a plan,’ says Beth.

‘Whether this is an online plan, spreadsheet, notes on your phone, scribbles on a calendar or a printed out sheet, having something you can refer to each week is one of the best ways to keep challenging yourself and ensure you’re hitting those goals.

‘If you don’t plan, you’re less likely to meet your goals, as it’s easier to stray from your good intentions.

‘It’s also a good idea to track your progress so you can see where you’ve come from and, while you might not see immediate changes, logging your activity is positive reinforcement that will show you just how far you’ve come.’

Form consistent habits

You will have heard this time and time again, but consistency really is key if you’re serious about getting fit.

‘Intermittent exercise or unorganised workout routines will make it difficult to track progress,’ says Beth. ‘And if you can’t track your progress, you’ll be less likely to see genuine improvements and long lasting change.

‘Staying consistent will also help turn your weekly exercise routines into habits, which in turn makes fitness a positive lifestyle change for good.

‘Make it easier to be consistent with these hacks:

  • Be honest about your ability (everyone was a beginner once)
  • Pack your gym bag the night before
  • Prep healthy meals in advance
  • Set small daily and weekly goals
  • Buy a calendar or diary specifically for your fitness goals
  • Invest in a good pair of trainers and gym kit’

Do what you enjoy

We all have moments where we start feeling a bit ‘meh’ about our workouts. If this happens, it’s time to switch it up with exercises you enjoy.

‘If you’re not enjoying your exercise sessions then you’re less likely to be consistent, so try new things until you find something you enjoy,’ says Beth.

‘Hate running? Maybe try a spin class instead. Find weight lifting boring? Bodyweight exercises can be a great strength-building alternative. Struggle with motivation? Book a personal trainer session to stay driven.

‘There are so many different ways you can stay fit, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one.

‘Mixing it up with a variety of different approaches throughout the week has a wide range of health benefits (as you’ll be challenging your body in different ways), but it also helps to keep your workouts fresh and exciting.’

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