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10 Real Reasons We Go to the Gym

10 Real Reasons We Go to the Gym

Gyms make great people-watching, almost like state fairs. It’s easy to plant yourself on a machine to watch the comings and goings, playing the game of Who’s-Here-to-Actually-Workout. Sometimes it’s obvious there are people who use the gym for purposes almost contrary to the likely expensive membership for which they’ve paid.

But those of us who go to the gym regularly know the true reasons we’ve shelled out big bucks for our memberships:

1. To win stuff

Just like any other business, gyms have to lure in customers for those memberships, as membership-based businesses typically have a high turnover. One of the most frequent and most successful ways to generate more members is to offer prizes. Gyms will often hold raffles for equipment such as mountain bikes or free months of memberships for those who sign up during a certain period. Others will offer discounts for teachers during back-to-school months.

2. Work incentives

Sometimes, work makes us go to the gym. Or at the very least, it provides us with the motivation to do so through health initiatives promoted by human resource departments and wellness committees. Offices aren’t just idea incubators. They can be germ incubators, and the healthier the employees, the healthier the organization. Absenteeism rates are lower for firms with employees who work out regularly and eat healthy diets.

Paying for even a portion of employees’ gym memberships can be a cost-effective way of maintaining a productive workforce. Plus, this does a lot for morale.

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3. To multitask

Some of us go to get in a workout, but also use that opportunity to get other types of work accomplished. I’m finishing my MBA online, so I use the flexibility technology has brought to school to get some homework done while I set on the recumbent bike. I have definitely been known to bring my tablet with me to read an e-textbook.

There are other people who use the gym as a means to get work done as well. I use my tablet for homework, but some might use it to run their business from an elliptical. The coffeeshop isn’t going to work for everyone.

Of course, multitasking at the gym requires that you still have to be respectful of those around you. If you are indeed working remotely, don’t be the one doing so by shouting into your Bluetooth. Your phone belongs in your locker unless it’s acting as your jukebox.

4. To scam dates

We’ve all seen these people. I was the obvious target of one of these guys just the other day. I was on a treadmill in the corner, and there were eight or 10 empty treadmills between me and locker room, from whence he came. Did he pick any of those treadmills? Nope. He picked the one next to me. Did I mind the attention? Of course not, but when I go to the gym, I’m at the gym. Unless I’m also doing homework. And I’m likely wearing headphones.

If you are there to scam dates, make sure you know how to read people, and pick the ones who are there for the same reason. Body language is a great indicator. If I’d subtly taken out my headphones before that guy hopped on the treadmill next to me, that would have been a pretty good clue. Instead, I kept them in to finish my walk, and when I left, so did he.

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5. To socialize (besides scamming dates!)

Some gym rats go for other social aspects of the gym besides scamming dates. Gym classes like Zumba and yoga are great ways to get fit and meet people. Sure, you might have to get your chatting done in between breaths and during water breaks, but a good gym class can open doors to friendships and myriad other opportunities. You might meet your next, greatest business partner on the Pilates apparatus next to you. Or your new best friend.

At the very least, socializing at the gym can lead you to a new workout buddy. Having a workout buddy might make you more successful at the gym, if that is indeed your goal. Workout buddies compel us to keep appointments for those workouts; they also make workout time go by much faster, and if your workouts are intense, that can be quite helpful.

Plus, a little competition never hurt anyone. I don’t work out with anyone, but I do share my Fitbit statistics with a couple of good friends, and we love to see who’s “winning” the week. Because I have a desk job, I’m typically last, but the motivation of catching up to the landscaper does help.

6. Get a break from our families

There are times when you just need a break. The kids are in bed, and it’s time for someone to get some mommy or daddy time. Play a pre-gym game of Rochambeau to see who gets to use the family pass, and head out for some personal time.

7. The perks

Some gyms go above and beyond the call of duty for members. Certain membership levels get certain perks, like access to spray tan rooms and hydro massage beds.

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Free sessions with personal trainers are a good reason to go to the gym. I’ve definitely signed up for gym memberships before simply because those were on offer. Cheaper training packages have drawn me in as well. I was recently injured, but not enough to warrant physical therapy. Working with a trainer definitely drew me back to the gym, and it goes a long way when these sessions are inclusive.

8. Cheaper than buying the equipment yourself

How many gyms today have good, old-fashioned rowing machines? Not very many. The last gym I used certainly didn’t, so I looked into buying one for myself.

Given the fact that most pieces of gym equipment, whether they are made for the fitness industry or the home gym, are more than $200, the combination of swag I can get through the gym makes the gym cheaper in the long run. Why buy a rowing machine for my house when I can go to the gym and use many more machines and a swimming pool?

9. New clothes!

When I started going to the gym again regularly, it wasn’t just to go to the gym. It was so I could walk into any clothing store I wanted, pull any piece of clothing from the rack, and be able to wear it. Is that a superficial reason to go to the gym? Certainly. However, one could argue that going to the gym to work out is just as superficial.

Self-esteem is a good thing, and one way of boosting self-esteem is by buying yourself something new. Boosting self-esteem involves doing activities like practicing self-care, and going to the gym is a great way to do so. Even buying a new outfit, one you’d never have fit into before going to the gym regularly, is a form of self-care.

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10. To actually get healthy

Of course, when you cull from all of the previous nine, you’re likely to get to this reason for going to the gym: to actually get healthy. When I was in high school, I lifted weight every day. Then I let myself go.

Thanks to poor choices, I was headed straight for Type 2 Diabetes, one of the most devastating chronic illnesses in the United States. The gym has been my salvation, in more ways than one. It has even led me out of the gym and into the hills for hiking. But I’ll always come back to the gym because of what’s it done for me.

Featured photo credit: Jusben via mrg.bz

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H. E. James

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Published on August 16, 2019

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

When you choose the right exercises, and make strength training a priority, it will have a great payoff to improve your running. Studies have shown incorporating a strength training program to your running routine improves running economy.[1]

Here are 15 strength training exercises specifically for runners.

1. Planks

The plank is a very important core exercise that will help give you more control and balance while running. Having a strong core will also keep you more stable and in control if you have to navigate uneven surfaces.

The plank is a simple exercise and involved balancing on your forearms and the tips of your toes, so that your back is “straight as a plank”. You want to focus on keeping your abs tight and imagine sucking your belly button up into your spine to have them properly engaged.

Aim for 30 to 45 seconds for a few rounds. Ultimately, you want to hold them as long as you can with proper form – so every time you perform a plank you want to go a little longer than previous ones.

2. Side Planks

The same concept is applied but you are now engaging your core in a different manner and engaging your oblique muscles too. This time, you are going to lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.

You will lean on your right forearm and lift your hips off the ground keeping your head lined up with your torso and ankles. Keep your other hand on your hip to help ,and control balance, and focus on not moving or swaying. Keep your abs tight to engage them and hold for 30-45 seconds, or longer if you can.

3. Clamshells

For this exercise, you are going to need a simple resistance band. Start with the band wrapped around both legs just below the knee. Your starting position will be on the ground lying on your side with your top hip and shoulder pointing towards the ceiling. Your hips will be on the ground, keep your back straight and your feet together, and lift up with your top knee as far as you can with the resistance.

Pause for a second at the top and lower back down under control. You can do 10 reps on this side before switching over and doing another 10 reps and aim for 2 to 3 sets.

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Clamshells are going to help strengthen your abductor muscles giving you stronger hips and more stability while running.

4. Single-Leg Bridge

You will start lying on your back with your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart with knees bent. You will straighten out one leg so it’s out in front of you in the air and lift your body up by pushing with the leg on the ground.

You want to flex your abs and glutes while pushing upward and try to keep your hips level throughout the motion before returning to the ground. You can also hold your body in the upright position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the ground to get more engagement before switching over to the other leg.

The single-leg bridge will help strengthen your glutes which are crucial for running power and stride strength.

5. Standing Calf Raises

This is a simple exercise but one that is very important for strengthening the calves. The stronger they are, the less fatigue you will experience during running. You will need to find an elevated step or platform for this exercise.

Stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge. Find something stable to hold on to for balance and start by lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Then, stand upwards like you are trying to see over a fence. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

6. Arch Lifting

You will start out standing with your feet directly under your hips, and this is best done without shoes. You will rotate the arch of your foot upward while keeping your toes and heels in contact with the ground.

Don’t let your toes tighten and you want to hold for a few seconds at the top before returning to the ground. You can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions and this is going to help strengthen the arches of your feet.

The stronger your arches are the better it is to keep your running stride strong and prevent less fatigue in the feet.

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7. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

Strong hips are paramount for running and the hip flexors can easily become strained and overused. This exercise will help to strengthen them and provide more power and stability while running. You will start kneeling with one foot forward and the other knee bent underneath the hip.

Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before switching over to the other leg.

8. Alternating Lunges

These are going to develop power and strength in your quads and glutes to help give you a more powerful stride. You will start standing with your hands on your hips looking straight out in front of you.

Step forward with your right leg and lower down just before your opposite knee touches the ground. Then, push through your heel to return to the standing position before performing the lunge with your left leg. Alternate between the right and left leg so that each one has done 10 reps and you can perform 3 sets of this.

9. Jump Squats

These can be done just with your bodyweight and help to develop explosive power in the lower body. The jump squat is handy for when you have to run hills and need more power for harder stretches of your run.

The best way is to start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will drive through the heels of your feet and explode upwards. As your bodyweight brings you back to the ground, control your weight as you go back into the squat position to fully engage the muscles.

Make sure not to let your knees move inwards and keep your abs tight, your head up, and your chest out. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

10. Skater Hops

This will help to build leg and core strength, along with improving balance. You will start standing upright but then bending the knees slight like you’re about to sit down. You will then drive off your right foot, jumping a few feet out to the left.

You will land on your left foot while your right foot swings behind your left leg. Then, drive off the left foot using the momentum of your right foot swinging back to land back on it. You will keep doing these side hops for ten times each leg and the motion should look like a speed skater shifting side to side.

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11. Bulgarian Split Squat

This will be similar to the lunges but, will really ramp up the resistance for the quads and is a great strength training exercise for runners. You are going to need an elevated surface or bench to stand in front of. The starting position will be standing upright with your head up and hands on your hips.

Start with your right foot behind you supported by the bench. You will start by lowering your hips to drops your left leg down to around a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your right knee hits the ground.

Next, push up through the heel until you are back at the starting position and perform ten reps, under control, before you switch over to the right leg. Perform 3 sets of this.

To make this even tougher, you can hold dumbbells in your hands hanging at your sides.

12. Arabesque

These will help in activating and controlling your hips. You will start off by standing on one leg, hands on your hips, and making sure your hips are level and balanced. You can then put your arms out to the side to give you more balance.

Start by tipping your torso forward as your non-weight-bearing leg extends out behind you. You can slightly bend your knee to help with control and you want to have your back and extended leg as level as possible. You should end up basically parallel to the floor with your shoulder, hip, and ankle should be in a straight line.

When you’ve gone as far forward as you can, return to the starting position and perform 8 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

Perform 2 to 3 sets. These are all about quality over quantity so if you can only do 4 or 5, that’s fine.

13. Hip Bridge

This is another great exercise to target the glutes which are the source of your running power. Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and then lift your hips up towards the ceiling.

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Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down under control. Perform this 12 times and then, you can do 3 sets. If these get easier, you can hold a weight across your stomach for more resistance.

14. Push-Ups

A classic exercise, and for good reason. As much as you want to focus your strength training on the lower body, you can’t neglect your upper body. Your arms are helping drive and propel you while running and a strong upper body helps with your overall balance and stability.

You can start laying facedown on the ground with your palms facing downwards and elbows tucked into your sides. Focus on pushing through the heel of your palms upward, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Lower back down under control and stop just before your chest touches the ground.

Focus on keeping the elbows tucked into your side and avoid having them flail outwards. You can perform 10 reps for 3 sets of these.

15. Squat to Overhead Press

This is a full-body motion that works a majority of muscles, builds power, explosiveness, and coordination. You will need two dumbbells and you will start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, with the dumbbells, held up by your shoulders – palms facing forward.

Send your hips back and lower down into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead and return them to the starting position. Go for 10 reps and three sets.

The Bottom Line

As much as you’d like to, you can’t be running all the time. It can lead to overuse, injuries and burnout. The perfect way to offset this is with strength training, making sure you perform your training with proper form and technique, avoiding mistakes which can lead to injury.

There are many other strength exercises such as the deadlift, which works the back and leg muscles which are vital for running economy improvement and injury prevention.[2] These exercises will make you a more efficient and resilient runner allowing you to improve your distances and times.

Even if you’ve been against strength training for runners, you can see now how it’s necessary in order to improve your overall running ability and performance.

Featured photo credit: Stage 7 Photography via unsplash.com

Reference

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