How to get started in the gym

Friday September 15, 2017
Guy on a bike ion the fitness centre.

As a student of the University of Ottawa, your gym membership is payed through the ancillary fees of your tuition. This means you get access to both our Montpetit and Sports Complex gym facilities when you register for a semester of school. If you are registered part-time or full-time for both the fall and winter semesters of school, you will have access to both the facilities. If you take a semester off, or are a Coop student, you will not have access to the gym facilities and will be required to either purchase a day pass or a membership in order to be able to use the facilities.

If you haven’t used our facilities before or even if you are a regular in our gyms, here are a couple basics to get you started!

#1. Be sure to fuel yourself before your workout.

Timing is everything when it comes to eating and working out. If you're too full you get cramps, and if you're too hungry you can't work your hardest. Keep pre-workout snacks, eaten 30 to 90 minutes prior to exercise. Remember to drink lots of water pre, during and post-workout to remain hydrated. After your workout, try to get a meal complete with protein and carbs to build your muscles and maintain your energy levels.

#2. Stash away your stuff while you’re working out.

No bags are allowed out on the gym floor other than small drawstring bags for personal gym equipment. Each change room has two styles of lockers: 50 cent one-time use or one where you may bring your own lock. If you have forgotten yours for the day visit the blue-shirted Fitness Attendant at the desk for a lock that you can rent for a small fee or a lock box that you can stash your wallet or smaller sized valuables, free of charge. Be sure that if you are using a locker, that you are locking your stuff as it is best to prevent and protect your valuables.

#3. Respect the cardio machine time limits

No one likes a monopolizer. Cardio machines follow a sign up schedule. You may sign up a cardio machine with your initials for two 15-minute sessions at a time. If 30 minutes just isn't enough time for your workout, mix it up with a couple machines by booking one for 30 minutes and another for the following 30 minutes. Try some weighted exercises, or ask for a skipping rope in the mean time.  If you find somebody is on your machine when you time comes, ask him or her nicely to honor the machine time limits feel free to approach a blue-shirted Fitness Attendant for a hand.

#4. Breathing is key

While strength training, generally you want to breathe out on the difficult part of the lift or move to help stabilize your body during exertion. Exhale when you are lifting a hand weight to your shoulder during a bicep curl. This helps you engage your core to prevent you from swaying into your heels, which is cheating and could set you up for a lower back injury. Think: "Inhale to prepare." When doing cardio, avoid shallow breaths since they are often an indicator that you are working too hard. Shallow breathing also indicates that you haven't established a suitable breath pattern for your activity. You want to take stronger and deeper breaths when doing cardio, so take the time to find your rhythm.

#5.  Stretch

Consistently feeling tight or cramped after your workouts? Take the time to stretch before and after your workout. Dynamic stretching is the best practice before you start you work out, whereas static stretching is best after your workout. Dynamic stretching is movement based stretching such as leg swings and arm rotations that loosen up the joints and muscles. Static stretching as opposed to dynamic stretching improves flexibility and cools down your body after you exercise.