Finding the right place to exercise is important. If you like your environment, you’re more likely to keep exercising. Some enjoy the convenience of an at-home workout, while others like the variety of equipment health clubs can offer.
THE AT-HOME WORKOUT
The advantages of an at-home gym are many: no crowds, no lines, and no membership fees (although you will need to invest in your own equipment).
Another advantage of working out at home is that you can read, watch television, or listen to music while you condition your body. Where’s the best place to put your equipment? Right next to your home entertainment system.
Working out at home can also benefit people who enjoy seasonal sports. If you have a
cross-country skiing machine, for example, you don’t need to rely on snow.
Buy the following for a good general conditioning routine:
- An exercise mat for stretch- es and floor exercise.
- Dumbbells or free weights for building strength.
- Weight cuffs to increase resistance during leg work.
- A jump rope.
YOUR OWN WEIGHT ROOM
The price of a home weight room is comparable to that of a one-year membership at a
good gym. The following is what you’ll need to start.
A 45-pound Olympic bar (this is 7 feet long, 2 inches wide, and sturdy enough to handle any amount of weight) with about 110 pounds of weights. Or buy a good set of barbells, with about the same amount of weights.
- A curling bar (for arm curls).
- A pull-up bar (which can be wedged into doorways for chin-ups).
- A free-weight bench.
- As you build more, you’ll need more weights. These are sold by the pound at sporting-goods stores.
When buying weight lifting equipment, be willing to pay for quality. A poor free-weight bench, for example, could collapse underneath you.
TIPS ON BUYING MACHINES
Buying exercise machines for the home can be pricey; here’s how to get your money’s worth.
Try out equipment before buying to make sure it is comfortable and easy to use.
Check the machine’s construction. Avoid lightweight, flimsy models that may rock or wobble when you use them. Shop at a reputable sporting-goods store with a knowledgeable staff.
Cross-country skiing machine: Some models allow you to move your arms and legs independently; others require synchronized movements. Pick whichever one you are comfortable with it.
The machine should have a base long enough for a smooth stride and adjustable leg and arm resistance. Models that have cords rather than poles may give an especially strenuous upper-body workout.
Exercise Bicycle: Most models work only the lower body, but some have pumping handlebars for arm and shoulder work. Some machines can simulate biking uphill.
Look for smooth pedaling motion, a comfortable seat, and handlebars that adjust to your height. Pedal straps will keep your feet from slipping and force your legs to work on the upstroke, too.
Recumbent models let you sit back in a chairlike seat with your feet in front of you. This puts less strain on the back, neck, and shoulders.
Bicycle Trainer: Cheaper than an exercise bike, this stand lets you convert your regular bike for indoor use. The rear wheel usually rests In a roller.
Treadmill: Sometreadrnills nave adjustable inclines to simulate hills and make workouts more challenging. Some can be programmed for preset workouts. Monitors on the front of most machines display calories burned, miles covered, and speed.
Choose a treadmill that has a running surface wide and long enough for your stride and that absorbs shock well. You’ll also appreciate having a front or side handrails, which will help you keep your balance.
Rowing Machine: Some rowing machines have hydraulic pistons to provide variable resistance; many larger models use a flywheel attached to a bar by a chain. Piston-type models are cheaper and more compact than flywheel models, but flywheels have a smoother action that’s more like real rowing.
CHOOSING A HEALTH CLUB
Ask yourself these questions when looking at a health club: Is it convenient to my home or office? Do I like the ambiance? Do its hours of operation fit my schedule? If the answer to any of these is no, this isn’t the club for you. Here are
some other points to consider:
Most clubs will offer you a trial membership, a period of a few days in which you can get your money back if the club doesn’t suit you. In some states, health clubs are required by law to offer trial periods.
If you aren’t familiar with the machines, you will need help to develop the proper form. Ask if new members get an orientation or free sessions with a trainer.
New members should also receive a health and fitness assessment. This will help the trainer customize a program.
Don’t overlook the other members when judging a gym. Are you comfortable around them? Is the atmosphere relaxed and friendly? If you’re a beginner, you may feel intimidated in a club full of serious bodybuilders.
The club should offer a variety of equipment in good working order. If you only
want to use free weights, however, you should be able to
find a smaller and less expensive gym.
Water fountains should be accessible in exercise areas.
The club’s safety rules should be posted. Club policies, procedures, and safety guidelines should be distributed in writing to members.
Check that the staff instructors are certified by a reputable agency, such as the American College of Sports Medicine or the Aerobics Institute, and are certified in CPR by the Red Cross or the American Heart Association.
Are the exercise areas monitored by staff who can answer questions and otherwise assist members? If the staff is not accessible, you may not get advice when you need it.
Check that the locker rooms are clean, well ventilated, and secure, and provide towels,
shampoo, soap, and hair dryers.
Before joining, visit health clubs during the hours that you will most often work out. This will alert you to any overcrowding problems.