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Fitness Articles  ›  Pitfalls and Plateaus

Beat the Crowds at the Gym

9 Ways to Wait Less and Work Out More

-- By Jason Anderson, Certified Personal Trainer
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“Work in” between sets. If every gym member practiced this exercise etiquette tip, we would all save time and frustration! If you are performing two or three sets on a machine, you need to rest 30-60 seconds in between sets. If someone is waiting on you, offer to let them "work in" with you, which means they exercise while you rest and vice versa. Sometimes people will just sit on the machine while they rest, not getting up or offering to let someone else work in. If that's the case, simply ask, "Can I work in with you?" Usually, he or she will say yes.

Go for the unconventional. The most popular pieces of cardio equipment are treadmills and elliptical trainers. If those are occupied, get on the stationary bike, stair climber, or—my personal favorite—the rowing machine. Many gyms have large, open areas with aerobics steps, jump ropes and other small pieces of equipment that you can use. Don't be afraid to try something new or ask for help using a piece of equipment that might be new to you.

Use the group fitness room. If your gym has a group fitness room that isn't in use, find out if you can use it yourself. Many fitness centers will leave these rooms unlocked, often with access to small weights, resistance bands, jump ropes, and even Spinning bikes. If it's open and there's no class going on, take advantage of this room when the gym is crowded. If your fitness center locks the group fitness room when it's not in use, talk to the staff to work out an alternative.

Take it outside. Treadmills full? Take a walk or run outside. Consider hitting the open sidewalks, city streets, and roads instead of waiting on the treadmill. Warm up on the gym stairs or by taking a few laps around the building instead of waiting on a bike, for example. What parts of your workout can you complete at home or outside before heading to the fitness area? It beats waiting around!

Consider a 24-hour option. Even though I can't imagine working out at 1:00 a.m., some gyms are open 24 hours. For someone who works nights or another non-traditional schedule, that may be the best time to work out. Longer hours allow people to exercise whenever they want. If your gym doesn't open early enough or stay open late enough, talk to the manager. If enough members make the same request, it just might happen!
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • My fitness center is at work and most people work out at lunch time. It is really crowded then compared to other times. - 12/16/2013 11:19:16 AM
  • Great article. Thanks - 9/13/2013 9:13:59 PM
  • I don't agree with the times. for us the morning 5am - 6:30am are the busy and then 5pm - 7pm are the busy time. - 5/7/2013 9:37:05 PM
  • NATEANGLIN
    The easiest way to avoid the franchise gym rush is to just not go to the gym at all. This is exactly what I do. But I make sure I workout with intensity at home. Forget the stress of the gym, your garage can be your best kept secret. I recently wrote an article on this topic.

    http://www.nate
    anglin.com/wa
    rning-cancel-
    your-gym-membership/ - 12/8/2012 8:36:21 PM
  • Oh and the worst time to go to my gym is lunch hour pretty much any day of the week. I did that exactly once. Yuck! - 11/1/2012 11:50:03 AM
  • When I joined my gym, I was given a piece of paper that estimates how many people on average are at the gym each hour they are opened. While I have never seen my gym entirely full, I am very much aware of the peak times and try to avoid them best I can. Tuesdays are the worst nights ever for the gym! My fav gym day is Sunday, which is remarkable bc I normally hate going anywhere on Sundays! :D - 11/1/2012 11:48:09 AM
  • NJ_HOU
    Great Advice. I agree with your times pretty much although for my gym 5:30 - 7 is really very busy. And I know I would have cancelled my membership last December if I had not known that the a 'remote' Univ swimmers group was not going to be there every morning for the next month. Their 'coach' was rude and told me they had the lanes I like reserved for the month but after speaking with the staff I found it was only for the remainder of the next week in January and they had no right to ask me to move for my last 15 minutes at 7:45am since their 'time' started at 8am..... The staff people are a GREAT resource.
    so i just got there a bit earlier and 'shared' a lane for a little while and was out before 8. - 4/24/2010 11:28:01 AM
  • I go to the gym at 9 pm when I want free reign - it's amazing! Usually there's only 2 -3 people in each area (free weights, cardio, circuits, machines, abs) so you rarely have to work around anything. I like going right after work at 5 and getting it over with, but it's so busy I usually have to modify my routine.

    However, this article and the comments just gave me the idea of doing cardio for 10 minutes at a time. I HATE cardio, I get so bored, even intervals don't do it for me. So if I did abs, 10 minutes on the elliptical, shoulders, 10 minutes on the stairs, and then legs, 10 minutes on the treadmill, I bet I wouldn't be as annoyed! - 3/12/2009 11:02:43 AM
  • Ah, if your gym is on a military installation, these times do not apply! The "quiet" time is 8 am - 11 am, BUSY from 11:30 - 1 am, the quiet again until 3:45. PACKED until around 6 pm. Weekends the best time is 10 AM. - 2/21/2009 11:05:36 PM
  • I used to get to my gym by 6 a.m. in the morning. I get my choice of machines, locker, and shower. By the time I leave - close to 8 - a lot of people would start coming in. - 2/21/2009 9:20:45 PM
  • So glad to have new articles to read. Thanks. - 1/30/2009 3:15:14 AM
  • I've found (granted i've only belonged for the past 3 weeks, guess I'm a January gym goer until I make it to Feb huh) that the only busy time that I've been to my local Y was on Sunday. Funny I had been told by a coworker that they love going at that time because NO ONE is there. I usually go around 2 or 3 in the afternoon (late lunch) a couple of days a week and then on Friday evenings so the kids can have fun with family fun night, wasn't crowded AT ALL last Friday...I was shocked! I've also gone on a Saturday afternoon around 1pm and it's been pretty bare. I guess I've gotten lucky, I figured the 11 to 1 timeframe during the day would be packed as well as 5 to 7pm in the evenings. - 1/20/2009 3:55:57 PM
  • DSTOPGAL
    I am guilty of not being flexible with my routine. I used this excuse to quit my gym membership because I was frustrated at gym policies changing to accomodate peak times of business (i.e. I was up to 45 minutes on the elliptical, but limited to 10 minutes during those busy hours). Looking back, I should've done what the article says and mixed up my exercises. So I could've used the machine in 10 minute increments and then worked on other exercises in-between. Although, sometimes I felt like groups of us were racing to get to the machine that opened up--and some weren't so nice about it! - 1/20/2009 3:21:29 PM
  • TREAT76
    Interesting that you've found 8-11 am to be a busy time. I've worked out at many gyms and at many different times, and I've found 6:30-8:30 am to be the busy time in the morning - I used to regularly workout at 10 because of an odd work schedule, and it was always dead. In the evening, the busy period at gyms I've worked out at extends to about 8:30. The gyms I've worked out at are primarily white collar workers, so I would wager that accounts for a good bit of the difference. - 1/20/2009 12:31:31 PM
  • good advice but the reason it's so busy during those times is that they are the best to work out. If I don't go on the way home from work - I wont go so I have to go then. If I don't go first thing in the morning, I wont go. I dont know anyone who can go home from work and then go to the gym 3 hours later in the snow.

    January gym goers are so frustrating for those of us who do it all year round. All of a sudden our workout routines are messed up, you can't find parking, all the classes are full and by mid february all of these people are gone and it's back to normal. - 1/20/2009 10:01:53 AM
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