Workout Tips

Take the Guesswork Out of Beating Gym Crowds

Strategize your workout times to maximize your training efforts.

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Take the Guesswork Out of Beating Gym Crowds

More than 40% of Americans want to lose weight this year, according to a recent Gallup poll. And as they've hit the gym over the past few months, they've likely run into some of the same challenges that people do every year after making a New Year's resolution to get fit.

Few things are more discouraging, of course, than massive crowds at gyms and fitness classes caused by like-minded aspiring weight losers working to cram a year's worth of fitness into the first few months of the New Year. What's more deflating, when you're trying to get back into a workout routine, than having to wait 15 minutes or longer to hop on an elliptical trainer or treadmill, after having finally made it back to the gym? Fitbit studied a large group of anonymous and aggregated user data to find out when users were most commonly logging trips to the gym in order to take some of the guesswork out of beating gym crowds.

Not surprisingly, going to the gym right after work is a good way to ensure waiting for a treadmill. The best time to sneak into the gym and dodge the crowds is from 1-4 p.m. Knowing that not everyone can make it to the gym during the afternoon window, and by analyzing traffic patterns of more than one million Fitbit users, the 7-8 a.m. hour was identified as the second best time to visit the gym.

If you're more likely to visit the gym post-workday, data suggests visiting around 7-8 p.m. after the rush hits, or even later, from 9 p.m. to midnight to avoid crowds, if this works with your personal schedule. Check out some key stats below:

  • 6-7 am: 1.4 times more popular than non-peak hours
  • 9-11 am: 1.8 times more popular than non-peak hours
  • 6-7 pm: 2 times more popular than non-peak hours

Obviously, not everyone has the flexibility in their work (or life) schedules to accommodate these times. The good news is that there are so many non-equipment based workout options out there, like walking!  And really–all you need is your own body weight to get fit. My new book, 5 Pounds, focuses on five simple behaviors (like walking 10,000 steps a day!) that you need to practice to lose those last five pounds, or those first five pounds. And when you're able to get to the gym, you want to make the most out of the time you have. If you end up stuck waiting at the elliptical or the treadmill for a few minutes, here are some great workout wait time hacks for you to try.

shadow box at gym

While you're waiting at a machine (trying not to lose your spot in line), do jumping jacks, jog in place, phantom jump rope or shadow box for great equipment-free cardio moves that are effective warm ups. Short, mini workout sets like these can elevate your heart rate and be a great jump-start before you start on your machine, or can be used as a way to mix up your routine and try new options.

Many machines are often neglected at the gym so there are great new options to check out – I tell my clients to try the Helix Lateral trainer and the Cybex Arc Trainer. The Helix is very efficient and emphasizes a side to side movement, with a focus on the gluteus and hip muscles. The ArcTrainer is the best of an elliptical, ski machine and stepper all in one. The Helix Lateral trainer and Cybex Arc Trainer can still rev up your heart rate, and are often a welcome change from the monotony of the treadmill or elliptical.

Whether you visit the gym or are able to get in a quick sweat at home, nothing beats walking. I wear my Fitbit Charge HR all day and make sure I move when I can, so when I get to the gym, I don't necessarily need to strap myself to the elliptical or treadmill for long (or not at all). It's good to aim for 10,000 steps per day, and little changes make a big difference in order to get to that goal – you can get extra steps in by climbing one extra flight of stairs per day or parking a little bit further from the grocery store. The great thing about getting to 10,000 steps a day is that they count no matter where you take them.

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