In the gym, now what?

Readers, can you believe it’s already the third week of January? It’s the time of year when I usually realize that my ambitious New Year’s resolutions have failed epically. But this year, I actually seem to be developing a routine that works.

In 2011, my problem, surprisingly, hasn’t been getting to the gym (thanks to having a work-out buddy who’s also trying to get more active). My problem is knowing what to do once I get there.

Last Monday morning, I met my friend at Hart House at 7:45 a.m. 7:45 a.m.?! I know. It was early. And ambitious. For a warm-up, we went to the upper gym and did a few laps around the track. Then came the moment of panic and embarrassment. We’d made it into the gym. But, we weren’t going to get fitter just by “being in the gym.” We actually had to do something, but what? We were so used to being led through drop-in fitness classes.

We subtly glanced around to check out what other exercisers were doing. A few were on the elliptical trainer listening to their iPods or doing some reading. Others were confidently using the weight machines we were so confused by. Then we saw a few exercisers scattered in corners around the track doing sit-ups and push-ups. We could do that. I also liked the idea of being outside the track, where I’d be more hidden from the more experienced gym-goers.

We noticed the signs for the “Hart House circuit” and figured this must have been what the sit-uppers and push-uppers were doing. A bit nervously, we decided to give it a try. The Hart House Circuit was designed in 1953 by Professor Emeritus Kirk Wipper. It consists of 8 exercises, which you do at stations outside the track. Since neither of us had done the circuit before, we didn’t really know what we were doing. So, we made up our own versions of exercises we didn’t know, like “squat thrusts,” and ones we couldn’t really do, like “dips” and “chin-ups.” But it turned out to be a great workout, and my body felt really sore the next day.


After the workout, I asked fitness staff for information about the circuit and how to do the exercises properly. They gave me a copy of this very useful “circuit training handbook” with explanations and pictures describing how to do each of the 8 stations and modifications you can do to make the exercises harder or easier. This was super helpful, and has a chart where you can track your progress.

Here’s a quick summary of the exercises in the Hart House Circuit. The number of repetitions you do for each exercise depends on what level you  choose: Intro, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum. Information for the levels is written on signs at each station.

run/walk at your own pace

1. Track laps: run/walk at your own pace

do them on your knees, toes, or against the wall

2. Push ups: do them on your knees, toes, or against the wall

Begin standing up. Bend knees, place hands on ground, kick feet backwards, tuck legs in, jump up.

3. Squat thrusts: Begin standing up. Bend knees, place hands on ground, kick feet backwards, tuck legs in, jump up.

choose to walk up/down or run up/down

4. Stair running: choose to walk up/down or run up/down

full sit-up or crunch

5. Sit-Ups: full sit-up or crunch

step up on bench

6. Bench Step: step up on bench

on bar or with feet on ground with hands on bench

7. Dips: on bar or with feet on ground with hands on bench

Use bar, Assisted Nautilus machine or Dynaband *I have a hard time with this one!

8. Chin-Ups: Use bar, Assisted Nautilus machine or Dynaband *I have a hard time with this one!

So, readers, if you are wondering what to do in the gym, I’d recommend picking up a “circuit training handbook” from the reception desk at Hart House. But learn from my mistake and pick it up on the way in, not on the way out!

Also, if you feel like you’re getting off track with your resolutions to get fitter, don’t give up! It’s never too late!!! Finding an activity you enjoy makes it a lot easier to stick to a routine. This week, I registered for a “Mind-Body Flex Pack.” This lets me go to any yoga or Pilates class at the Athletic Centre from now until April 3. Readers, have any of you gone to any yoga classes at the Athletic Centre? Any recommendations? And , if any of you do try out the Hart House Circuit, please let me know how it goes!!

-Shannon

One thought on “In the gym, now what?

  1. Pingback: » Gettin’ Frosh Fitter UpbeaT

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