Jan 11, 2015Stephen Charles Lincoln

I know it's the start of a brand new year, but what's on my mind is looking back.

I'm remembering the days when gym floors were strictly for weight lifting and studios were strictly for taking classes that were essentially high impact dancing. I am one who can picture cardio done in leg warmers and ripped tees. It was normal to pay per session or by the week.

Strangely, I find myself missing the simple approach health clubs used to offer. Yes, I know all that impact isn't good on one's body long term. For that, I'm glad that fitness facilities have evolved, changing their approach as to how to stay in shape with more sophisticated machines and the emphasis on adding more weight-training and stretching classes. I teach in several of these all-inclusive gyms—ones providing all the latest state-of-the-art equipment and training programs etc for one price. I'm grateful that these perks are what get people in the doors and into classes, specifically mine.

My missing those "simpler times" is because these days I notice that some people are simply showing up. I don't feel their commitment to better themselves. The energy in the room is not the same. What I miss is the passion of those members.

I teach because I love inspiring people to better their bodies. To find their fitness level and do the work. I've taught thousands of classes across the country and watched countless people transform themselves and their mindsets.

I think more focused facilities like Barry's Boot Camp, Soul Cycle or Flywheel are popping up because it's on you to find the class, book the class, pay for the class. That's a person who wants to be in class. Wants to work to their full potential. It creates a positive force in the room. Good energy is essential for good results. I didn't lose 82 pounds by showing up late, ignoring the instructor, rolling my eyes and then leaving.

You need to make the commitment to yourself to stay present and be with others, there to do the same.

So here's my 10-point guide for a better gym life. As obvious as some or all are, they make a difference.

1. Timing
Get to class early. Give yourself a moment to shift into exercise mode from whatever you were doing prior. Showing up anywhere and clearing your mind to really participate is key to a successful session.

2. Smile
Be kind to those sharing your space. If you can't put a smile on your face at least don't wear a scowl. Don't take your day out on the instructor. Leave your problems at the door. If you can't, please don't take class.

2. Organize
Set up your workout equipment the way the instructor tells you to. Organize yourself before thinking you can accomplish anything. Again, be mindful there are people around you sharing your space.

4. Information
Let the instructor know if you have an injury that will affect your taking class, before class begins. Stating it straight away can only make your workout more worthwhile. Let alone safer. There's always another option to an exercise you are not able to perform.

5. Listen
Take the class that's being taught. Not your own. You are there as a participant, listen to the teacher. Our bodies are complicated pieces of equipment, you want to treat them with respect and care.

6. Focus
Turn off your phone. (Unless you're a surgeon or an expectant father.) There's no reason why a phone is within as easy reach as your weights. Focus on your fitness. It's disrespectful, distracting and possibly dangerous to those around you. And then there's you—your workout suffers too.

7. Breathe
Oxygen allows you to think clearly, work more efficiently and connect your mind to what your body is doing. From the most heartbreaking to the most heart-pumping, your breath is the way through it.

8. Pacing
Take calculated breaks if you need them. Putting your hands on your hips does not count as exercise. It just adds a negative energy to the room, which nobody needs. If you need to stop, do so. But keep your head in the class. (Not on your phone.) Regroup and jump back in.

Do your personal best. Whatever level you're at. When you give your all, you feel a sense of accomplishment. And rightfully so. You earned it! I don't care if you do half the reps of someone else. If you're pushing yourself, I will always be your champion.

10. Party
Celebrate your efforts. YOU got to the class, did your best. You kept that promise to yourself. Make a mental note of how that feels, so you "want" to be there next week to do it all again. Thank the instructor. Never forget you are there with others. It is not your private training room.

I propose this 10-point inner work ethic be everyone's goal. Respect yourself and those around you. Be they fellow members, instructors, people you meet throughout the day. Let's do the best we can to improve ourselves. I would sign up for that class, every time.

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