If you’re getting into that back-to-school mentality, it could mean it’s time to be thinking about getting back in the zone with your fitness training, too.
January might be the traditional month for resolutions and health commitments, but September brings with it a new season, the end of summer indulgence and the start of child-free days.
While the pandemic might have skewed figures slightly, historically most gyms and fitness studios say that September is the busiest month after January for new member sign-ups and usage.
‘September is a popular time to get back to the club, second only to January,’ says Andrea Dearden, marketing director of David Lloyd Clubs, which has 88 clubs in England.
‘It is typically a time when families in particular set new routines for the rest of the year. It’s the end of school holidays, which drives people to adopt healthier habits for themselves and their children.’
United Fitness Brands (which incorporates KOBOX, Boom Cycle and Barrecore) says it sees around a 30% increase in class capacities from the end of August to the end of September and Gympass, which has a global network of over 32 million users checking in to facilities on a daily basis, says its data shows that September and October are twice as popular as July and August.
Anytime Fitness, which has more than 175 clubs across the UK and Ireland, says the number of visitors to their ‘find a gym’ page in 2019 reached 1,085,075 in January, which is closely followed by 859,668 in September as the next most popular month.
So, if you’re feeling driven, we’ve called on the experts to offer up some tips on returning to the gym.
Write down your plan of action
‘Did you know you’re 42% more likely to achieve something if it is written down?’ says Jack Claxton, Personal Trainer from David Lloyd Clubs.
‘Start by scheduling set days to go to the gym or a class. A plan can consist of what you’re going to do or just the days that you’re going to go, either way it will be a massive help to getting you started.
‘Set a goal and hold yourself accountable. It could be as simple as attending the gym every Monday or trying a class you’ve not done before. Think outside the box and add yourself in some challenges as you get more confident.’
‘Whether it’s treating yourself to a post-workout smoothie, or allowing yourself a night out with friends, make space to celebrate your accomplishments,’ says Cate Donovan, Director of International Partnerships at ClassPass.
‘Your fitness goal does not have to be finishing a marathon. It can be a little victory, like levelling up to a 10kg weight or attending four fitness classes in one week.
‘By celebrating small wins, you will feel more engaged in the work you just did and will be able to look back on a tough workout with a feeling of pride and accomplishment.’
Little and often
‘It’s not possible for everyone to schedule in a daily trip to the gym or do a run/class, especially when you’ve got work, a family and other commitments,’ says Pip Black, co-founder of FRAME.
‘However, research by Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis at the University of Sydney shows that shorter, regular workouts still have many measurable health benefits like reducing diabetes risk.
‘The same study proved that even a brief 20-second stair-climb can lead to measurable improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness.
‘A similar British study also showed many reasons for striving for daily or nearly daily physical activity, including lower risk of musculoskeletal injury. Rather than choosing to do nothing next time you can’t get to the gym, try a quick 10-minute HIIT blast or ab workout online.’
Use visualisation techniques
‘Mindfulness is an often underrated aspect of achieving your health and fitness goals,’ says Vanessa Gebhardt, Mind Coach and Training Specialist at Freeletics.
‘But it can be incredibly helpful to ensure you achieve a successful week of workouts and get you back into the fitness zone.
‘Research suggests that high-intensity exercise that incorporates a form of mindfulness can have positive effects on boosting your mood and can improve your enjoyment of the workout.
‘If you are new to this type of workout then there is a risk of ‘zoning out’. During a workout you need to allow your brain and muscles to work together and create a cohesive movement and it is an important part of feeling stronger, fitter and healthier.
‘For example, visualising an exercise (i.e., creating a mental image of the physical exercise before you attempt it, including imagining what the movement will feel like in your muscles and your mind) can actually result in increased performance success.’
Make goals positive
‘Make any goal positively oriented,’ says Mintra Tilly, HYROX Master Trainer.
‘Your brain doesn’t distinguish between the real and the conceptual. Negative goals bring focus to negativity and most tips, advice or goals are restrictive and focused on not doing something, which is much harder to stick to.
‘Instead, start by having positive, healthy habits included in your daily routine and goals that have a positive orientation.
‘By doing so, you are focused on the possibility of success rather than failure. Try turning, “I’m not going to eat any chocolate” into, “I’m going to eat more fruit and vegetables.”
‘The power of utilising the mind to focus on positives transfers over into other areas apart from fitness, creating these small incremental mindset shifts that can have a profound impact on life.’