It's coming. The warning signs are everywhere, from the subtle increase of inspirational fitness memes being shared on social media, to the not-so-subtle bombardment of "New Year/New You" marketing schemes being promoted by opportunistic health clubs. Listen closely and you'll hear the echo of bold resolutions reverberating throughout the post-Christmas calm.
Every January it's the same story: Marauding armies of ambitious fitness rookies lay siege to gyms across the world. Their enthusiasm is admirable and their ranks should be embraced – however, much like sullen hipsters who freak out when their favourite indie band breaks into the mainstream, it can be difficult for veteran gym-goers to not resent the new year's crowd. You see, lifters are habitual with their training, working out at the same days and times week after week. The mass influx of bodies come Jan. 1 means those who are accustomed to certain routines will now have to make compromises. With a bit of planning and a lot of patience, your training need not suffer. And take heart – in a few weeks, it'll all be over.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need barbells and benches in order to get strong. It's true! You can make a ton of progress with only a couple of implements and a few square feet of floor space. Take a look at the bodies of competitive gymnasts if you need convincing; they're among the most jacked and shredded athletes on the planet, and their training involves very little, if any, weight lifting. Of course, the ability to fire off an iron cross or front lever requires a level of technical expertise few of us possess. But fear not; there are plenty of similarly effective "minimalist" training methods that don't demand years of disciplined practice. Bodyweight training, kettlebells, sandbags and suspension systems are just a few of the options available to those who would rather not spend their gym time waiting in line for the stairclimber.
Become an early bird
Training trends come and go, but there's one thing that will never change: The gym will always be dead in the morning. I know, getting out of your warm, cozy bed at 5 a.m. ain't easy. The thing is, once you're up, once you've shaken out the cobwebs and downed a quick coffee, it actually feels pretty good. The world is quieter in the early hours of the day. It's easier to focus, easier to channel your energy. Training early also ensures you'll never have to bail on the gym because of work or social obligations. You'll probably have to adjust your eating habits a little (pro tip: Performing heavy barbell squats with a belly full of oatmeal is a bad idea). Some athletes take a serving of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) – found in supplements or foods such as eggs or nuts. Along with some fruit, that will be enough to keep you going until your postworkout recovery meal.
Take a break
This one is reserved for intermediate to advanced lifters. Your muscles aren't the only body parts getting worked out in the gym – tendons, ligaments and joints can all take a beating, even if your form is impeccable. If you've been lifting seriously for several years, chances are your body could use some time off. I know this line of advice is antithetical to everything we trainers preach, but trust me. A week away from the iron can do wonders for your physical health, not to mention your psyche. I'm not suggesting you kick back on the couch and gorge yourself on ketchup chips while endlessly streaming old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. Stay active, just switch the focus from building strength and mass to something a little less intense. Take a few yoga classes. Hit the batting cage. Swim. You've spent all that time getting yourself into shape. Now put those muscles to practical use.