Time to hit the gym

As the spring semester rolls around, Mason students are starting to hit the gym with new fitness goals and dreams of achieving toned bodies before spring break. Unfortunately, students may stray from the gym in fear or make common mistakes that do not benefit their bodies. Before hitting the gym, make sure you know the best ways to prepare and make the most of your time there.

Bashir Hooper is a personal trainer at Mason. He gave us some insight into the best and worst habits when training.

  1. Do not take on too much.

“The biggest mistakes I see people making is that they try to take on too much at once,” Hooper said. “They try to juggle way too much. From full time school, a job, internships, relationships, and social life … they think they can workout a maximum effort every time they step into the gym. These misconceptions lead them to eventual disappointment in themselves and relapse in most cases.”

To avoid this issue, Hooper recommends slowing down sometimes: “It is important for people to remember that it is okay to occasionally miss a workout or have a ‘so-so’ training day. Learning to accept this it important with sticking to a program long term,” he said.

  1. Dynamic stretching is key.

Dynamic stretching, which is basically a full-body stretch, “is hugely important prior to exercise for all who exercise,” according to Hooper. “It allows for the muscles and tissues within the body to be properly prepared and it prepares you focus for your workout,” Hooper said.

Unfortunately, Hooper sees many Mason students skipping this step: “[Stretching] is neglected and not utilized at all or not nearly enough. I strongly recommend 10-15 minutes of a dynamic warm up prior to any form of exercise.”

  1. Plan your lifting routine based on your goals.

According to Hooper, “Weightlifting is key to a well-rounded exercise routine,” but gym-goers should keep in mind that “the frequency in which you lift weights and what type of training style you choose will be the determining factors of your results.”

“For most individuals generally speaking it is recommended that you should do some sort of weight training at least 2-3 times a week,” Hooper added. “This can help maintain and increase muscle tone and size in most individuals when it is maintained over a length of time. However, if you want to put on lots of size a frequency of 3-5 days a week is recommended with a more rigorous training style.”

  1. Carbohydrates are your friend.

Hooper reminds all Mason students to fuel up before hitting the gym:

“The best pre-workout meal is something that has a good wholesome carbohydrate and protein source with no excess fats or high artificial sugars. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy and are the quickest to be utilized. And if you add a bit of protein in it as well, it can aid with muscle recovery,” Hooper said, recommending students try “fruit yogurt, granola bar, graham crackers, trail mix, nuts of any kind, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, turkey sandwich, bagels, fruits bars and fruits of any kind.”

Hooper explained that “these [foods] are especially great because they are really inexpensive and tasty.” He also had some insight into timing your snacks: “As far as the length of time before working out, it is best to eat at the latest 30 minutes prior to your session. That is the minimum recommended time to allow for you stomach to settle,” he said.

  1. Just go.

Hooper has one last piece of advice for students: “One thing I would like to say to everyone working out right now, whether it be for the first time ever or people trying to get back into it, is that you just have to start. Action causes reaction and your actions do not have to be perfect. What’s important is that you actively pursue you goals, learn from your mistakes, try new workouts and techniques and do not be afraid to seek help when you need it. That is what I and the rest of the personal trainer staff are here to do. Help you.”

If you’re still stressed about hitting the gym, take advantage of the personal training program at Mason. As a student, you can pay just $20 for a consultation and fitness assessment.

You also have access to three 30-minute sessions for only $45. According to Mason Recreation’s Personal Training page, these sessions “allow you to squeeze in a quick 30-minute workout with one of our certified personal trainers” and receive a free fitness consultation.

If you want help designing a quality workout for yourself, pay $65 for trainers to design a workout specifically for you. Known as Design Me a Workout, this program takes place over three sessions. During your first meeting, you’ll discuss fitness goals and complete a body composition assessment. The second session allows you and your trainer to design a program just for you. Last, you’ll finish your program with your trainer and learn how to properly complete each exercise.

Just remember: everyone has to start somewhere. Don’t compare your starting point to the current fitness of people who have been religiously attending gym sessions for months.