Whether you’re just getting back in shape or you’ve been working out for the past year, the dreaded January crowded gym is enough to make anyone turn back on a resolution.

At The Athlete & the Mathlete, we believe in setting yourself up for success by eliminating as many obstacles as possible. Unfortunately, trying to find your best gym schedule can be a barrier in itself.

What’s worse? Trying to follow a new gym plan that might include workout methods that you’re not used to all while fighting for some space.

Buuuuuuut, we don’t think that’s a good reason to give up. Instead, we’ve put together our very best tips for navigating a crowded gym so that you can reach your goals anyway!

Find the best gym schedule for your fitness program

We’re letting you in on a little secret here: You don’t have to do your workout the same way everyone else does. In fact, as you plan your weekly gym calendar (a task that we highly recommend) keep yourself in-the-know when it comes to what everyone else is doing.

Call us crazy, but it sure seems like a lot of fitness plans start with chest workouts. What does that mean for you? It means that finding a free bench on Mondays is going to be a little difficult. But your Mondays can be used for cardio, a leg workout or a body weight workout. Save any workouts that require a bench for later in the week.

Speaking of body weight workouts, it’s almost always easier to find a mat at the gym than it is to find a piece of equipment. Plan your workouts accordingly.

Especially as a beginner, bodyweight workouts can be a great way to ease yourself into strength training. You’ll find that you can build up your strength, lose weight and tone up all by incorporating body weight workouts into your regular fitness schedule.

And finally, we recommend finding a way to avoid peak gym hours altogether. We’ve found that scheduling workouts early in the morning or after 7pm are the best way to avoid the gym crowds (even in early January). If these hours don’t fit into your schedule, try to utilize the weekends.

Many people believe that an effective fitness program has to begin on a Monday. Workout plans that start on Thursday work just as well. Going to the gym on a Thursday-Sunday schedule is great if you can commit to focusing on your goals on your weekends. Then, incorporate in-home workouts into your schedule Monday-Wednesday if necessary.

Related: How to make your Google calendar the ultimate fitness tracker

Study your workout

This crowded gym tip is pretty basic… don’t wait until you get to the gym to read through your workout. Set some time aside the night before to do the following:

  1. Read through the workout… top to bottom
  2. Determine the tools you’ll need (weights – know your size, gym equipment, a mat, etc.)
  3. Try to get a feel for how long the workout will take. That means, try to decide where you’ll need breaks and how long it will take you to transition from exercise to exercise.
  4. Find ways that you can switch up the order of your workout if the equipment you need isn’t available
  5. If you still have questions or concerns, take notes! Then you’ll know exactly what to ask the trainers at your gym before you start.

Related: Our three best 30 minute workouts!

Go in with a backup plan

Sometimes, you’ll find yourself on a time crunch (or you’ll just want to get the heck out of the crowded gym). For times like these, we recommend going to the gym with a backup plan.

Modifications can be used when you’re not able to snag the equipment you need to do your workout. A quick Google search can be used in a jam (but we recommend researching modifications before you get to the gym.) For example, a quick search for ‘lat pulldown substitute’ will tell you that pullups are another option.

But what if you’re not interested in modifications? Then you might need to be prepared to spend some extra downtime between exercises. If you’re OK with that, determine ahead of time what you’ll do in between exercises. We think this is a great time to add in some additional cardio work!

You might not be able to do the workout you were planning… .that’s OK.  You’re there, so make the most of your time. Take a few different plans with you that serve as back ups to make sure you’re getting a great workout in no matter what. In fact, we’ve created a few for you to print out and take with you to the gym for situations like these:

Understand unwritten crowded gym rules

Let’s be honest, the gym can be a little intimidating, and it’s even worse when it’s crowded. But, there a few unwritten gym rules that will help you navigate through the hustle and bustle like a pro.

  1. Clean your gym equipment after you use it. To follow this rule, you just need to know when to clean your stuff. Basically… Any time you’re sweating a lot on a piece of equipment, you’ll want to clean it. That means, wipe down your bench after you use it and anytime you’re on a piece of cardio equipment for a long time, you’ll want to clean it as well. However, don’t feel like you need to wipe down your dumbbells or barbells when you’re done using them.
  2. Put your weights away. Remember the cleanup rule when you were a kid? Put the stuff back where you found it.
  3. No small talk with someone with headphones in. Now, asking someone if a bench or treadmill is being used is no problem, but let’s keep it at that. If someone is using headphones, it means that they want to listen to their music.
  4. Just because you don’t see someone using the equipment, doesn’t mean it’s free. This one is sometimes the hardest unwritten rule to get used to. It’s not uncommon for a gym-goer to use multiple pieces of equipment in what’s called a superset. So, if you see an empty bench or machine, it’s not a bad idea to ask someone around you if the equipment is free.

Don’t freak out!

Our number one crowded gym tip is to take it easy on yourself. Getting to the gym is the first hurdle you’ve jumped. While you’re there, do your best to make the most of it (even if it means changing things up).

Do you have your own tips for surviving a crowded gym? Share them with us in a comment below!

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