How to Get the Most Out of Your Crowded Gym This January

PHOTO: Gyms are often busier in January. PlayMark Bowden/Getty Images
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January is a busy time to hit the gym as crowds swell with new members eager to make good on their New Year's resolutions, but that doesn't mean your workout should suffer.

Gyms get a 12 percent membership bump in January, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, a nonprofit gym industry trade group. And, as a result, it may take a little longer to get to your favorite piece of workout equipment.

But don't fret. Here are some hacks from gym experts on how to make the most of your January workouts.

1.) Become a late afternoon or evening gym-goer.

The most popular times to hit the gym are the lunch hour and before and after work, according to an IRHSA survey. If you want to skip the crowds, try for mid-afternoon or late evening.

The best times to go are between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. or after 8:30 p.m., according to IRHSA.

2.) Always make a plan.

You should never go to the gym and plan to just wing it, said personal trainer Liz Miersch, the editor-in-chief of Equinox's Q Blog.

"This is even more crucial during high usage times of year," Miersch said. "Map out your workout and stick to your plan so you can get in and out most efficiently and effectively."

4.) Get in and get out.

"You don't need to spend hours in the gym," Miersch said. "Get in an out in 30 minutes or less with a tight strength and cardio combo circuit."

She said she loves a piece of equipment called the ViPR, which is basically a hollow rubber tube you flip around for 15 minutes or so.

4.) Skip the treadmill.

Because the treadmill is the most popular piece of equipment in the gym, an IRHSA report shows, you're bound to spend some extra time waiting for your turn, especially in January.

So IHRSA spokeswoman Meredith Poppler suggests skipping it altogether.

"Everyone - no matter how new to the gym - knows how to walk," Poppler said. "Treadmills are the least intimidating piece of equipment in the gym, therefore they are the most used come January."

As a result, she suggested taking the opportunity to try either a less popular class or piece of equipment "and perhaps learn a new skill or favorite exercise."

5.) Try the old school equipment along the walls.

Personal trainer Patty Buttenheim said January is a great time to try equipment that has stood the test of time, such as medicine balls, stability balls, resistance bands and other equipment that's usually placed along the perimeter of the gym. Can't find a treadmill or elliptical machine? Try a jump rope for your cardio workout, she said.

"You’re waking up muscles you haven't really thought about in the longest time," she said. "You can get the exact same workout those machines will do."

6.) Use the buddy system.

It's tough to stay accountable during the cold, dark winter months, so Buttenheim recommends partnering with a gym buddy. Not only will your buddy motivate you to get to the gym, but you can do drills with your buddy, like tossing a medicine ball back and forth.

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