If you’re a member of a group fitness facility odds are your gym offers some type of open gym during the week. They might have it everyday or at least a couple of hours on the weekend. You probably don’t attend for a multitude of reasons. Weekend days might be the only days you don’t go to the gym, you wouldn’t know what to do if you went anyway, you have better things to do with your weekend than workout.
The truth is, if you aren’t taking advantage of open gym time you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach your goals faster. A little bit of extra work goes a long way when it comes to fitness; whether you only have 10 extra pounds to lose or only need to add 10 extra pounds to the barbell in order to hit your back squat PR goal.
If you want to start attending open gym here are 5 simple ways you can utilize that time to reach your goals quicker.
1. Get More Reps In
It’s often said that the more you do something, the better you get at it. The 10,000 hour rule is a good example of this. It basically states that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. 10,000 hours of performing or attempting to perform that skill. If you’re trying to become better, you need to put in the repetitions. In gymnastics, athletes spend a lot of time doing the same skill over and over and over again, often failing until finally they are successful. The same happens in cheerleading, figure skating, and most other sports. If you want to be REALLY good at something you should be practicing that thing everyday. Sometimes this is not possible due to life and schedules, but open gym is the next best time to get as many repetitions as you can.
Open Gym is your opportunity to do additional repetitions. If you want a heavier back squat, you should be back squatting during open gym time. This advice goes for any movement or lift you are trying to master.
2. Mobilize and Stretch
A lot of times our performance in a workout is held back because of poor mobility somewhere. Squats are hard because ankle mobility is limited, toes to bar are impossible because your hamstrings are too tight, handstand pushups hurt because your wrists can’t “bend that way”. I can give you several excuses that I’ve heard over the years that all go back to poor mobility and flexibility.
During a typical week you probably attend group class. Most likely you arrive on time but not early enough to do any kind of mobilization before the warmup. You get through class as best you can and then leave without attempting to cool down stretch. Your body suffers because of this but you probably don’t even realize it.
Open gym is a good time to come in and spend a good amount of time working on your mobility and flexibility. Foam rolling, static stretching, and holding movement positions are all going to improve your workout performance. IF you take the time to attend to your body. Mobilizing and stretching are the non sexy parts of fitness.
3. Work on Your Weaknesses
This one is similar to number 1 but working on your weaknesses involves much more than just putting in the repetitions. A weakness is a movement that you drastically under perform in every time it shows up in a class wod. You might not even be able to do this movement end up scaling every time. And you’re sick of having to scale right? You should be using your open gym time to turn this weakness into a wheelhouse movement.
Working on weaknesses can look different for everyone. Technique work is often where we need to start in order to improve a weak movement. After technique, strength should be your next target, and lastly volume (reps). Technique work usually consists of breaking down the movement into drills. You should be doing these drills over and over again during open gym.
4. Make Up A Missed Workout
Let’s face it, you probably miss at least 1 workout during the workweek. If you’re being honest, sometimes you miss more than one for any number of reasons. Whether it be because of working late or cherry picking, you don’t manage to make it to the gym 5 days in a row. I get it, sometimes you need a rest day, and it’s okay to take that rest day during the week, but that means you should probably get in some type of work on the weekend right?
If your gym offers open gym on the weekends, they are allowing you the time to go in and make up a workout you missed during the week! I bet the gym you go to keeps a record of all workouts done everyday. And a coach can pull it up in less than 60 seconds.
If you don’t know what to do during open gym you should at least be making up 1 workout that you missed during the week.
5. Familiarize Yourself With A New Gym
This one really only applies if you have just joined a new gym, but its still a decent use of open gym time. During a group class you probably don’t get much time to talk with the coaches or get to know gym members. You also probably feel a little lost amongst the room full of equipment.
Open Gym is a GREAT time to show up, meet some of your fellow class mates, and form better relationships with the coaches at your gym. Everyone at open gym is usually there to do their own thing at a much slower pace than group class, this means they have more time to converse and socialize. If you’re there, you’re bound to get to know someone a little better. Coaches love to see new athletes show up to open gym time, this tells them that you like the gym and are interested upping your dedication. You can also use this time to get your bearings on where all pieces of equipment is stored. Next time you’re in class you won’t be scrambling to find the lacrosse balls when coach gives you 20 seconds to grab one.
If your gym offers open gym time, they want you to utilize it! The gym is open so that you can put in some extra work, no matter what that work looks like. It’s an opportunity for you to take some agency over your training. If you utilize open gym time effectively you will start to see improvements faster, and find more satisfaction in your training program. Open Gym is a valuable tool that you’re probably already paying for as part of your monthly membership.