Tips For Exercising When Tisch Fitness Center Is Packed

So you’ve managed to actually take the time between never-ending midterms, advising appointments, and all your club meetings to hit the gym. Except the second you walk in, you see that every machine is taken, there’s a queue for each power rack, and everyone has chosen now to fulfill their New Year’s Resolution of running a 5K. But don’t give up on your fitness goals now! Here are some tips on getting in your workout even when the fitness center is packed to the gills.

1. Have substitute exercises. If all the deadlift platforms are taken, try using dumbbells instead. Last pulldown machine taken? Use one of the cables! Change up your cardio with the Stairmaster instead of the treadmill, or check out the track. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a workout you really love!

Image credit: Danielle Cerullo 

2. Consider changing the order of exercises in your workout. Now, some movements are non-negotiable depending on what you want to prioritize, but with extra stuff you’ve got a bit more leeway. That way, you’re not just standing awkwardly next to the guy on the leg curl machine waiting your turn. You could also try structuring your workout so you’re using one “station” at a time - all your power rack exercises, then all your dumbbell exercises that need a bench, then all your cable machine exercises, and so forth. That way, you’ve got less risk of someone stealing your spot in the rack out from under you while you’re off doing plyometrics on a step-up box.

3. Warm up! If you’re waiting just a minute or two for someone to finish up, use the time to keep your muscles limber. Dynamic stretches, arm circles, neck rolls - keep yourself injury-free!

Image credit: Christopher Campbell

4. Change up your reps and sets. Don’t have time to wait for those always-disappearing 7.5 dumbbells, or to pump out 20+ reps? Try upping the weight and lowering the reps. Vice versa if your preferred weight is gone and the next step up is too heavy. You could do less sets with a higher weight to get the same intensity in with less time.

5. Share equipment! Most people will be totally fine with letting you work on whatever equipment they’re using while they rest. If someone is using a squat rack but not the deadlift platform, don’t be afraid to go up and ask! Everyone in the gym (even the guy deadlifting three times your bodyweight) is just another person, and will likely be understanding if you want to use the bench when they aren’t. Likewise, you can work on the same machine as someone else as they rest.

Image credit: Alora Griffiths​

6. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and supersets will cut down on the length of your workout. If you’re weight training, choose some moves and pair them up, giving yourself a 30 - 60 second rest in between. Just make sure you’re going all out! If you’re doing cardio, HIIT is great for not having to log long hours on the treadmill - experiment with your running and rest periods and aim for increasing the intensity as you improve your conditioning.