Niamh Patterson has been working with the Mardyke Arena for eleven years and her cheerful demeanour is reminiscent of the whole place. The gym may not seem like the friendliest place to the novice, but Patterson makes it clear that a key benefit to making use of your free membership is the social aspect. It may not beReardens, but it is a great place to meet up with your friends, meet new people and have an ol’ creep – all while getting ready for the ever nearing summer months and the threat of skimpy swimwear.
Time is in short supply, especially with study and exams, so it’s easy to write off the gym as a waste of our precious minutes. However the Mardyke, and exercise in general, can be a great way to unwind. Patterson notes that even half an hour can make all the difference. She highlights that it can be a real break from everything else going on, allowing us to leave with a fresh mind – and ready to face back into it all. It doesn’t need to be this ‘whole chore of having to sweat loads’; there is a whole variety to choose from. In fact, Niamh says varying up your schedule is the key to seeing results and staying interested, adding that the few weeks left in the semester are plenty time to get in shape. So its not too late to feel confident stripping off come that summer holiday, or even here at home should the sun make an appearance.
Whether you choose to hit the gym, go swimming, to a class or just for a walk, she emphasises that it doesn’t matter where or how you do it – just get some exercise into your life. If the confines of the gym, or bustling crowds, don’t appeal to you then grab a friend and go for a brisk walk or jog outside. ‘A lot of people have a misconception that if you aren’t going to the gym, you aren’t getting fit’, she laughs; the main thing is ‘you are doing something’. The evenings are getting brighter, so no more excuses. She warns not to be intimidated, that trying to keep up with others or doing too much, thinking that one has to spend hours doing the same routine every day, are some of the biggest mistakes students make. After six weeks of the same exercise you, and your body, will get bored and you will stop seeing results. An hour a couple of times a week is more than enough – there is no need for fancy workout gear and the best thing to do is keep trying new things.
If you need a bit of extra motivation, try out one of a range of classes. The trainers won’t bite your head off, but they do provide a bit of extra motivation and encourage you to stick out the hour – because there are those days you will want to say ‘to hell with it’. Also included in the completely free service (for both full and part-time students) is the opportunity to have a custom schedule made out just for you. Make an appointment, fill out a form letting them know what goals you would like to achieve, and then the trainers will make you out a programme designed specifically for you. They all partake in regular upskilling courses and make sure to keep up with all the latest theories, so you know they can get you on the right path.
It is important to eat a small snack within an hour before getting stuck in, Niamh advises, because your body needs fuel – and the last thing you want is to faint mid-Baywatch jog on the treadmill (she recounts that it has happened more than once). Another tip is to stay hydrated both during and afterwards, as well as doing some light stretching. She recommends doing fifteen to twenty seconds beforehand and, more importantly, about thirty to forty seconds after your workout, unless you want to be crippled with stiff limbs and aches for the following week.
If you really want to see some results before the summer, Patterson says resistance training is crucial. Despite what some people think, ‘it is not just for boys’ – girls should do low weights and high reps, while the lads should also do the opposite. If you are conscience of looking out of place, get a trainer to show how to use the machines and avoid peak times (anytime after five, Monday to Thursday), although with the year coming to an end the crowds will ‘slack off’ and the overflow gym opens to cater for us timid folk.
The main message Niamh had for us was to do something – anything – to get some blood rushing around our body. There is no need to replicate Arnie’s old training schedule, but you might get a few admiring looks come July if you make some effort. And, far more importantly, it will help keep you sane this April and May!
If you need an extra reason – she let slip that Simon Zebo and Paul O’Connell have been known to get physio help in the Arena Clinic, so you never know who you might meet…