Whether you’re new to fitness or a seasoned vet, most likely you once experienced the feeling of walking into a gym and not knowing where to begin. With all the various cardio and weight equipment, how do you know where to start? Is it with cardio? How many days a week should you weight train? What type of training is right for your body? A lot of questions tend to flood the mind and can oftentimes scare people away from returning to the gym. Let’s break things down a bit, starting with: what is vertical training vs. horizontal training?

Vertical training can be viewed as anything that involves ascension (i.e. rising/climbing), whether actual or simulated. Examples of vertical training could be climbing on the Stairmaster, an inclined walk or run on the treadmill, or mountain climbing.

Horizontal training, on the other hand, refers to exercises that would keep your form parallel to the ground. Some typical exercises include using the rowing machine, running (without incline), or working out on a stationary bike.

Now that you know the differences– which form of training is best?

If you guessed both, you are correct. Neither is necessarily “better” for you than the other. It’s up to personal preference and which part of the body you are looking to train. Some machines may better benefit those recovering from an injury, while others training  specific skills or for a competition may want to use others. The best thing to do before questioning what type of training is right for you or getting overwhelmed by all of your options is this: come up with a clear and defined list of goals.

Knowing your goals may seem pretty obvious, but it’s a lot more than simply knowing you want to lose weight, or you want to get stronger. Break down your overall goal into smaller ones. If you want to lose weight, ask yourself where you want to lose the weight. Is it from the stomach area? Maybe you want to tone your arms? Knowing the muscles you would like to strengthen will help you narrow down which machines to use and what type of exercise you should be engaging in.

If you have your “baby goals” written down, but you’re still unsure where to begin, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for help. More often than not, people enjoy helping others who are looking to better themselves. Making your health a priority is an admirable goal, and many share that goal. Everyone starts somewhere, so ask a friend or fellow gym-goer how to use a machine you’re unsure of. Better yet, ask an employee to help you out. If extra assistance is needed, consider signing up for personal training to get a deeper, more personalized plan for you.

Once the “scariness” of the gym goes away, you will be surprised how much easier going seems to be. Don’t be afraid to try new machines, attempt a new class or make a new friend. As author Jack Canfield once put it, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” So, where will you begin? Is vertical training better than horizontal? In the battle between the two, both win. Train the way that best fits you, and watch all you can accomplish!

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