A Guide for Gym Virgins
How to Start Going to the Gym
Your first time at a gym can be a scary experience. Especially if you have never set foot in one before. Since it’s that time of year when gym memberships are flying off the shelves, I thought I would take the fear out of your first trip by giving you a few helpful tips to make it run a little more smoothly.
Tip #1: What to bring.
Lock – Most gyms don’t allow you to carry a bag around with you so you’ll want to bring a lock for the lockers if your gym provides them. If your gym doesn’t provide lockers, just bring in the following items.
Towel – No one wants to sit in your sweat and I’m sure you don’t want to sit in someone else’s sweat so bring a towel with you to dab your forehead or lay down on any machines you may use.
Water bottle – An essential item for any physical activity.
ipod/walkman – Make sure your music listening device is one that doesn’t hinder your workout. Many people use arm bands or waist bands to put their devices in, and I know a lot of workout clothing has built in electronic pockets now.
Tip #2: What to do upon your arrival.
The first thing I do when I go to the gym is head for the locker room. This way, you have a purpose as you walk through the gym. On your way to the locker room, you can do a quick scan to see where everything is located: cardio machines, nautilus machines, free weights, aerobics room, basketball court, pool, etc.
Once you’ve done what you need to do in the locker room and you’re ready to brave the gym, I recommend heading for the cardio machines (i.e. elliptical, treadmill, bikes, stepmill, etc). This way you can warmup and do a more complete scan of the gym. Spend as much time as you need to on the cardio machines. (Side note: Before you get on a cardio machine, make sure that there is no waiting list or waiting line for the machines. There’s nothing worse than getting on a treadmill and being asked to get off.
Also, cardio machines are very popular, so check to see if there is a time limit.) This may be as far as you get on your first trip, but at least you’ve done something and gotten a little more comfortable with the gym environment.
If you are familiar with other gym equipment, you can reacquaint yourself with the nautilus machines or free weights at this time. If you have never used any type of fitness equipment before, I highly, strongly, and vehemently recommend scheduling a session with a personal trainer. It is very easy to hurt yourself on gym equipment if you are not familiar with how to use it.
Tip #3: Be familiar with gym etiquette.
These are some basic gym etiquette rules that can keep you from looking and feeling like a jerk on your first trip to the gym:
If you don’t know how to do something, ask! Ask a gym employee how to use a particular piece of equipment that you are not familiar with. If you want a more extensive tutorial on machines, or on working out in general, you can schedule a session with a personal trainer. Most gyms offer inexpensive personal training sessions and even free first time sessions.
Use a towel! Be sure to wipe off any equipment that you sweat on. If you don’t have a towel, most gyms have paper towel and sanitation stations to wipe off machines when you are done. You might not think your sweat is gross, but more often than not, other gym-goers don’t want to lay down in a pool of your sweat.
Ask to “work in.” If you think someone is done with a machine, but they are still standing next to it, you should ask if they are done. If someone is not done, proper gym etiquette is to let you “work in.” This simply means that you would take turns doing sets on that particular machine. About 99% of the time, they will let you work in.
Wear proper attire. Of course, you want to wear comfortable clothing that you can easily move in, but please be mindful of everyone else’s view while you’re doing calisthenics. Ladies, this means supportive sports bras, and if you’re wearing shorts, make sure they are tight or, if they are loose running shorts, wear bike shorts under them; and if you’re wearing itsy bitsy shorts, avoid doing any bending activities unless your rear is towards a wall. Another thing to be mindful of, those wonderful black cotton leggings that we all love so much tend to be see through so wrap a shirt around your waist (my preferred method) or go 80s and wear a leotard or briefs over them (my preferred method when teaching desir80s). Men, same goes for you with shorts; basketball shorts, while long, can ride up if you are stretching or doing the leg press machine, so please wear bike shorts underneath. Now, if you’re comfortable wearing any of the aforementioned clothing, more power to you, but don’t be surprised if you catch a few stares! Also, keep in mind that many gyms have dress codes, so check them out before you go.
Re-rack your weights. This is one of my biggest gym pet peeves. Remember how your parents used to tell you to put your toys away when you were done playing with them? They were preparing you for the gym! If the weights are too heavy for you to put back, ask for help or use a lighter weight the next time you work out.
Tip #4 Go with a friend
What better way to tackle the unknown than with a friend! This way you’ll have someone to try new things with. You can take a class, or schedule a personal training session together, and, if you make it a regular date, you can hold each other accountable.
I hope that my first time gym tips have made you feel a little less apprehensive about conquering the gym. I know it can be scary, but you have to remember, unless you have just joined a small, specialty gym, it’s going to be filled with other people just like you, other first-time gym goers; and, keep in mind, most people at the gym are so concerned with themselves, they are not the least bit concerned with what you’re doing!
If you’re a beginner, the gym can be a terrifying place, fraught with its own social etiquette, not to mention the paranoia that everyone is looking at you, and wondering if you’re actually doing the exercises correctly.
- Make sure you utilise the induction you get at the gym, all gyms should offer this when you join. It is basically an explanation and demonstration of the equipment and how to use it in the gym, but it also sets you a basic program to get you going.
- At the beginning stick to machine weights rather than free weights until you feel comfortable in the gym and have better understanding of weights. You cant go too wrong with machine weights.
- Invest in one personal training session every 6 weeks, they will give you a specific program to do individual to you that you can work on for 6 weeks and then if you get stuck with the program you have the reassurance that you have a trainer to ask.
- All gyms should have a personal trainer or someone who is supervising the gym working all the time to help members, they are paid to help you so don’t feel you are putting them out by asking questions about equipment etc.
- NEVER feel that you shouldn’t be in the weights area if you are working on a program or feel intimidated by anyone in the gym, you have every right to be there as much as any one else.
- Don’t start weights too heavy, if you haven’t done weights before start light so you and your muscles get used to lifting weights, there will be less chance of injury and it will make you feel comfortable with the weights you are using.
- Don’t let anyone around you influence what you are doing, there are too many people out there who want to give advice that they have only read in a magazine.
- Do classes that the gym offer, they are free and will make you feel more comfortable in the gym.
- If you don’t feel sure of anything never be afraid to ask in classes or the gym, no question is stupid.
- If you’re just starting out at the gym this new year I would start off slowly but surely, it’s better for the long term. Start with working out for 30 minutes, focusing mainly on strength training with some interval training at the end. If you’re new to the gym begin with just the weights machines until you build up sufficient strength to deal with free weights.
- A good full body work out would be 5 sets of chest press for 10 repetitions, leg press for 10 repetitions, seated row for 10 repetitions, bodyweight lunges for 10 repetitions and hanging knew raises for 10 repetitions. Once you’ve completed that you can finish with a blast on the bike or rowing machine using a Tabata interval training protocol, which is 8 rounds of 20 seconds as quick as you can followed by 10 seconds rest repeated 8 times.