Some will walk into a gym all fired up and ready to lift all the weights. Others would rather shrivel and die in the least occupied corner of the glorified gains realm when they become overwhelmed with self-consciousness, fear and a lack of know-how.
First of all, no matter where on the spectrum of confidence you stand, there are a few basics to cover in order to minimize your chances of feeling embarrassed, or simply wasting your time while learning the ropes. Prepare for your first pump!
It’s all in the game-plan
Before you even pack your gym bag and head straight to the treadmill, you need a detailed, written-down plan of training. This means that either you, or your personal trainer, should create a schedule of weekly workouts, list out all your exercises, set and rep numbers, break times, the warmup and cool-down routine, and your basic stretching and mobility techniques.
Whether you want to keep it on your phone, printed out or in a notebook – it’s up to you. But no training session can count as effective if you don’t have a plan to rely on. Which areas of your body do you want to target each time? What exercises can you perform? Do you have any prior injuries or health issues to take into account? All of these things will help you prevent the situation of walking into a gym and using the hamstring curl machine to perform weighted crunches.
Gym etiquette 101
Every gym is different, but all of them have at least several things in common, and knowing them beforehand can save you quite a few awkward situations, as well as a trip to the emergency room.
Headphones are very encouraged – they can help you tune out the rest of the crowd and focus on your routine, boosting your mindset
Feel free to ask for a gym tour when you get there – as well as their own rules and regulations, because some gyms encourage loud deadlift drops, while others cannot do that.
Bring your towel, or ask for one at the reception. Or two if you plan to shower at the gym.
Don’t forget a bottle of water.
Wash your hands before and after training – you’ll thank me later.
If someone asks you to spot them, don’t be afraid to either turn them down or ask them precisely what they need you to do, including if they need help with the lift-off and how many reps they plan to perform.
Use the mirrors – not for selfies or checking out your fabulous figure, but for checking your form and posture.
If someone’s using a machine you need, ask to step in during their rest time, there’s nothing wrong with sharing, but hogging isn’t appreciated.
Whatever equipment you use, put it back where it belongs.
Make room for others – and don’t be afraid to ask if someone can do the same for you.
Don’t interrupt people who are getting ready to lift, and stay in the safe zone of at least one meter away. That means less distracting for them, safety for you.
Especially for the ladies, you may encounter dudes eager to give you tips and change your routine – unless it’s a certified gym trainer whose job it is to help members, or your personal trainer, disregard the tip. Don’t take any advice at its face value.
On that note, don’t be that guy. Don’t give unsolicited advice, unless someone is literally putting their or someone else’s life at risk.
Get the right gear
While it’s tempting to either pick the first hoodie and sweats you find or get yourself a sexy top and matching pants, your training outfit is meant to serve so much more than make you look good. Depending on your routine, you need to choose comfortable, form-fitting tops and bottoms, durable gym shoes that keep your feet and ankles safe while lifting, and other joint-protecting gear such as straps, wraps and gloves.
Go for high-quality fabrics that enable your skin to breathe without preventing proper perspiration, which usually means a blend of polyester microfiber combined with elastane, which will keep your body dry during training. Low-maintenance in terms of washing and cleaning, these materials are meant to last long, keep you safe and simplify your training.
The value of Professional Coaching
The fitness world is filled with self-proclaimed know-it-alls and you are bound to come across quite a few on your new journey. Whether you’re looking to shed fat, build muscle or simply boost your athletic performance of any sort, people will be more than happy to give you tips. And while some of it may work for them, or even for you, everyone is different, and fitness isn’t a cookie-cutter solution or a quick fix.
Those of you who are newbies will especially benefit from working with a personal trainer on a regular basis. You will get all the guidance, motivation and instructions you need, they’ll make sure you give your absolute best while also making sure you’re performing the exercises correctly and safely, and they will monitor your progress. And, perhaps most importantly, they will teach you how to lead a healthy life in and out of the gym, and give you enough information to completely transform your mindset.
Nutrition and hydration
Last, but definitely not least important, your diet will impact your performance at the gym, from day one. If you bite off more than you can chew on your first training day without having a decent meal an hour or two beforehand, you might end up fainting or injure yourself. If you over-eat and indulge your sweet tooth every day, you’ll hinder your results, and probably discourage yourself from training.
Keep your eyes on the prize. Short-term goals such as a six-week plan to lose a few pounds may help you improve your confidence temporarily, but long-term health-oriented lifestyle changes, of which gym is one of the biggest steps you can make, will be your ticket to a healthy life.