How to Get Started at the Gym: 12 Steps to Guaranteeing Your Success
Let’s talk about taking the first steps towards healthy living by purchasing a gym membership. However, like most people who are new to working out or going to the gym, you are intimidated. You may not know how to use the cardio machines or the weights. You fear you may not feel like you are in shape enough to participate in a class. You see so many options you don’t even know how to start and you are overwhelmed. You see lots of healthy, fit people around you and wonder how you will fit in or maybe that they will stare at you. Heres the good news: everyone you see at the gym had to start somewhere and they’re still here. So stick with it.
This post is directed towards people who have never really worked out before, have limited background in fitness or sports and are determined to get started. I’m going to talk briefly about a few of the early hurdles you may experience and try to help you overcome them so that you can make this a successful transition into healthy living.
What do you need to do before walking in the gym? If you have a pair of sneakers and an outfit to workout in, you’re ready. Please be aware of any current or previous injuries that you may need to take into consideration as you begin this new step in your life.
1. Set goals
Now you have to figure out how to get started. The best thing you can do up to this point is be thinking about your goals. Working out and exercising is as much about setting targets and reaching them as it is being healthy. The human mind responds well to goal setting so make sure to always dangle a goal in front of you to be chasing. Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to gain muscle? Do you want to train for a sport? Do you want to improve your overall health? Do you want to become a power lifter or body builder? There are many reasons why people go to the gym and everyone has their own, so should you. So set your goals. And just as importantly, when you achieve your goals, don’t be complacent. Set new ones and keep driving yourself to improve.
2. Find a partner if you can.
Another key element of a successful fitness routine is having a partner to go with. There will be days that you won’t want to go and your partner can motivate you and vice versa. You can also share similar goals with your workout partner which will help make your routines more parallel to each other and drive each of you to work harder. If you can find someone to go with you consistently, this will be a helpful indicator of success.
3. Become oriented to the layout of your gym.
You may not know what to expect the first time you walk in. Most gyms have an area dedicated to cardio machines, an area dedicated to weight lifting machines, an area dedicated to free weights (or dumbbells and barbells) and an area dedicated to stretching. Many bigger gyms will also have dedicated areas for classes like yoga or spin class. Some will have other areas for basketball and other sports. There’s also going to be a locker room and bathroom that you should be aware of. Your best bet is to ask one of the gym employees to give you a tour and they will be happy to do this.
4. Consider a few sessions with a trainer.
If you’re genuinely feeling overwhelmed, sign up for a few sessions with a personal trainer. The personal trainer is going to help you figure out what your goals are. They’ll also walk you through a beginners routine that is tailored to those goals. They should show you some basics of using the cardio machines as well as lifting weights. Don’t feel obligated to train with them for months and months, just let them know up front you’re trying to get a feel for the gym. They’ll understand and down the road you may decide to return. Additionally, there is usually an introductory rate for the first few sessions, so it shouldn’t break the bank either.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask other people at the gym for help with something specific. If you can’t figure out how to use a machine, ask someone near you and they will almost definitely be happy to help. In my opinion, people probably don’t ask for help as often as they should. As I mentioned earlier, the gym employees are a great resource. They’ll probably even be willing to show you some of the machines.
6. Start with moderation in frequency and intensity
How often you workout and how intensely you exercise is a bar you need to set for yourself. If you have limited experience, work your way up. If you have more intermediate experience, then set your boundaries to what you think your body can tolerate. It’s important that you establish a routine you are comfortable with and one that is safe for you. You can really set yourself back with an injury and for the most part those are completely avoidable in the gym.
7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
One of the keys to success in any fitness or exercise setting is staying hydrated. All gyms will provide water fountains and/or water coolers to help keep you hydrated. Unless you are invested in extremely rigorous exercise for a long period of time, water is usually satisfactory. Occasionally, you may need a drink like gatorade, powerade or vitamin water to help you through your workout. Just keep in mind that these drinks usually contain calories. For what it’s worth, I usually bring a shaker with a scoop of powdered gatorade and a scoop of protein, but the taste is not for everyone.
8. Use a journal
In my personal journey through working out, nothing forced me to progress more or faster than a workout journal. This is useful for weight lifting and for cardiovascular exercise. It allows you to track your gains, whether that is strength on a specific exercise or calories burned on a treadmill, and force yourself to work harder next time. It’s very easy to do, personally I prefer a paper notebook as it’s easy to setup and use, but there are plenty of good phone applications out there too.
9. Start thinking about changing your diet too
A regular gym routine is only one component of improving your overall health. Diet is equally, if not more important. Sure, technically you could go to the gym after eating a big mac, but it’s not a good way to prepare your body for fitness. You need good, healthy, energy rich foods to prepare yourself for the exhausting effort you will put forth at the gym. Typically, a moderate-to-high carb meal a few hours before exercise will have you will energized for your workout. But dont ignore the healthy fats and protein either; they are equally important.
Sleep Hygiene: https://youtu.be/4kZKTdWzc-w
10. Set a schedule
Part of the success in most fitness routines is being consistent and systematic in your approach. The best way to achieve this, regardless of your goals, is to establish a routine. Maybe you go 3 days a week, maybe you go 5. Maybe your schedule is better to go at night or in the morning, before or after work. The point is you set aside the necessary time on the days you’re going to workout and commit to that schedule.
11. It’s ok to take a day off
Some days life gets in the way. You were late getting out of work or you didn’t sleep well or you really just don’t have the energy. Part of what makes us human is recognizing that things - including our day - won’t go exactly as we planned it. If you need a day or two off, it’s ok. The trick is not to let one day cascade into one week, and one week into one month and so on. It’s easy to slip out of a routine, so try to keep those days off to a minimum.
12. Don’t give up
Any gym routine is invariably going to include highs and lows. There will be days when you just don’t feel like it or you just don’t have the energy. It happens to the best of us. When you’re in one of those troughs, make sure to recognize that you’re struggling to drag your butt into the gym and take it upon yourself to push a little harder. Often times it’s just getting yourself to the gym that’s the hardest part; working out can actually be the easy part. I often find myself dragging when I get there, but by the time I’ve left I feel like a million bucks.
- Understanding Your Core: https://youtu.be/9jM_nDXeWVA
- How To Get Started at the Gym: https://youtu.be/WkkNXTSBg04
- 12 Reasons To Start Lifting Weights: https://youtu.be/V27XiHbYAis
- How To Break Through a Strength Plateau: https://youtu.be/Rj-Ar_tduyY
- How To Get Started with Building Muscle & Strength: https://youtu.be/qlSre20xMwA
- 10 Do's & Don'ts of Gym Etiquette: https://youtu.be/PPqYLGdqOMc