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How To: Get Started At The Gym

Brittany Winfrey

Have you ever walked in to a gym, looked around, and felt completely lost? Or even parked in the parking lot of a local gym and been afraid to step out of the car?

Gym intimidation (aka. gymtimidation) is way more prevalent than most realize.

The causes of these anxious feelings can include:

  • Not knowing how to use the equipment
  • Feeling self-conscious about our bodies
  • Thoughts that the gym is only for “fit” people
  • Feeling like everyone is staring at you
  • Unsure how to create a workout

Feeling out of place and overwhelmed is normal when starting any fitness journey.  Most gyms are lined with equipment. (Treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, balls, bands, weight machines…) all that equipment can be very confusing if you’ve never used them before.

Below are tips on how to become a confident gym goer and see results.

1. Research

Figure out what type of gyms are in your area and decide which one would fit you best. Some gyms are more suited for powerlifters, with loud music and weights being slammed.   Some gyms are ideal for the average person wanting to squeeze in a good workout before or after work. And some gyms are more family-centered focusing on activities for kids as well as the adults. Once you decide which gym is right for you, find out the busy hours and what types of services are offered. If you know what to expect before you even enter the building you’ll feel more willing to make it through the front doors.

2. Meet with a trainer

Personal trainers are there to help boost your confidence, keep you accountable, and help you feel competent with the equipment. They also take the guesswork out of building a training plan by providing you a plan that will get you closer to your goals.  Even though they are expensive, if you work with one for a few months the investment can be well worth it in the long-run.

3. Find a buddy

Doing anything alone is hard.  Finding a friend to workout with gives a sense of camaraderie that will make the gym less intimidating and more welcoming.  Having a buddy to chat with also makes the workouts seem less grueling and more fun.

4. Ask for assistance

The gym staff is there to help you. Most are willing to show you some equipment and answer any questions you may have. Remember, nobody was “born” knowing how to use all the machines in the gym.  Every member at some point has had to figure it out as well.

Often times the regulars at the gym are willing to help a newbie out too. They love teaching others about lifting and will respect you for showing up and demonstrating a willingness to learn.

5. Have a plan

Bringing a workout plan with you helps you feel less like a deer in the headlights. The key with any good workout plan is to start slow and progress as your fitness improves.

Here is a guide to creating a sustainable gym routine you can build on as you go:

  • Make an appointment in your calendar. Start with just 1-2 days a week for 30 minutes each session. This will help you prioritize it as an important event without overwhelming your schedule. As you become more comfortable in the gym, you can start increasing the amount of days and length of each session.
  • Warm-Up. To avoid injury, make sure your muscles are warm before you begin any strength training or cardio session. 5-10 minutes of cardio at a light intensity is a great warm-up!
  • Start with the exercise you feel most confident in. There is not a one-size-fits all exercise routine. Everybody is different, has different experiences and different preferences. Find an exercise you enjoy and can stick with it until going to the gym becomes a habit.
  • Go low and slow. Starting off too aggressive with a program can leave you tired, sore, and injured. After your warm-up, gradually speed up to a pace you can continue for five to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. As your stamina improves, gradually increase the amount of time you exercise. Work your way up to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise.
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, take a break. This is a sign you are pushing yourself too hard.
  • Challenge yourself. As you get used to an activity, it’s important to vary the type, duration, and/or intensity of your workout so you are continuously seeing results.

Starting at a gym can be intimidating and overwhelming. It’s important to realize everyone comes to the gym to focus on themselves. The key is to start slowly, seek help when you need it, and build up your fitness level at a slow and sustainable rate. Before you know it, you’ll be a regular, seeing the results that made you want to join the gym in the first place!

Author: Brittany Winfrey