The complete beginner’s gym guide
Gyms are designed to provide all the equipment needed to help people reach their fitness goals. Whether you are looking to build strength or improve your endurance, there will be tools to help you with your goal. Anyone can go to the gym and choose to attend classes, get some personal training and/or exercise on the gym floor.
Face your fears
You may think that gyms are scary and unwelcoming, or maybe you struggle with self-confidence? Going to the gym for the first time can be intimidating, and the fear of judgement is a barrier most people have no matter what their physical condition is. However, it is worth remembering that everyone is self-conscious and will be too self-focused to notice you anyway.
Additionally, everyone needs to start somewhere and you will be applauded for trying to better yourself. As opposed to what you may think, you do not need to get in shape before going to the gym – the gym is there to do just that!
Learn to turn your negative thoughts and worries into a positive gym mentality. Take positive steps to make your trip to the gym as painless and enjoyable as possible; these could be as simple as preparing a workout playlist you will love and wearing clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good.
Do your induction
As a beginner, it is essential that you utilise the induction offered when you join a gym. Inductions generally consist of a tour of the facilities and demonstration of the equipment available – some will even include a basic workout program to get you started. A good induction is essential to get started on the right foot and learn your gym’s etiquette, so make sure you make the most of it.
Inductions are there to put your worries at rest and make you feel more confident about going to the gym. Remember that being a novice is nothing to be embarrassed about and there are no such things as bad questions.
Make sure you turn up in your gym clothes as you can use this great opportunity to get started with your first session at the gym.
Make it work for your schedule
Once you have joined and attended your induction, you should aim to make going to the gym a regular occurrence. A reasonable amount would be three times per week, with at least a day off in between each visit to allow your body to recover. Going more regularly is great if you have any fitness goals you wish to attain within a certain time frame, but do make sure to give each body part the rest it needs after a workout.
Schedule your visits in advance to increase your chances of long-term success, and maintain a routine that works around your own schedule – for instance going before work or straight after.
Train by yourself
A good workout isn’t improvised, it is meticulously planned ahead of time. Use what you have learnt during your induction to map out an exercise session that meets your objectives and uses the equipment you require.
Start with bodyweight training to prepare your body for weight training. Exercises like squats and push-ups are great to get your muscles used to working against resistance. Once you feel comfortable, adjust your plan to include weight training by using the machines available rather than free weights. The machines will be more forgiving as they are developed to ensure you maintain good form. Only move to the free weights when you are confident to do so. Always start with low weights first and slowly increase the load as you get stronger.
In terms of cardio, you can integrate a certain amount of time on treadmills, spinning bikes, step machine, elliptical and rowing machines to raise your heart rate. Start slow and gradually increase speed over time as your body gets used to this type of exercise.
Make sure your plan includes a few basic warm-up moves to prepare your muscles – for instance practice a slow version of the movements you intend to do in your workout. As tempting as it may be, do not skip this step as it is essential to reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, make sure to include a 5-minute cool down and stretch post-exercise to avoid aches and help your muscles recover.
Gym classes are exercise sessions led by professional trainers who will take you through a certain set of exercises. Every gym has plenty of classes to choose from, which vary in intensity and duration. As a beginner, start with short low-intensity classes and build your way up to more difficult classes. You may find that you push yourself more in classes as you strive to keep up with the instructor and with the group. In addition, it is a great way to get new workout ideas as well as meet potential fitness partners.
Book a personal trainer
Booking a personal trainer is a great way to stay focused and ensure you are working out correctly. Not only will your personal trainer watch and correct your form, they will conduct a fitness assessment and develop a tailored plan to achieve your goals. Therefore, it is a good idea to book in a few sessions when you are starting out as it will set you on the right path. Personal training is also worth considering if you are rehabilitating after an injury or if you are looking to improve your performance in a particular sport.