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You did it. You joined a gym. Whether this is because of lifestyle reasons or medical, you have taken a big step in bettering yourself. But maybe you are worried? Maybe you are somewhat intimated by a gym? Maybe you think yourself not worthy of being at the gym? Maybe you just have no idea what you are doing? Either way, you’re in now so let’s get started.
In my job as a Health Club Supervisor (basically the personal trainer who is watching over the gym and interacting with the members), most of my time is put aside to helping new members adjust to the gym environment. Although most people use me and my colleagues to adapt well to their new exercise regime, many do not. This sometimes has embarrassing results, and other times it has resulted in injury or, even worse, a short-lived time as a regular gym-goer. My aim is to get people to stay at the gym for the rest of their active lives.
Here are my top 10 tips for becoming a regular gym-goer:
10 Tips for every New Gym-Goer
- Make yourself comfortable
Be sure to have everything you need to make your gym experience a comfortable one, namely the right shoes and clothing, a towel, water and whatever it takes to motivate you, whether that be your favourite tunes or your lucky gym tights. Whatever it is, bring it (pro tip: security blankets make excellent gym towels).
- Take full advantage of the services provided by your gym
Every gym will have a set number of services provided to their members, normally in the form of a health assessment, a personalised program and a run-through of that program. Some even offer a free, non-committal personal training session. At my workplace, we encourage members to come back to us to change their program/get measured every 6-8 weeks so that it doesn’t get stale, and you can see your progress. So check out what your gym has to offer and take full advantage.
- Don’t ignore professional advice
This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often I have given someone advice and they have, to their detriment, ignored it. If you are brand new to exercise and keen as mustard, you may want to be in the gym 2 hours a day, every day. While the enthusiasm is appreciated, any gym trainer will tell you that 30 minutes to 60 minutes, 3-6 times a week is plenty, and that doing any more than that as a beginner may cause fatigue or injury. This goes the same with weight training. Although you may be pumped to get into a gym and squat 60kg on your first day without any prior training, it would be better if you started by working on your squat technique then slowly added in weight (pro tip: a trainer really does not care if “that’s what your friends are doing” – they only care about your safety!).
- Schedule in your gym sessions
It is one thing to sign up to a gym. It is another to become a regular gym-goer. Making the gym a part of your daily routine is the biggest battle. My advice is to schedule your gym sessions in like doctor appointments – make them non-negotiable (except in case of major disruption to your day). This will help you establish a routine. Eventually, it will feel like a normal part of your day, and you won’t feel weird about going to the gym, you will feel weird NOT going to the gym.
- Get to know the trainers
If you can’t afford a personal trainer, that does not mean you are not entitled to their advice. If your gym has a trainer on-site during the day, their job is to look out for you and answer any questions you may have about anything – your program, the latest fitness craze, technique… anything (well, anything inside the health and fitness world. They probably don’t know much about why your mother-in-law hates you or why your boss keeps making you work overtime). So, If you have a question, or just want to talk about your (or even their) progress, go for it!
- Don’t worry about being looked at
Every day, I introduce new members to the gym. Every day, I meet someone so self-conscious about being in the gym that they are unwilling to try anything except walk on the treadmill. Believe me when I say thing, no one is paying attention to you (sorry, I lie. I am, but that’s because it is my job to look out for you). Everyone else is watching themselves in a mirror, struggling to get the last rep out, or pushing for that extra kilometre. So feel free to move about the gym knowing that everyone is too self-involved to notice whether you are in the latest workout gear, or whether you are wearing make-up, or even that you failed to shave this week.They are interested in their workout, their body, their progress, and you should be too!
- Own your space
The gym belongs to everyone. Obviously, by own your space, I don’t mean the entire weights area! If you are setting up a floor circuit, or a bodyweight workout, set-up your equipment first, giving yourself enough room to complete your workout without squishing yourself into a corner. You have a right to be there, and to have room to move. So own your space (but maybe leave the fluffy pillows and the inspirational posters at home).
- Do not make up your own exercises
Although very entertaining for me, please do not make up your own exercises. Yes, there are some exercises that can be modified for different purposes. But, if you are a beginner, you are better off keeping to what you have been shown by a professional. See someone doing something cool? What to do it too? Easy – just ask one of the trainers. A trainer can tell you what the name of the exercise is, what muscles it works and how to do it properly, which is a lot more than you can do just by watching someone do it once (or trying to remember what it looked like in your dream the night before).
- Learn how to use the equipment – especially the cardio machines!
Long gone are the days where cardio machines served just our needs to work out indoors. The newest cardio machines have profiles to keep track of your goals, a whole array of workout playlists, virtual workouts, many TV channels and even the internet. To get the most out of workout, and to get the highest level of enjoyment out of working out indoors, you need to utilise these machines. Ask how they work, what workout profile would be best for you and how to use all the extra features and you won’t be sorry!
- Speak up if you have a problem
This tip I have saved for last, because it is the most important.If something is not right, if you do not feel right in the gym (for whatever reason), please speak up. Go to the trainer on duty, or even the manager. Problems are mostly easily fixed, and some only get harder to fix the longer you leave them. So, whether you don’t like an exercise in your program, feel an injury coming on, aren’t feeling motivated, or something about the atmosphere of the gym worries you, speak up. All gyms would much rather hear about a problem and fix it than see someone lose interest in their health and fitness.
So there you have it:my top 10 tips for becoming a regular gym-goer. Whether you plan to go to a gym, are new at a gym or are already a regular gym-goer, all I hope is that these tips will help you thrive in the gym environment and help you reach your health and fitness goals. It’s all any trainer really wants, after all.
What’s your favourite thing about your gym?
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