So you’ve joined a gym and 2017 is going to be your year! But wait… you’ve never been to a gym before and you have no idea what you’re doing.
Take these 15 Top Tips for newbie gym-goers as the place to start:
1) Set Goals & Make a Plan
The easiest way to fail is to start your fitness journey without goals and without a plan of how you’re going to get there.
“I want to lose weight” isn’t a very good plan.
“I want to lose 7lb in 4 weeks and to do so I will attend the gym 3 times per week, run/walk 5k once per week (and make positive changes to my nutrition) is a much better plan.
I’d go one step further and plan out the exact exercise I wanted to do on each gym visit. Write it down or print it off and cross off each session when you’ve done it – it’s super satisfying when you can see all those crosses!
2) Invest In Appropriate Footwear
If you’re going to be doing a lot of running then you should probably go and get ‘gait analysis’ in a reputable running store. This will make sure you prevent injury caused by repeatedly allowing your foot to strike the floor in a wonky or wobbly manner. I wasn’t aware of the importance of this when I first started training many years ago and even after someone suggested my injury could be down to my trainers, I thought they meant poor quality rather than just the wrong type.
If you’re going to be doing weights exclusively then running trainers don’t offer a lot of stability for moves like squats, so you might be better with an all round training shoe or lifting shoes.
3) Don’t Buy All Your Kit At Once
I was so enthusiastic about my new found motivation to get fit that I went to the shops and loaded up on ‘gym gear’ to go running in. Half of it only ever made it out of the house once, because they were somehow irritating or impractical to wear.
I can’t explain how annoying it is a top to end up around your neck when you’re mid-burpee, or for your shorts to cause embarrassing mooning situations in yoga class.
Obviously you’ll need some kit. The best advice I can give here is to buy minimal kit and test it to see what it is you’re most comfortable wearing.
When you’ve found your gym-attire sweet spot, go and stock up!
4) Make it Social!
Find your tribe and help keep each other accountable. It might be that you regularly attend the same class and when you don’t, the other regulars ask why you didn’t come!
It might be that you use social media to connect with others on the same journey as you. When I was marathon training I connected with other runners across the globe and we found motivation from each other, even if the pain of training was the only thing we had in common!
The benefits of gym-buddies have been explored before. Check out this article for a more in-depth examination of how and why gym-partner accountability works.
5) Beware of Gym Germs!
I often see people coming out of the gym conscientiously snacking on an apple or satsuma. Whilst this might seem like the perfect way to end a weights session, I can’t help but think of the germs they’re ingesting along with their Granny Smith!
Gyms are the perfect breeding ground for germs. Make sure you wash your hands before eating following a gym session.
Not convinced? I once followed a guy on the squat rack who had been cupping his balls in between sets.
If you’re a germ-a-phobe like me then follow these top tips to avoid germs at the gym!
6) Leave The Rings at Home or Your Abs Won’t Be The Only Thing Getting Shredded
Those cross-cut metal grips on the free weights will effectively shred and file your beautifully delicate jewellery. Remove jewellery and leave it somewhere safe at home, or locked away in a safe place.
7) Don’t Interrupt People Mid-Set
It’s simply bad etiquette to interrupt someone when they’re focussed on their set. When you’re mid set and putting all your efforts in to those last few reps you really don’t have the energy to reply.
Instead wait until the end of the set before conversing (if you must at all)!
8) Learn the Lingo
I was in the gym with a friend many years ago and guy came over and asked “how many love?” so my friend looked down to the check the amount of KG’s she was lifting and the the guy interrupted “How many sets?”.
For us, this was pretty funny. If you’re the type of person who feels foolish in an exchange such as this, then make an effort to learn the lingo!
If you don’t know a burpee from a mountain climber or a downward dog from a sumo squat, and you’re the type who’s too afraid to ask, then get googling. YouTube fitness aficionados will happily demonstrate for you!
9) No Heavy Petting!
Remember those old-school signs from the swimming baths that said “No Petting”? The ones alongside the bit that tells you not to run, jump, dive or do anything else fun in the public baths – yup.
Well it seems they could do with getting some of those in the gym. Nobody wants to see heavy fondling and ass grabbing in a public place not matter how good that butt is!
If you’re going to the gym with your partner, save the bedroom eyes and slushy smooching for when you get home.
10) Don’t Station Hog
Don’t be the person who does 1 set of 8 exercises then sits on the machine for 5 minutes telling Instagram about thier ‘gains’. Don’t be the one who sits in the squat rack doing bicep curls when you could be doing them anywhere else in the gym.
Equally, doing circuits is a great way to train, but don’t expect to turn up at the gym at 8pm and lay claim to 5 weights stations. Just because your jacket is on the seat and your water bottle is in the holder doesn’t mean you’re ‘using’ that station!
11) Keep Your Private Parts Private
Male and female changing rooms at the gym are where the real ego show takes place. Proud owners of pumped and primped and preened bodies parade around with little care for the shame or embarrassment of the more reserved characters that have to share the room with them. I’m no body-shamer and think it’s great people are so happy in their own skin, but I simply don’t wish to see it.
I don’t care if you have a designer vagina and a brazilian and the most gravity-resistant tits on the planet – I don’t want to see it! My male friends have spoken of times where guys have had full conversations with them in the changing rooms whilst practically wafting their man-parts in their faces!
Save the awkwardness and the potential bad reputation. Cover yourself up!
12) Make the Most of Your Membership
One of the best ways to get the most out of your gym membership is to use the expertise of your trainers. Sign up to classes, speak to staff and use as much of the equipment as you can. If you’re not sure how – ask!
13) Remember to Rest and Recover!
Recovery is something which is often overlooked but true athletes understand the importance of it. There are many reasons why it’s important, many of which are neatly outlines in this article by Elizabeth Quinn.
There’s lots of ways to ‘recover’ from exercise such as stretching, foam rolling, walking, icing, massaging and jogging. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting more sleep.
Your recovery will depend on your fitness level and the activity you’ve engaged in so you’ll need to tailor it a little. This article on Bodybuilding.com offers some top tips for maximising your recovery.
14) Get the Nutrition Right
Fitness isn’t only about putting in hours in the gym or the miles on the street. Nutrition plays a huge part in the transformation of your body and taking fitness to the next level.
I’ll be writing a blog post soon with some simple nutrition tips based on what I’ve learnt through my training as a Sports & Exercise Nutritional Advisor. Keep an eye on the fitness page on the blog and my Instagram page for more updates!
15) Recognise Your Achievements!
Recognise your own achievements and be proud of them however small, as that’s what will keep you motivated!