Youniverse Contributor: Debbie Woodruff of Coach Debbie Runs
Joining a new gym can be intimidating. You may feel that you are surrounded by people who know exactly what they are doing while you aren’t quite sure where to start. Whether you are overwhelmed by visions of hard-core fitness buffs surrounding you, mental pictures of everyone else with a perfect body while you are nowhere close, or if the hundreds of complicated machines just seem daunting, don’t let these feelings keep you from starting your fitness journey. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable at the gym.
Take advantage of the introductory personal training session. New Youfit members can schedule an assessment and workout with a certified YouCoach. Use the time to make sure that you have a simple understanding of how to use the cardio and weight equipment. Sure, they want you to sign up for personal training sessions, but they also want you to have some knowledge and be safe while you work out. Be prepared for this session and ask questions. You should leave with a little more confidence about the gym equipment and a basic plan for what to do when you work out on your own.
Sign up for a few personal training sessions. If you have no experience with weight training, it is a good idea to take a few sessions with a certified personal trainer. Your YouCoach can create a program for you based on your goals and help you feel comfortable using both the machines and the free weights. A personal trainer should ask you about your health and exercise history, any physical limitations or restrictions that you might have, and what goals you hope to achieve. And this what a YouCoach does … They can then create a plan that is personalized just for you, whether you want to lose weight, get better at your sport, or generally feel stronger and healthier.
Take a class. Taking group exercise classes are a great way to get started at the gym. Find a class that sounds interesting and sign up. They are usually included in the price of your Lime Card membership. From circuit training to Zumba, your gym will have choices that not only will help you get fit, they will give you the opportunity to meet other members and feel comfortable in the group atmosphere. On your first visit try to arrive early and take the opportunity to introduce yourself to the instructor. Let her know any restrictions that you might have. And don’t hide yourself at the back of the class no matter how tempting that may sound. The closer you are to the front the better you will see the instructor’s moves and she can better correct your movements.
Whether you are looking for a class that focuses on strength, cardio, mind/body, or active aging, YouGX offers a variety of classes that will suit both your preferences and your fitness level.
Try the Express Circuit. The 30-minute Express Circuit workout is a fast and effective way to get both your cardio and strength training workout in a nonintimidating and fun atmosphere. The stations are timed, and the instructions are easy to follow. Simply hop on and follow the traffic lights: Green, you go; red, you rest. Simple! Express Circuit classes are also available in some locations. You will get the extra motivation of working out with a group and scheduled classes are led by a Youfit certified personal trainer.
Do some research. If you are a beginner, take the time to do a little research about what you should be doing at the gym and how to avoid injury. There are many online resources that can tell you how to use the machines and how to exercise with proper form. You can even find specific workouts to try, learn which exercises you should be doing for specific results and learn how to make sure that you create a balanced workout.
Go at a quiet time. Early morning and evening are busy times at the gym as exercisers get their workouts in before heading off to work or on their way home. The equipment may be in use and the gym may be crowded. If you have the option, try visiting the gym in the late morning or early afternoon. That is the quietest time at the gym, which creates a comfortable atmosphere. You can take more time to try out different equipment and explore the variety of machines.
Bring music. If you bring your own music you can simply plug in and get on with your workout, forgetting about your concerns and the other exercisers around you. Music can be a great motivator and give you an extra push to get through your workout.
Bring a friend. The buddy system is a great way to motivate and hold yourself accountable for your exercise program. Bringing a friend along to the gym will help you to feel more comfortable. If your friend has fitness experience, she or he can help you learn a little more about working out. If you are both beginners you can learn the ropes together.
Have a plan. Don’t walk into the gym and wander aimlessly around looking for a random machine to try. Create a workout plan, which can vary from day to day depending on your goals. One day you may want to focus on cardio, so start out on the treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike. Another day may be total body strength, upper or lower body, or you may plan to do it all. The point is to have a plan. You’ll feel more confident.
Learn gym etiquette. There are certain protocols are expected of gym-goers, and once you learn what they are you will be on your way to fitting in. Some of the important ones include replacing weights when you’re done, wiping down equipment after use, and not hogging the equipment. Your gym probably has a sign or a list that they will be happy to provide you. If not, just remember to be considerate of others.
Remember that everyone once stood in your shoes. Everyone has had first-timer jitters at one time or another. We all had to start somewhere. Most people understand your discomfort and are happy to answer questions, direct you to a certain piece of equipment, or show you how to start the treadmill or elliptical. Just be sure that you’re not interrupting their workout.
There is one final important thing to remember about feeling uncomfortable at the gym. No one cares. What that means is that everyone is simply concerned with doing their own workout and overcoming their own insecurities. They don’t notice that you have to read the instructions on the leg press, or that you’re wearing an old T-shirt and sweat pants. In spite of your fears, no one is watching you. They really aren’t.
While walking into the gym for the first time can be a daunting experience, following these tips will help you ease into the experience and feel comfortable in your environment. Walk in with confidence, and soon you will be confident and competent.