The Fit Showgrrl Guide to Navigating The Gym As A Beginner
So you are thinking about joining a gym or recently have and now you’re wondering what to do when you walk through the doors. Rest assured you aren’t the only one.
The majority of people at the gym walk in feeling intimidated that everyone is watching them and clueless about exactly what to do. Yes, even that guy near the weights grunting as he strains to curl 50lb dumbbells.
How exactly do you go about navigating the gym without looking like a newbie and know what exercises you should be doing? I’m here to help you break it down step by step so you can get to workin’ on your fitness.
Be clear on what your goals are.
Before you even walk into that gym and get a lay of the land, you need to know what it is you want to achieve and set some goals.
Are you working out:
For overall better health?
To change your body composition (aka lose body fat)?
To gain muscle and get stronger?
To increase your endurance or run a 5k?
Or the age-old #1 thing most womxn have as a goal, lose weight & tone up?
What you should be doing in the gym is dependent on your ultimate goal.
Plan your workouts into your schedule and commit to them.
Look at your schedule for the week and be realistic with your self when you block out time for the gym. If you know that Wednesdays are your busiest day of the week maybe don’t plan to work out on Wednesdays when you’re more likely to choose to skip the gym.
While waking up early to go to the gym may seem daunting, you are more likely to follow through with a workout if you do it at the beginning of your day than at the end when your mind is daydreaming about collapsing on the couch. Consistency is key when it comes to being successful on your fitness journey.
We’ll discuss what you should be doing a little later, for now, just figure out when you’ll do it.
Hit the gym and learn the lay of the land.
Take it easy the first day at the gym. Spend your time getting familiar with the space and letting it become part of your comfort zone. The best way to learn where everything is at the gym is to ask someone at the front desk if they can give you a tour. Don’t feel weird asking, there is someone working whose job is to do exactly that.
Normally, I would tell you to walk away from the cardio machines and pick up some weights, but if this is your first visit to the gym, by all means, go get acquainted with the treadmill. Today is about getting familiar and comfortable.
Just conquering the newbie nerves deserves a pat on the back. There’s no need to feel like you have to walk over to the squat rack and make it your bitch…today.
Find your routine.
Now that you’ve hit the gym, had a cardio sesh, and gotten a bit more acquainted with the layout, it’s time to create your workout routine. This is where we go back to those goals you set in the beginning to help figure out what you should be doing. A well-rounded program consists of both strength training and cardio but how much of each depends on your goals.
Overall Health/Lose Weight:
If your goals are more along the lines of lose weight (body fat) and tone up (gain muscle) start with 2-3 cardio sessions a week and 1-2 total body strength training sessions. As you become more comfortable at the gym and consistently make all your scheduled workouts this should shift to 2-3 strength training sessions and 1-2 cardio sessions.
While cardio is great, the minute you step off that machine, you stop burning calories. If you want to save time and get max benefits from your cardio try opting for High-Intensity-Interval-Training for 10-15 minutes in place of the treadmill or elliptical.
For long-term weight loss, we need to build muscle in order to burn calories over a longer period of time, and strength training will do exactly that.
*Sidenote: While it’s okay to want to lose weight, check-in with your WHY first, and remember, you are worthy and beautiful no matter your body size.
If your goals are more along the lines of getting stronger and gaining muscle, you will want to start with 2 workouts a week and work towards 3. Start with a total body workout consisting of 8-10 exercises with a weight that you can perform 8-12 reps to completion.
The longer you workout and more gym savvy you get you can play around with sets, reps, and splitting your workouts into upper and lower body. If you aren’t familiar at all with strength training, equipment, or muscle groups, consider hiring a personal trainer. Most gyms even offer a complimentary session with a trainer when you sign up.
Try not to let worry that you will get bulky keep you from using heavier weights. Unless you tailor your nutrition accordingly, use supplements, and maybe live at the gym, it’s not likely you’ll turn into the Hulk.
But if you’ve convinced yourself there’s no way you’re strong enough for those 10 or 15lb dumbbells, it’s sometimes better to start light and realize you’re way stronger than you thought, than start super heavy and hurt yourself.
Build Endurance/Run a 5k:
To build your cardio endurance try to hit 30-minute cardio sessions 3x a week, slowly adding 5-10 minutes every week as you feel comfortable. That HIIT training, mentioned earlier, will help you build cardio endurance as well. But, if you’re looking to run a 5k or shorten your mile time apps like Couch to 5k are great for just that…. if running is your thing. Personally, you’d have to dangle money in front of my face to get me to run anywhere.
Write down everything you do!
If you don’t keep track of what exercises you do, how many repetitions, and how much weight you lifted you’ll never know if you’re progressing.
Once you can easily complete 12 reps with the weight you have been using it’s time to increase your load. If we don’t continue to challenge our body, we will never see those strength gains or body composition changes we’re after.
Learn Proper Form
Knowing how to do a movement and using proper form will help keep you from injury. This becomes increasingly more important every time you add weight to a movement. If you don’t have the funds or feel comfortable hiring a trainer, the circuit machines at a gym are a good place to start. Since you are in a fixed position, it’s less likely you will use improper form.
Fitness organizations like ACE also have great libraries where you can access galleries of exercises being performed to help you understand how to do a movement you may be unsure of. Or, you can always hire me to be your coach and get personalized feedback.
Hit The Gym!
Don’t let the fear of not being “perfect” in the gym hold you back. Just committing to the gym and walking through those doors takes courage. Picking up that first dumbbell takes courage. Everyone had a first day at the gym, and as much as you may worry people are watching and judging, 99% of the time, everyone else is thinking the exact same thing.
Truth is we are all so inside our own heads we rarely notice the people working out next to us unless they’re using the piece of equipment we want to use next.