Incorporating 20-30 minutes of exercise 2-3 days a week is one of the best ways to lose weight, build strength, and improve your overall health and well-being. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, live longer, and feel more energized.
But if you’ve never been to the gym before, the whole experience can be a bit intimidating. Between the rows of machines you’re not sure how to use, the free weight area which seems scattered with expert weight lifters, and cardio pros on the treadmill, you might walk into the gym and think, “maybe I should have stayed on the couch.”
Don’t be intimidated! Everyone who looks like a pro at the gym had their first day there as well. We put together this guide to help you understand how to prepare, and steps you can take to make your first gym visit the best it can be.
Get the right supplies
The first step to a successful gym visit is to have the right gear. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend $200 on a name-brand pair of fancy gym shoes. But having the right gear sets you up for success. At a minimum, you will want to have at least one of the following:
- Appropriate footwear – tennis shoes or gym sneakers are your best bet
- Athletic wear – whatever you’re most comfortable in – from yoga pants and a t shirt to gym shorts and a sweatshirt. Just make sure it isn’t too loose or too tight; you don’t want anything that interferes with your movement.
- Arm band & headphones – many people choose to listen to their favorite playlists during a workout. If you’re using your phone, try purchasing an arm band and some headphones so you can get in the zone (and keep your phone with you).
- Deodorant – this speaks for itself.
- Shower toiletries – if you plan to shower at the gym, you may want to bring your own shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
- A gym bag and lock – if you plan to take your valuables with you into the gym, it’s a good idea to get a gym bag and lock. That way, you can rest easy that your items are safe during your workout.
Once you have the right supplies, you’ll be ready to walk in confidently knowing you have everything you need for a good workout.
Ask for a tour
On your first day at a new gym, it’s a good idea to request a tour of the facility from a staff member. No appointment should be necessary. Just show up, tell the staff at the front desk that you’re a new member, and request a tour. A tour will show you:
- Where you can scan in to each gym session
- Where your locker room is
- What special amenities you have access to
- The layout of the gym floor
- Where you can get a studio class schedule and where classes are located
Staff members can also answer any questions you have about your membership or trial.
Head to the locker room
Now that you know the lay of the land, go to your designated locker room and get ready. Once you’re geared up, turn on your favorite playlist, and make sure your valuables are safely locked away. Then it’s time to start your workout.
Start in the cardio area
We always recommend choosing a cardio machine for the first part of your day. Whether you prefer the treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical, set yourself up somewhere for fifteen minutes for some warm up cardio. Not only is this a great way to start any workout, but you can use your cardio time to acclimate to the layout of the gym.
Decide your next steps
If you’re at the gym to increase your cardio for weight loss, you may decide to remain in the cardio area for your entire stay. But a balanced workout should also include some weight lifting and stretching. If you’ve never lifted free weights, or are unsure how to use the fitness machines located throughout the gym, we highly recommend booking a session with a personal trainer.
A personal trainer can listen to your unique fitness goals, and help you come up with a personalized fitness plan. They can take you around the gym floor and show you:
- How to use fitness machines that build muscle groups you’d like to target
- What free weight exercises you should try
- How to track your progress and vary your routine each week
- How to feel confident moving from machine to machine
Gyms that are truly focused on your success should offer you a personal training session at no cost. This is an incredible opportunity that every new gym member should take advantage of. Feeling confident in your routine means you’re more likely to come back to the gym and meet your fitness goals
Try a group fitness class
There is no better way to jumpstart your fitness goals as a beginner than by singing up for a group fitness class. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build strength, or try something new, a group exercise class is a great way to get individual attention in a group setting. Not only that, but a guided class means you are held accountable to your time there for the full duration of the class. If you have trouble self-motivating, try singing up for 2-3 classes a week. You’ll be happy you did!
If it’s your first time attending a class, show up 5-10 minutes early. Then, introduce yourself to the instructor. Let them know it’s your first time. They will make sure you have everything you need to have a successful session.
Ask questions when you need help
The gym staff is there to help you. If you’re unsure how to set up and use a certain machine, just ask! Don’t let fear of the unknown prevent you from reaching your goals this year.