People avoid working out because they’re afraid of the gym.
The gym is often an imitating place for many first timers. There is a lot of shiny equipment and fit, sweaty people. Buff men grunt while lifting loaded dumbbells above their heads. Women in head-to-toe Lululemon are running in sync on the rows of treadmills. While it might be scary to walk in the door for the first time, walking in will be the hardest part.
Don’t be afraid. Everyone started somewhere so while you might be confused at the beginning, most members and staff will be willing to show you around and give you some pointers. Gym layouts will vary across gyms, but they will all generally have the same equipment and spaces. You’ll see areas for stretching, cardio, fitness classes, and weights.
How to Navigate the Gym
Most gyms offer a new member orientation. New member orientations can range from simple tours of the gym layout to a private appointment with a personal trainer. If you’ve never worked out at a gym before, I would recommend paying for at least one session with a personal trainer as the knowledge you gain from the session will help you succeed with your fitness goals.
These sessions usually include a health assessment, body fat analysis, strength training and cardio machine instruction, and general workout guidance. This is a great time to ask a fitness professional any and all the questions you might have. If you’re not sure how to do a proper push-up or how the step machine works, ask away!
The Locker Rooms
Once you’ve taken the tour, head towards the locker rooms and check out the floor plan. Locker rooms will have an area to change, shower, and use the toilet. Remember to bring a lock to lock your valuables while you workout. Now it’s time to change into your workout clothes and hit the floor. Don’t be shy. You’ll probably see a lot of things in the locker rooms.
The Stretching Area
Okay, now you have your workout clothes on, right? Let’s find the stretching area. Most gyms will have a designated stretching area with mats or just an open space. Sit down and have a deep breath. The stretching area is an area where you can stretch before and after your workout. You’ll often find some tools like a foam roller, bands, and yoga mats. If you’re not sure what to do just ask one of the trainers or gym employees.
Next you’ll have the option of either heading to the cardio or strength area. Depending on your fitness goals you might head to the strength area first then the cardio or just the cardio. If your goal is to build muscle mass then you should head to the strength area first, but that’s a discussion for another day.
The Cardio Area
The cardio area will contain many machines that are built to get your heart rate up and the blood pumping. The most popular machine you’ll see will be the treadmill. There are hundreds of different brands of treadmills, but they all work the same. A treadmill allows you to walk or run on various inclines at adjustable speeds.
If you’re looking for something easier on the knees, the elliptical trainer is another great option as it is a no-impact workout. Again, each machine will vary. Step machines are popular with many people, but require good fitness so they may not be best for beginners. Rounding out the most common cardio fitness machines are stationary bikes. Stationary bikes are a great low-impact cardio workout. Bikes come in two forms: upright and recumbent.
The Strength Area
Men often dominate the strength area of gyms. Don’t be afraid. Strength training is the best thing you can do for your body. It burns the most calories and builds muscle. If you’re not sure what to do, definitely talk to the personal trainer on duty. It’s worth the investment in a session to learn proper technique as the strength area is the area most people will injury themselves.
Strength training areas are often split in two sections. One will contain strength-training machines, which is a good place to start as a beginner. The second area will contain all the free weights and cable machines. Some gyms will number or organize their machines by muscle groups making it easier for you to do your workout. You’ll find machines for the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, and abs among others. Some body parts have multiple machines. Just pick one machine per muscle group to start. Doing too much too early is a good way to injury yourself.
The free weight section will be located close to the weight machines. Equipment will vary per gym, but you’ll find dumbbells, barbells and plates, benches, weight racks, bench press stations. Here you’ll see people doing anything from simple biceps curls to Olympic lifting to plyometric and bodyweight training.
The Fitness Studio
Most gyms these days offer fitness classes and thus have an in-house fitness studio for classes. Fitness classes are a great place for beginners to learn new exercises in a stress-free environment. Classes could be anything from yoga to bootcamps to Zumba. When you take a class, just make sure you let the instructor know that you’re a beginner. They will help you with exercise modifications and proper technique. If you’re not comfortable doing an exercise or reached your limit, it’s okay to stop and take a break. Know your limits and stick to them.
Gyms don’t have to be a scary place. Sure, there are really fit people wearing very little clothing, but they started somewhere too. The hardest part is getting through the door. If you’re still unsure about what you’re doing then ask for help. It’s best to admit that you have no clue then hurt yourself. Navigating a gym doesn’t have to be hard.