So you finally made the choice to go to the gym! Congratulations! What now? You may no doubt feel intimidated walking into this new space. There are people of all shapes and sizes and it may feel like all eyes are on you. The truth is, everyone is more focused on themselves especially when it comes to their workouts.
If this is your first time going to a gym, make sure to wear clothes that are comfortable. You don’t have to be wearing skin tight spandex, and look fancy like some people do. Anything you are comfortable sweating in is fine. Preferably choose something breathable. Bring a water bottle to carry with you so you don’t have to make frequent stops to the fountain (although most gyms sell water as well). I like to also bring my headphones as the music played in most commercial gyms is pop hits I have heard a thousand times and have no interest in listening to. I’d rather control my music with my phone. It also adds the benefit of pumping me up for my workout.
Have a Plan!
I see far too many people walk into the gym aimlessly staring at machines and guessing on how to use them. You should never be walking into a gym with no idea what you are trying to accomplish that day. This is how people end up unmotivated towards working out and eventually quit going after a while. They don’t see results.
If you are unsure of what program to follow, be sure to check out any of the MAPS programs we have here at Mind Pump. If you are interested, and have the budget for a trainer, I definitely recommend speaking to one of the training consultants about an introductory session. They are usually free, and they can teach you how the machines work, and build a plan to get you towards your goals. Just make sure to be thorough with your questions and make sure they are catering the program to you specifically.
I’m a big believer in what gets measured, gets improved. Do you want strength? A better physique? Flexibility? Really get hyper focused on what you want to accomplish because the program will change based on that.
Get Familiar With The Lay of the Land
Most gyms have a generally similar layout. The dumbbells are usually on one side by the mirrors, and the machines are separated by body parts. It’s good to take a walk around, or ask for a tour before signing up, to see what equipment that gym has to offer. If you aren’t sure what to look for, a good gym usually has a couple squat racks, barbells, dumbbells, a cable machine, and some extra machines to really isolate each muscle.
Key thing to note – you don’t NEED all of that equipment for a gym to qualify as “worthy”. A gym that has a barbell, squat rack and some dumbbells is usually more than enough for a great workout. Again, if using the equipment intimidates you, feel free to reach out to a trainer to learn how to get acclimated to the different modalities.
Unofficial Gym Rules
There are some unspoken rules that aren’t always listed at gyms, but are understood among veteran gym goers.
1. Re-rack your weights – PLEASE above all else make sure you do this. I see WAY too many people leaving their plates on the leg press, or dumbbells all over the floor. Do not do this. Have respect for your facility. If you are strong enough to pick the weights up and use them, then you are strong enough to put them back. You’re just making it harder on everyone else, from members, to the staff by leaving the place messy.
2. Wipe down your equipment – especially these post covid days, it’s just the right thing to do. If you are a particularly sweaty person, and you see yourself leaving a sweat angel on the bench, it should go without saying it needs to be wiped down.
3. Be willing to switch off with someone else – this one definitely bothers me a lot and is something I’ve experienced more than I should be. If you are rotating between several pieces of equipment, or are using a piece of equipment someone else may want to use, be courteous. Allow them to work in sets while you are resting. It won’t ruin your workout, and it will allow you to focus on your very important rest time anyways. It blows me away how offended some people get when I ask them if I can squeeze in a set and they can’t believe the audacity I had for even asking. Don’t be that guy.
Leave Feeling Energized
Don’t confuse a great workout with going balls to the wall and maxing out every time. You should be able to leave the gym feeling better about yourself, not worse. Gone are the days of making sure you work so hard you can barely walk the next day. Being too sore the next day is actually a sign that you pushed it TOO hard! A little soreness is okay, but any more than that means your body is struggling to recover from that volume. Take it back a notch if that’s the case.
One last thing I’d like to note is you may see some super huge guys there. It may seem like they are the meanest people in the world, but believe it or not those guys end up being the nicest and most helpful ones in the gym. They respect someone admitting what they don’t know and are willing to help those that are willing to learn.