Your first time. A guide for gym virgins.

Your first time at a gym can be a scary experience.  Especially if you have never set foot in one before.  Since it’s that time of year when gym memberships are flying off the shelves, I thought I would take the fear out of your first trip by giving you a few helpful tips to make it run a little more smoothly.

Tip #1: What to bring.

Everybody’s different, but I bring the following items to the gym:

  • Lock-Most gyms don’t allow you to carry a bag around with you so you’ll want to bring a lock for the lockers if your gym provides them.  If your gym doesn’t provide lockers, just bring in the following items.
  • Towel-No one wants to sit in your sweat and I’m sure you don’t want to sit in someone else’s sweat so bring a towel with you to dab your forehead or lay down on any machines you may use.
  • WATER BOTTLE-An essential item for any physical activity.  If you need a reason, read my thesis (don’t worry, there’s a summary) http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/nutrition_theses/8/
  • ipod/walkman (if they still make them)/etc-I, personally, don’t like using one, but I know many people like listening to their own music during a workout.  Make sure your music listening device is one that doesn’t hinder your workout.  Many people use arm bands or waist bands to put their devices in, and I know a lot of workout clothing has built in electronic pockets now.

Tip #2: What to do upon your arrival.

The first thing I do when I go to the gym is head for the locker room.  This way, you have a purpose as you walk through the gym.  On your way to the locker room, you can do a quick scan to see where everything is located: cardio machines, nautilus machines, free weights, aerobics room, basketball court, pool, etc.

Once you’ve done what you need to do in the locker room and you’re ready to brave the gym, I recommend heading for the cardio machines (i.e. elliptical, treadmill, bikes, stepmill, etc).  This way you can warmup and do a more complete scan of the gym.  Spend as much time as you need to on the cardio machines.  (Side note: Before you get on a cardio machine, make sure that there is no waiting list or waiting line for the machines.  There’s nothing worse than getting on a treadmill and being asked to get off.    Also, cardio machines are very popular, so check to see if there is a time limit.)  This may be as far as you get on your first trip, but at least you’ve done something and gotten a little more comfortable with the gym environment.

If you are familiar with other gym equipment, you can reacquaint yourself with the nautilus machines or free weights at this time.  If you have never used any type of fitness equipment before, I highly, strongly, and vehemently recommend scheduling a session with a personal trainer.  It is very easy to hurt yourself on gym equipment if you are not familiar with how to use it.

Tip #3: Be familiar with gym etiquette.

These are some basic gym etiquette rules that can keep you from looking and feeling like a jerk on your first trip to the gym:

  • If you don’t know how to do something, ask!  Ask a gym employee how to use a particular piece of equipment that you are not familiar with.  If you want a more extensive tutorial on machines, or on working out in general, you can schedule a session with a personal trainer.  Most gyms offer inexpensive personal training sessions and even free first time sessions.
  • Use a towel!  Be sure to wipe off any equipment that you sweat on.  If you don’t have a towel, most gyms have paper towel and sanitation stations to wipe off machines when you are done.  You might not think your sweat is gross, but more often than not, other gym-goers don’t want to lay down in a pool of your sweat.
  • Ask to “work in.”  If you think someone is done with a machine, but they are still standing next to it, you should ask if they are done.  If someone is not done, proper gym etiquette is to let you “work in.”  This simply means that you would take turns doing sets on that particular machine.  About 99% of the time, they will let you work in.
  • Wear proper attire.  Of course, you want to wear comfortable clothing that you can easily move in, but please be mindful of everyone else’s view while you’re doing calisthenics.  Ladies, this means supportive sports bras, and if you’re wearing shorts, make sure they are tight or, if they are loose running shorts, wear bike shorts under them; and if you’re wearing itsy bitsy shorts, avoid doing any bending activities unless your rear is towards a wall. Another thing to be mindful of, those wonderful black cotton leggings that we all love so much tend to be see through so wrap a shirt around your waist (my preferred method) or go 80s and wear a leotard or briefs over them (my preferred method when teaching desir80s).  Men, same goes for you with shorts; basketball shorts, while long, can ride up if you are stretching or doing the leg press machine, so please wear bike shorts underneath.  Now, if you’re comfortable wearing any of the aforementioned clothing, more power to you, but don’t be surprised if you catch a few stares!  Also, keep in mind that many gyms have dress codes, so check them out before you go.
  • Re-rack your weights.  This is one of my biggest gym pet peeves.  Remember how your parents used to tell you to put your toys away when you were done playing with them?  They were preparing you for the gym!  If the weights are too heavy for you to put back, ask for help or use a lighter weight the next time you work out.

Tip #4 Go with a friend!

What better way to tackle the unknown than with a friend!  This way you’ll have someone to try new things with.  You can take a class, or schedule a personal training session together, and, if you make it a regular date, you can hold each other accountable.

I hope that my first time gym tips have made you feel a little less apprehensive about conquering the gym.  I know it can be scary, but you have to remember, unless you have just joined a small, specialty gym, it’s going to be filled with other people just like you, other first-time gym goers; and, keep in mind, most people at the gym are so concerned with themselves, they are not the least bit concerned with what you’re doing!

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  1. #1 by Sam Sparks on January 10, 2012 - 3:40 am

    Great advice for gym virgins and gym regulars. I think a lot of gym regulars have forgotten proper etiquette so maybe they need a refresher. To everyone out there contemplating going to the gym for the first time, don’t be intimidated. We were all newbies at one point so most people at the gym are eager to assist you setting up a machine, or to answer your questions.

    Good Luck

    GREAT POST!!

  2. #2 by biba on August 20, 2012 - 12:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Biba's Random Blog and commented:
    this suits me!

  3. #3 by Sandra Marie Sipes Morrison Sr. on December 27, 2012 - 8:54 am

    Ok Im ready

  4. #4 by Vivien on February 19, 2013 - 2:12 pm

    This valuable blog, “Your first time. A guide for gym virgins.
    fitdesiree” illustrates the fact that u truly know just what exactly you are speaking about!
    I personally thoroughly agree with your blog. Thanks -Roberto

  5. #5 by Vikram on May 4, 2013 - 1:15 pm

    Good iam ready to this .

  6. #6 by Maya on July 1, 2013 - 7:01 am

    Hey Thanks a ton. I am going to the gym for the first time today and was looking around for advice. Your piece was great! And am taking a shirt to tie around, don’t wanna embarrass myself the very first day. :)

    • #7 by fitdesiree on July 1, 2013 - 6:09 pm

      Ha! Glad you enjoyed and glad you won’t be mooning anyone ;) Hope you had an awesome workout!

  7. #8 by Weezon on November 9, 2013 - 5:57 pm

    My mom told me to start to go to the gym before i start practicing kendo.

    Maybe next week im going to start going to the gym. Thanks for the advice. i wont look like a lost child.. hehehe

  8. #10 by Mark on January 6, 2014 - 10:44 pm

    As a personal trainer whos been hitting the gym for 3+ years, this article is very good for a first timer, the only thing i can say is dont be so anal about following everything to the T, your first step into the gym should be an enjoyful experience, you’ll find most people just wanna work out and go amongst their daily business. You’ll learn as you go along, good luck

  9. #11 by carlos van daal on June 13, 2014 - 5:26 pm

    I’ve already been in a gym but after a long time i’ve decided to go again so this a good way to get myself prepared for what i had forgotten. Thanks a lot

  10. #13 by Sen on July 28, 2014 - 1:27 pm

    Reblogged this on remember to live and commented:
    Because I’ve been meaning to join a gym…

  11. #14 by Danielle Villano on July 31, 2014 - 8:00 am

    This is great! Thanks to your post, my first gym visit this morning was essentially pain-free ;-)

    • #15 by fitdesiree on July 31, 2014 - 10:39 pm

      That’s wonderful to hear! It gets better each time, Danielle :)

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