Advice for Those About to Join a Gym/Fitness Program

Getting fit is simply the best personal investment you will ever make. It’s not easy, and requires a significant personal commitment. But the rewards gained from fitness as per physical, mental and emotional health can not be overstated. What follows is some basic beginners advice for those interested in getting started, who may need some encouragement and/or guidance to get them off on the right foot.

1. Be motivated.

If it’s merely a New Year’s resolution you’re probably going to fail. Gyms tend to be packed during the first two weeks of January. Then they get noticeably less busy. Be the person joking about this phenomenon with other patrons between sets, not the butt end of the joke. You have to want to be there for genuine reasons of self-improvement. Any external pressure or capricious motivations will generally lead to failure. Having said that, a friend or partner getting you a membership isn’t insulting you; they are making one of the best investments that can be made for you. That said, before you set foot in a gym, make sure you want to be there for you.

2. Get a long-term gym membership.

Ideally about a year or so. Sure it’s a big up-front cost, but it will pay huge dividends in terms of personal reward. Moreover, most gym membership schemes are stacked towards heavy long-term discounts. And if you’ve paid a few hundred for a years’ pass, you’ll probably want to get your money’s worth as well. Exercising at home/in the park is better than nothing, but a gym membership will motivate you to use it. Furthermore, gyms can be great social environments to network, meet new friends, potential training partners, or even find a date.

3. Have a specific goal.

The more specific and realistic the better. Good examples of goals are: losing 10 lbs, gaining 10 lbs, decreasing body fat by 2%. Bad EGs are: lose 60 lbs, gain 60 lbs, get a 6-pack etc. The latter are doable, but require a great amount of commitment which can be overwhelming for a beginner. Your overarching mantra should be: to improve myself; bit by bit, day by day.

4. Get a personal trainer.

The reality is, beginning a fitness program can be like jumping into the deep end of a pool without first learning how to swim. It can even be as dangerous. While most people learn from friends, a lot of unprofessional advice is misleading or flat out wrong. You can be seriously injured by incorrectly performing various exercises. You can also slave away on the weights for months and barely make any progress. Most guys I see in the gym look the same month after month. They are like this because they aren’t exercising correctly, and I’d bet they think they didn’t need professional advice. Only a trainer can best ascertain your goals and abilities and design a program to match. They will also ensure you are performing the activities properly, which reduces risk of injury and maximizes any gains you make. Fitness websites and magazines can be useful, but keep in mind they usually peddle products geared towards physically insecure people. Even if they information is accurate, there is a big difference between knowing how to do exercises and actually doing them properly.

Try and be referred to a good trainer. There is a significant range in quality, and only stay with those trainers who you feel good around. While multiple sessions are recommended, cost factors may mean you’ll only be able to afford a couple or even one session. But you need to have at least one session to get you off on the right foot.

5. Eat well.

Your body is like a high performance car. The better the gas/oil you put in it, the better it will perform. And vice versa. Ensure you eat an adequate amount to balance your level of daily activity. Weight gain/loss is a simple matter of balancing calories consumed with those exerted. Avoid processed foods as much as possible, and maximize your intake of fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains and drink lots of water. Avoid fats, sugars and ingredients you can’t pronounce or understand where possible.

6. Sleep well.

You will simply not be able to be fit if you are sleep deprived. Your body will need rest to gain muscle and strength.

7. Get comfortable, practical gym wear.

The better you feel in your clothes, the better you will perform. A comfortable pair of dark colored shorts and a t-shirt work best for most people. Get comfortable, firm-soled shoes. Ideally, your shoes should be as close to barefoot as possible. Avoid clunky soles and frilly shoes. Avoid excessively baggy shorts or shirts. Avoid excessively tight ones as well. Your tank top isn’t impressing anyone big guy, even if you’ve the build of an underwear model. Girls, wear clothing that doesn’t draw too much attention to you. You want to look fit, not like a locker room call girl. Try and wear a t-shirt that leads to an interesting story you could tell a stranger. My favorite gym shirt used to be a frat-party shirt which listed Sublime as one of the acts performing. Someone may notice and ask you about it, maybe even that cute hardbody you’ve had your eye on for the past few days…

8. Befriend the staff.

I used to work at two high volume gyms, so I speak from experience. They are there to help, and are usually bored out of their minds. They will appreciate the social contact and can often give you excellent (and free!) fitness advice. Be advised that any advice is not a substitute for a personal trainer, and don’t try to use them like one. Also, being on friendly terms with gym staff is social capital and can lead you to being introduced to people of interest.

9. Be courteous.

Gyms are generally some of the most pro-social environments you can find. People tend to be especially nice and considerate. Always share equipment, be courteous to others, and clean up after yourself. A little positivity goes a long way, and others will notice.

10. Have fun.

Above all, make sure what you’re doing is satisfying your inner child. Challenge yourself, make small games of exercises. For example, challenge yourself to running for 10 minutes straight. Tell yourself you owe your best friend (or worst enemy!) lunch if you don’t. Mix up your routine, always be learning, and love what you do. If you don’t love being there, you won’t get anywhere near the results of those who are genuinely enthusiastic to be there.

I hope this helped. Committing to fitness and joining a gym in my first year of university was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I went from being pathetically weak and insecure about how thin I was, to being strong, young buck who’d gained about 40 lbs of raw, lean muscle mass. Girls would literally paw at me and flirt, complementing me on certain body parts! My posture improved dramatically. People now notice and respect me when I enter a room. The boost in self-esteem and confidence was life altering. My mood and mental health improved dramatically. The better I felt about life, the better my life became. There’s no excuse to not taking a couple of hours a week to being the best you can be. And there is no better way to look and feel great!

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One Response to Advice for Those About to Join a Gym/Fitness Program

  1. Pingback: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Gym Novices Make | The Skeptical Humanist

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