Stepping foot inside the gym for the first time can be an intimidating ordeal, not least doing it all on your own.
Chances are, you’ll have a million and one questions. What are all the machines for? How do I use them? Is everyone looking at me?
The truth is, everyone starts somewhere. From the girls and guys lifting heavy in the weight room to the avid runners making a 10k run look like a walk in the park, they were all beginners once.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of gym tips for beginners to guide you through your first session and build the confidence to keep coming back so you can crush your goals.
1. BOOK AN INDUCTION
If you’re completely new to the gym, an induction with a trained professional is a great way to get to grips with all of the equipment, and your surroundings.
Almost all gyms will offer some form of induction for beginners when you sign up. They usually involve a brief tour of the gym’s facilities and how to use the equipment safely.
If you’ve seen something - be it a machine or an exercise - that you want to try, your induction is the perfect time to ask! It’ll save you the effort of wandering around aimlessly further down the line.
2. GO WHEN IT’S QUIET(ER)
One question every new gym goer asks is “what’s the best time to go to the gym?” The short answer? There’s no ‘best time’ to exercise, it all depends on your body and your lifestyle.
That being said, mornings are often hailed as the best time to fit in a workout, as it can reduce stress levels and leave you feeling more energised for the rest of the day.
It’s also worth considering avoiding peak times when you’re first starting out. Showing up to the gym when it’s busy can be a daunting feat and can even taint the most thought through workouts, especially if the squat rack is taken by one of the ‘regulars’.
A quick Google search can often tell you when your gym is at its busiest, so head online and plan your sessions, so you can have the first pick of the machines.
3. SET SHORT- & LONG-TERM GOALS
Setting goals will help you establish a clear vision of what you want to achieve and serve as great motivators on the days you’re lacking the drive to drag yourself to the gym. They’re there for you to be able to see how you’re progressing and ultimately help you achieve something you currently can’t.
Long-term goals give you a specific purpose to train and a clear target to work towards. We’d recommend making these as specific as you can - this removes any room for ambiguity when you come to tick it off your list.
Setting short-term goals will allow you to break your long-term fitness goal into more manageable chunks. These might be objectives you set for the month or even each session.
Make sure you celebrate every success - big or small - and hold yourself accountable to achieving it, as this will help you remain focused and make your journey more enjoyable.
Read more about how to set - and stick at - your goals here.
4. ESTABLISH A WORKOUT PLAN
The workouts you do should be tailored to what fitness goals you have. Plan your workout ahead of time and take note of all the equipment you’re going to need to complete it. By having this ready, you’ll be more sure of yourself as you move around the gym.
A popular way to structure your workouts is to train specific parts of your body on certain days. For example, on Mondays, you may decide to work shoulders and triceps, while on Wednesdays, you might target legs. This is called a ‘workout split’.
Google and YouTube are handy tools for researching the best exercises to train specific body parts - or even better, we’ve got a range of guided workouts and athlete-approved routines right here.
5. TRY A CLASS
While it may seem like throwing yourself in at the deep end, there are many classes at the gym for beginners. Similar to a gym induction, these introductory classes tend to take you through the motions of each movement, ensuring you can complete them safely and comfortably - or at least, as comfortable as a burpee can be.
As well as teaching you the ropes, classes are also a great way to meet others new to the gym, meaning your days of solo gym-ing may be short lived.
6. PACK YOUR GYM BAG
Okay, so you’ve got as far as paying for your membership and booking an induction, but now you’re wondering what to take to the gym?
If you’re truly looking to power through your session and achieve your peak performance, you’ll want to come prepared. Here’s a list of gym bag essentials:
- Gym-appropriate training gear (more on this below);
- Sturdy trainers;
- Towel - for wiping down equipment after you use it;
- Towel, shampoo and body wash - for a post-workout shower;
- Post-workout snack;
- Water bottle.
Let’s talk fresh ‘fits. For those of you who are new to the gym, the chances are you’re there to try and feel healthier - either physically or mentally. Investing in some new training gear can go a long way to make you feel the part.
7. GO AT YOUR OWN PACE
Be patient with yourself and don’t do too much too soon, as this will only slow you down long-term. Remember, exercise is self-care - it’s all about working with your body to feel like your best self.
A huge part of this is not comparing yourself to others. Not everyone in the gym (or on your Instagram feed) is at the same point in their fitness journey as you are, and that’s okay.
Take pride in loving your body, enjoy the moment and accept your body for what it is and all that it does for you.
READ MORE: 5 Ways To Make Progress With Your Workouts
8. MASTER THE BASICS
It’s easy to want to go for broke when you’re starting out, but the best way to start seeing results is to master the basics.
Focus on simple, compound movements like squats, deadlifts and shoulder press. Once you’ve perfected these, you can then begin with isolation and more advanced movements.
Similarly, you want to make sure that you’re performing each exercise safely and effectively. Pay close attention to your posture and form before increasing the weight. It may seem tedious, but it’s a vital part of the process.
9. MAKE WORKING OUT A HABIT
Forming a routine relationship with the gym will stop it feeling like such a chore when you have to go. Now, we’re not saying there won’t still be days when you wake up wanting nothing less than to jump on the treadmill or pick up a dumbbell, but having set days or times for your training will make it easier to stick to a routine.
There are lots of little things you can do to make exercising a habit, like setting yourself a reminder or adding it to your calendar, and finding a workout you actually enjoy. The aim? To change your life by forming positive habits that will last a lifetime.
10. DON’T NEGLECT GOOD NUTRITION
Your fitness journey doesn’t end when you leave the gym.
The food you choose to fuel your body with can have a huge influence on your performance inside the gym - particularly what you eat before a workout. Eating roughly one to two hours before the gym is a way of prepping your body with energy and providing it with the nutrients it needs to be able to recover effectively.
Your diet should consist of a healthy balance of fruit and veg, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole-grain carbohydrates.
Discover our nutritious recipes here.
WHAT EQUIPMENT SHOULD I TRY FIRST?
With such an array of equipment to choose from, your first question may be ‘where should I start?’
You’ll find cross-trainers, exercise bikes, rowing machines and treadmills at just about all gyms, which are great for getting warmed up, improving your cardiovascular fitness and helping you to lose weight. Exercise bikes and cross-trainers are especially good for first time gym goers, as they’re extremely low impact, meaning less strain is put on your joints.
You should also give the resistance - or weight - machines a go. A balanced workout is the key to success, and you may struggle to hit your goals if you focus purely on cardio.
The key thing to remember when embarking on your fitness journey is every single person has a right to be in the gym.
Never feel like you don’t have a right to be there because you aren’t as experienced or you’re not lifting as heavy as the next person.
Everyone brings something different to the gym, and every single person’s journey is valid. It’s time to pursue yours.
If you want to learn the gym lingo, check out our article on gym acronyms and abbreviations here.