New to the Gym? Beginner First Time Guide:
Going to the Gym For the First Time?
This beginner gym guide covers how to workout in a gym for the first time.
If you’re new to Fitness, welcome! We’re so happy you’re here. You’re about to embark on a journey to become a healthier and happier version of yourself, and we’re here to support you.
If you’re a gym beginner — or haven’t had a membership for a while — it can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating at first. But the hardest part of any fitness journey is making the decision to make healthy happen, and you’ve already done that.
To help make the next leg of your journey easier, here are some tips for achieving your wellness goals and making the most of your gym workouts, plus a beginner strength-training workout routine.
Let’s get to it.
You’re not alone!
Tomorrow is your first day at the gym or first time going to gym, you're not alone. Contrary to popular belief, you, brave beginner, are in good company. In fact, millions of people workout across the country, meaning you’re surrounded by gym-goers of all skill levels. And we’re here for all of you.
So, if you don’t know much about the workout routines and machines (how exactly does a rowing machine work?) or how to build the right strength-training workout, you’re in the right place.
And of course, fitness and diet go hand in hand.
Getting started at the gym
Get a little warm up in. Take the first 10 minutes to get your body moving. Cardio machines are a great place to start. Try taking a walk, or light jog, on the treadmill, or give the bike a spin. Whatever you choose, you should be working hard enough to get your heart rate up and break out in a slight sweat before moving on.
Choose a fitness or training goal
Take a moment to think about why you want to focus on your health, and fitness and write it down. What would you like to accomplish? Are you hoping to lose weight? Build a bigger butt? Maybe you want a workout routine that will build muscle. Or it could be that you’re simply aiming to get to the gym two or three times a week. Whatever it might be make sure to organize your workouts and select sets and reps.
When determining your workout goal, it helps to think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Let’s break it down:
- Specific: You might say, “I want to work out more.” That’s fantastic! But a little vague. Try to get a tad more specific, like: “I want to feel stronger and have more energy.” Or, you could get even more granular and say, “I want to get stronger and be able to do 20 push-ups within six weeks.”
- Measurable: Again, rather than saying, “I want to work out more,” you might say; “I want to start going to the gym three days every week and work out for 45 minutes each time.”
- Achievable: “I want to work out for two hours every day” is unrealistic (not to mention, hard on your body). If we consistently fail to meet our goals, it’s human nature to become disheartened and lose motivation. It also becomes easier to make excuses for ourselves. So, start with a challenging but achievable goal that may not always be easy, but is positive and possible.
- Relevant: It’s important to consider things like lifestyle, current fitness level, and other time commitments when setting a health goal. If you’re a beginner to working out, find gym workouts that are aimed at beginners (like the one below!). If you know you can get to the gym during the weekdays, but weekends are always packed, make sure to keep that in mind during the planning phase.
- Timely: Setting a (realistic) timeframe for meeting your goals is a huge motivator. If your goal is to get to the gym three days a week indefinitely, it’ll feel huge. Instead, set the goal for the next four months, and see how you feel at that time.
And remember: Goals can be creative and fun! Feel free to go beyond just building endurance or adding repetitions. As long as it’s achievable, the sky’s the limit!
Once you’ve decided on your gym goal, write it down. Share it on Facebook. Tell your best friend or your mom (who might be your best friend). By vocalizing your gym goal, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable and find success.
Making the most of your time at the gym
Now that your goal is set and your mind is right, lace up those tennis shoes and grab your water bottle. It’s gym time. Here are a few tips for that first day.
Try a beginner fitness class
Gym workouts and fitness classes are both great ways to challenge yourself, improve your performance, learn something new, and meet people who are also on the health journey. Sign us up!
Remind yourself that you’re not going to see major results right away because progress can’t always be measured in things like pounds or how much weight you’re bench-pressing. Even if it feels like the process is taking a long time, just know that each step you take toward making healthy happen is a step in the right direction. And you should be proud of that!
Always be kind to yourself
You will come across a rough patch at some point in your fitness journey. That’s OK. Don’t let it stop you from continuing to work toward reaching your goals. If a day didn’t go as planned, don’t be hard on yourself. It happens to all of us, and it’s more important to refocus your thoughts on getting back on track the next day.
Strength training for beginners
When most people start going to the gym, they’ll resort to what they’re comfortable with. Oftentimes, that’s a cardio machine. And while we’re not here to say that cardio isn’t a key component of your workout program — it is! — we are here to say that your gym workout shouldn’t consist exclusively of cardio workouts.
Treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes can offer great full-body workouts. They’re great for interval training and active recovery, and they’re a great tool to improve heart and lung health. But the secret to getting in overall better shape is resistance training, also known as strength or weight training.
Five reasons strength training is important
Here’s why you should incorporate weight training into your workout routine — even at the beginner level:
- Burns more calories. Lifting weights boosts metabolism, which in turn burns calories, which of course means fat loss. See how that works? But that’s not even the best part. Once your workout is over, your body will continue to burn calories thanks to something called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” And the more intense your workout, the longer it takes your body to return to its normal state. Which means more weight loss and calories burned, baby.
- Protects bone health and muscle mass. As we age, we lose muscle mass and bone density, so strength training can help you combat the effects of aging to make your bones, joints, and muscles healthier and stronger.
- Helps improve daily activities. Not only does strength training make you stronger, it also can help improve your balance, coordination, posture, and flexibility, making daily activities easier and enhancing your quality of life.
- Doubles as a pick-me-up. Skip the afternoon cup of coffee and lift some weights instead! Research shows that strength training can increase your level of endorphins to boost your energy and mood and decrease anxiety or stress. Easing stress can, in turn, improve your sleep.
- Builds your confidence and self-esteem. Is there anything better than the feeling of accomplishment after a tough workout? Not only does strength training make you physically stronger, but it can also help increase emotional health, which is equally important.
Sounds good? We thought so. Let’s hit the free weights and get to the workout!
Survival Tips for Your First Time at the Gym
You've finally made the decision to sign up for a gym membership. Congratulations on your big step.
Now you need to go to the gym. The first time you step foot into the gym can be very intimidating. There are muscle men making odd grunting noises, dropping weights on the floor, and looking very intense with their facial expressions.
Then there are the women in Ms incredible glutes. Their hair looks great, even if they just threw it up in a ponytail, and they seem to know what they are doing. It's overwhelming.
Now, here you are—new to the gym, lost and not quite sure what each machines does. Where do you begin?
First, get a tour of the facility. If anything, you'll at least learn where the locker rooms are.
Next, if you can afford a personal trainer, sign up for five sessions. This one-on-one coaching is a great way to learn how to best use the equipment for your needs. You'll be able to work on your form and get on a steady workout routine. Bonus: you'll know at least one friendly face every time you go to the gym.
If you can't afford a trainer, ask one of them to show you around for a few minutes. A good gym should allow you to speak with a trainer. Trainers will typically show you 2 to 3 different machines and help build your confidence on the gym floor. Don't be shy; ask for help.
Since you're new to the gym, here's some important gym etiquette you should know:
- Bring a towel. Some gyms offer towel service, but most don't. Call ahead and ask if you're not sure or just bring your own anyway.
- Limit your cardio time. If the gym is packed, you should only stay on a cardio machine for 15-30 minutes. You can do your workout and finish up with cardio if you want to do more. It's only fair to allow everyone a turn.
- No cell phones. Leave your phone at home, in the car or in the locker. If you use your phone to listen to music, don't answer calls. If you must take the call, go to the locker room. It's rude to disturb other gym goers with your conversations or to chitchat on a machine when others could be using it.
- Wipe down machines when you're done using them. Let's be honest, you go to the gym to sweat. Just don't leave it on the equipment.
- Share the machine. If you're on a machine and you notice someone waiting, ask if he or she would like to "work in" with you.