Growing up, I was never ‘sporty’ and it was only about 4 years ago that a friend introduced me to weight training. I still remember how intimidated and out of place I felt at the time, with absolutely no clue what I was doing! But I persevered – and having spent the last couple of years in a busy gym environment after becoming a Personal Trainer, it can be easy to forget how scary stepping foot in a gym can be, especially for the first time.
Here are some tips that I wish I’d known previously. Hopefully they can help you not only with confidence, but also help you to reach your goals.
1) Make a plan – whether it’s booking a HIIT class, writing down some weightlifting exercises or planning a podcast to listen to whilst doing some cardio. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” It’s so important to have a structure in place to help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, but also so that you use your time efficiently when in the gym.
2) Don’t feel self conscious – No one else is concerned with what you’re doing, most people are too busy worrying about their own workout. If they are looking, they are probably interested in the particular exercise you’re doing and not judging you.
3) Find something you love – it can be difficult to create habits and attend the gym regularly when starting out, as everything feels a bit alien. There are so many training techniques out there, so find one that works for you. Whether it’s strength training, running, gym classes, yoga, CrossFit..the list goes on! You are much more likely to maintain a training plan if you enjoy it.
4) Make sure you rest – whilst it’s great to set a goal of attending the gym X times per week, it’s also important to take days off. Especially as a newbie gym-goer. Ideally, you want to spread your training days out across the week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) and take rest days in between – your muscles need time to repair and grow!
5) Book an induction or PT taster session – an induction can be really useful for learning how to use all the scary-looking gym machines! Generally, you’ll be shown how to use various types of equipment and you can ask to be shown any you’re unsure of. It’s also a great opportunity to ask some questions.
6) Fuel correctly – don’t turn up to the gym hungry. I first started attending the gym when I worked a 9-5 office job and would head to the gym straight after work, 5 hours after my last meal! This often left me feeling weak, dizzy and sick. The body needs fuel for energy, so try having a small, carby meal or snack 1-2 hours before exercising.
7) You don’t have to kill yourself to get results – often, you’ll see people promoting the fact that they exercise hard until they puke or pass out. This is not only unnecessary, it’ll also make you a lot less likely to return for another workout! It is still important to challenge yourself, so pick a weight that feels difficult yet manageable and go from there.
8) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – pretty much all gyms have Personal Trainers who are there to help you and give you advice. We are always more than happy to check your form, spot an exercise, or even give you some tips on training and nutrition, so just give us a shout.
I hope these tips have helped you. And if you still get nervous stepping into the gym, just remember that we all started somewhere.