No matter what age or fitness background you are, heading to the gym can be an overwhelming – and even intimidating – task. While I’ve been coaching for nearly 15 years, and training for over 20, I can still vividly recall my first few months at the gym.
I was actually petrified of getting kicked out because I was young and didn’t know how to use much of the equipment. So I stuck to the assisted pull-up, the lat pull-down, the lateral shoulder raise, the leg extension, and the hamstring machines. I also did a few bicep and triceps exercises with the dumbbells. My thought was to lay-low and not attract any attention. I didn’t really know what I was doing!
Thankfully, a few of the gym staff members were incredibly friendly. They happily took me under their wing to teach me what they knew. This allowed me to not only feel more confident, but also to learn what was “good” and “bad” information when it came to strength training and lifting.
It’s been a long time since those first few months of feeling scared and intimidated. Every single one of us who uses the gym has been there. But with some attention and care, we each have the potential to drastically change our bodies, our lives, and our self-confidence.
Here are the top six gym tips that have helped most folks stop feeling like newbies in the gym. Hopefully, these will help you feel right at home there yourself!
Gym Tips To Stop Feeling Like a Newbie
1. Ask for a trainer to show you how to use the equipment.
While this may seem pretty obvious, most of us are in fact, embarrassed to ask the floor staff for gym tips, or how to use a piece of equipment. We’re afraid of sticking out like a sore thumb. But this is exactly what we need in order to quickly feel more at home in the gym – and make sure we don’t get hurt.
While some gyms have their trainers sell personal training packages, any trainer should be more than happy to show you how to use a piece of equipment properly. Be sure to either take notes, or simply ask to take a video on your smartphone during the demonstration. Aim to learn at least one new machine every time you go to the gym.
If you’re hitting the gym three days a week, this means that over the course of two months, you’ll know how to set up nearly every machine in there. By this time, you’ll understand the basics of different movements and how to perform them safely, and properly!
Some gyms even offer “orientation packages” that allow you to have a staff member or trainer help you get the most out of your time there. This helps the gym to not only have a greater chance of landing a sale, but it also drastically decreases the risk of an accident due to improper use of equipment. It’s a win-win for everyone!
2. Hire a trainer for 1-2 sessions to learn new exercises and to check your technique.
Don’t think of a personal trainer as someone you’ll be stuck with for 30+ sessions. Most actually look for opportunities to help newbies learn proper gym tips and techniques. Why? Because they know that it’s a fantastic chance to help someone get into fitness, discover things about themselves, and get stronger and fitter!
Hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to help you set up a routine will not only help you stop feeling like a newbie, but also help you actually see faster results from your efforts.
One of the biggest reasons why those New Year’s Resolutions crowd tend to stop coming is because they try to take on too much, or too much of the wrong things. They get frustrated and stop showing up. Consistency is one of the biggest determiners for success – in any field – but especially in fitness!
So set yourself up for success AND have a friendly face to help keep you accountable by doing a few sessions with a personal trainer.
3. Put together a plan.
If you’ve noticed, each of these points build off of one another, allowing you to have the roadmap that has helped other “newbies” grow into those regulars who enjoy going to the gym as part of their regular fitness routine. This is all part of the greater plan to help you succeed – and enjoy the gym!
Putting together a plan is so simple – yet it’s something many folks don’t do. But people who have plans and are consistent with them, achieve great results in life – whether it’s in the gym, financial investing, weight loss, personal development, or anything else. Consistent actions, no matter how small, build up MASSIVE changes over time.
But in order to get there, you need a plan. Making progress in the gym is as simple as: showing up, doing the work, recover, and repeat. You can choose to follow a program you read from a magazine. Just be sure it’s a quality magazine with written programs from certified and experienced fitness professionals.
Oh, and those “Instagram Fitness Professionals” who have 40k+ followers their own “get fit like me” program for $49.99? Don’t waste your time or money. Many of these “social media influencers” usually have little to zero knowledge of how proper training works. That’s why many of their faithful followers negative side effects due to unsound training practices.
Do your homework, and find out if the individual who wrote your program (or from whom you’re buying one) has a degree in exercise science/physiology from a well-known and respected institution. Verify if they have quality certification, such as an NSCA-CSCS, NSCA-CPT, ACSM-HFI, or another trusted certification.
EXPERT BONUS TIP: Learn the Fundamental 5
While I’ve helped hundreds – if not thousands – of new gym goers over the span of my career thus far, each one of them had to learn and master the “Fundamental 5” exercises. These have helped them learn how to properly strength train and move their body.
These five (5) fundamental movements are:
- Push (e. bench press or push-ups)
- Pull (seated rows)
- Squat (eastern squats)
- Hinge (dead lifts or band pull-through)
- Press (shoulder press)
Remember: just because someone got the certification, doesn’t mean that they know what they’re talking about. It just means they have a good understanding of the basics. So do your homework. This is YOUR body we’re talking about – and you only get one!
4. Ask questions, but be wary of “bro’s”.
While we may think that the guy who’s strolling around the gym looking like a real-life Arnold Schwarzenegger, or the woman who looks like an Instagram model, may be the best to ask about gym tips and techniques, looks can be deceiving.
Make sure that the person you’re asking has the right knowledge, and knows the appropriate considerations for your needs. It’s not just about what worked for them, or what someone else told them.
5. Know and adhere to good gym etiquette – even when others may not.
Good gym etiquette is essential to becoming a “good gym citizen”. I could go on and explain this, but I think I’ll let Rog Law and Mark Fisher to explain it in a more visual and fun way in this video (*warning: adult language).
6. Sign up for a few group classes to help you meet people, and learn different exercises!
Group classes are a fantastic way to meet fellow gym goers and speed up your learning curve. Many gyms offer a variety of classes: from Pilates, yoga, TRX (Total Resistance eXercise), and weight training, you can find a class setting to help you learn a few new exercises to include in your own practice. Not to mention that you’ll have a great time!
The gym can be a fantastic place to get in shape and change how you feel about yourself. It can also help you realize that you’re capable of far more than you ever thought possible. But in order to get there, you must be consistent and regular in your training. You must understand and learn what is good from bad advice.
The gym is for everyone – especially you. We were all beginners at one time or another. Ask questions, take notes, and keep a training journal. These gym tips will help you not only to get more comfortable, but also allow you to improve your training over the weeks, months, or even years ahead on your fitness journey.
Have fun, and enjoy!