Walking into a gym for the first time can be the most intimidating thing in the world.
Where do I go?
Am I wearing the right thing?
Do I bring a water bottle or just drink from the fountain?
Is the locker room going to be full of naked women?
What machines should I use?
Should I just do a class?
But what if I look like an idiot?
That lady doing pull-ups looks like she could eat me up!
I don’t think the trainer that came with my free training session has any interest in me.
It doesn't seem like the trainer has any idea what he's doing.
Is it obvious that I have no idea what I’m doing?
There’s a reason I signed up for a gym membership, but this is clearly not going to get me anywhere!
Most big-box gyms try to sign people up left and right, because the truth of the matter is that only a small percentage of members actually use them. But the gyms don’t really care. They couldn’t care less if you never, ever used your gym membership. They just want to make sure you’re paying your fees.
I don't want you to fit on this stat sheet, too.
If you’re contemplating signing up for a membership, you need to know right now that you do NOT need access to a gym to get in the best shape of your life.
You would be shocked at how much you can accomplish right at home in your living room with a couple pieces of inexpensive equipment. In fact, for many moms, I suggest hiring a really good trainer instead of using that money on a gym membership. The end result will be far better.
But, there are many advantages to having access to a gym.
At the top of the list is childcare. Most gyms offer free childcare to their members for an hour or two. How awesome is that?
Another advantage is the atmosphere. You are more likely to stay focused and actually get a good workout done when everyone else around you is doing it. It’s easy to get distracted at home.
Also, the equipment is endless. Medicine balls, squat racks, kettlebells, benches, pull-up bars, dumbbells in every weight, and the list goes on. They’ve got it all so you will never be limited by equipment.
The classes that gyms offer are certainly an advantage, too. And being in a social setting like a class can be very encouraging, albeit not the most effective means of training.
Let me help you walk in there like you own the place.
To help you get the most out of your gym membership (and not become one of the statistics of gym-no-shows), I’m going to walk you through a gym workout. If you are a first-time gym-goer (or have been going to the gym for a while but still feel like you’re flailing around), this will give you the confidence to walk in there like you own the place.
Before you go: First things first, you need a plan before you even step foot in the gym. I highly recommend grabbing my full month of free workouts. (Click on the "Free Workout" button above or sign up using the bar down below.) These are anything but intimidating, I promise.
Print off your workout sheet, review the workout of the day before you leave the house, watch any videos if necessary, and then leave your phone tuned to the right website for the videos. (This does sound like a shameless plug, I know, but I intentionally designed this routine to be exactly what I would do with a new trainee.)
What to bring: Here are a few things you need for the gym:
Where to go: When you get to the gym, locate the open space with the mats and minimal equipment. Most gyms have an area like this. Don’t go to the weight machines, the cardio machines, or the free weight area (eventually you might want to be by the big free weights, but for now don’t go there). This is usually the space that has the big exercise balls, medicine balls, some bands and straps, and maybe a few dumbbells around the edges. The nice thing about this space is it’s usually fairly empty…maybe one old guy in the corner doing a million crunches.
If your gym does not have a space like this, your second option is to head to an empty classroom. Usually they will let you bring in a few pieces of equipment into the rooms if they’re not being used. Your goal is to find a space where you won’t be crowded and you’ll have a certain degree of privacy.
What to do: Pull out a mat and set up shop. Create a zone for yourself. Go collect whatever equipment you need for that workout (maybe a pair of dumbbells and an exercise ball). Set your workout sheet on the floor right by your water bottle and towel. Pump up the music and do a quick dance. (Haha!)
Get your mind in the game: Before you start your workout, put your imaginary blinders on. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. And I promise you, nobody is noticing what you are doing either. And if they are taking notice and secretly scoffing at you, they are a flat out jerk and you don’t want their approval anyway. Just be proud of yourself for showing up and making this happen.
Get going: Your workout should start with a dynamic warm-up. This is why the open space is handy, so you can move around without being confined. You will then systematically march through the exercises on your plan, looking up any videos if necessary. When you’re finished, go find a foam roller (they’re the long tubes that are made out of foam) and follow along with my complete foam rolling video. Finally, end with some stretching. (Follow the links for the video tutorials.)
You’re done! That’s it. You don’t need to go anywhere else, sign up for anything else or aimlessly browse through any other pieces of equipment. Just put your equipment away and go home.
The next time you go to the gym, you will know exactly what to do. Head to your spot and set up shop. Each time you go will feel more comfortable, and pretty soon you will stroll right into the gym like it’s yours. You may even inspire other first-timers with your confidence and work ethic.
So remember, get a plan, put your blinders on, mark out your territory and get to work. Don’t let yourself become distracted by what everyone else is doing, and keep your chin up. You’re there, doing a really good workout, and that’s nothing to scoff at!
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Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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