OK, so you’ve got your gym membership sorted. Excellent! Now you actually need to get your foot in the door. If you’ve never been to a gym before this is undoubtedly the most nerve wracking bit of the whole experience. If you suffer from anxiety or have other mental healthy problems, it might put you off the idea altogether.
Here are some simple tips so you can be prepared and ready to get the most from your first trip.
DO pack a gym bag
There are certain items that you’ll need for every gym trip, so sorting yourself a basic kit that always comes with you is a great way to feel prepared. Though it can be tempting to buy expensive kit for your new regime, you probably have everything you need at home. Til you know this is a long-term love affair, save yourself some pennies and work with what you have.
The perfect gym outfit is simple to put together and you likely have everything you need in the house already. You may not be the best dressed person there, but believe me, no one is really looking. You can always splash out on fabulous gym gear once you know you’ve got the fitness bug.
For your lower half, shorts, leggings, tracksuit bottoms, pyjama trousers – anything that you can easily lunge in! Just make sure your chosen attire will keep you cool, comfortable and adequately covered up.
For your top half, a vest or t-shirt are best. Again think about being cool and suitably covered up. Most gyms do not allow you to go topless and as you will hopefully be working up a decent sweat, keeping yourself from getting too cold is important. If applicable, a supportive bra will be your best friend at the gym. Always try to choose something that lets you move with as much freedom as possible.
For your feet, suitable shoes are a must. That basically means any closed shoe with adequate cushioning that doesn’t constrict your ankle. I’ve tried weightlifting in walking boots and it did not go well!
Towel – Most gyms will require you to carry a small towel, and even if it’s not in the rules it’s less hassle than running off to get paper towels to wipe down every piece of equipment after use. When I say small, I mean it! My top tip would be a clean tea towel or small hand towel. Large microfibre cloths also work brilliantly and are easy to wash and dry between visits.
Water bottle – While many gyms will have water fountains, you’ll stay more hydrated if water is close at hand. Refill a plastic mineral water bottle or bring any bottle you would normally use.
Padlock or money for lockers – Depending on the system your gym uses. Most gyms which have lockers which require padlocks sell them too, so if you don’t own one take £3-5 pound with you to buy one.
DO go with a plan
You’re through the door. You’re well equipped. What do you do now? Your gym may offer inductions or introductory PT sessions to set you up with a plan for what to do next but there are also steps you can take before you get through the door so that your first visit is also a great workout.
First of all, consider which aspect of your fitness you most want to concentrate on. I’ll be writing a full post on this soon, but in the meantime this is a great point to consider. Are you most interested in building strength, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility? Whatever it is, set aside some time to look on the internet for exercise ideas, workout challenges – anything that will give you a purpose for your visit.
A lot of beginners end up treading water for the first few weeks or months at the gym because they’ve skipped this step. Even the most simple programme will yield results if you are consistent and work hard and there is always time to change it later as your goals progress.
DO go with a friend (or hire a trainer)
Going through the door with someone who’s already used to the place can help hugely with a positive first gym experience. If you know a friend who already uses the same gym, find out if you can go along with them. Even if you don’t work out together, that familiarity at the start can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable.
If you can’t go with a friend, or would rather not, consider booking a member of staff or a personal trainer. That way, you’ll have both this step and the previous one covered. Even one session with someone experienced can save you a lot of wasted time and effort.
Ultimately, remember this…
You might feel on the spot, out of place, uncomfortable or generally like you stick out like a sore thumb. Nobody else cares. They are busy working, as you will be soon. If they’re looking around the gym it’s more likely they’re on the hunt for the right dumbbell than looking to critique your activities. If they’re looking in the mirror, it’s more likely they’re checking their form than checking you out.
Stay focused on yourself, on the hard work you’re putting in and the great results you’ll soon be celebrating.
Are there any aspects of visiting a gym for the first time that you’d like me to add? I’d love to expand this guide so drop me a message or add them to the comments.