To maintain or improve your health, adults need to do aerobic and strength exercises every week. A good place to start is by going to your local gym. If you haven’t been to the gym in a while (or maybe you’re a total gym virgin), it’s normal to feel nervous about what you might be getting yourself into. The feeling of not knowing where anything is, or even which equipment does what, can be a daunting prospect for gym novices. But it’s totally OK to feel nervous. You’ll become more confident even after your first session, and having some nice gym kit can help give you that little bit of extra confidence.
Let’s start with comfy workout clothes. They don’t need to be fashionable or expensive. Just wear something you’ll be comfortable in, and which don’t restrict your movement. Leggings or shorts, a t-shirt, and trainers are perfect! You can always get yourself some more technical kit once you start working out more regularly. It’s important to stay hydrated while working out, and although most gyms have water fountains these days, it’s a good idea to take a water bottle with you so you always have it to hand. If you want to see how many calories you’ve burnt during your gym session, you may want to wear a fitness tracker or smart watch. And then all you need is a gym bag to put all your stuff in. Have it all packed the night before so you can grab it and change into your workout gear after work. Then chuck on your favourite playlist and off you go!
What are useful things to remember when going to the gym?
When you join a gym, they will usually offer an induction to give you the guided tour, and give a brief overview of what each piece of equipment does. But there are some things you need to consider when starting out at the gym.
- Use the right equipment: Have in mind what your fitness goal is and use the most suitable equipment to achieve it. Of course, it’s great to use a variety of equipment in your sessions, but you should prioritise using machines which match your fitness goals.
- Ask for help: You might also be eager to use fancy new equipment, but take care if you haven’t used it before. First think, “do I know how to use it?” If you’re not sure how to use something properly, you could cause yourself serious injury. So don’t be afraid to ask for help from gym staff and personal trainers. They can give you advice on what exercises you can do on it, and how your body should be positioned.
- Go to fitness classes: Most gyms offer lots of different fitness classes, from yoga and pilates, to Zumba and circuit training. Classes are great if you’re not totally sure what you should be doing at the gym, as you’ll be in a group of friendly gym-goers with an instructor who will give you a good, fun workout. You’re also more likely to push harder in a class than by working out on your own.
- Don’t forget weight training: Many gym newbies avoid weight training as they don’t want to ‘bulk up’. But weight training isn’t just for those who want to gain muscle. It’s great for toning your body, and preserving a healthy shape rather than making extreme changes. Increasing the strength of your muscles can help protect your joints, and it’ll increase your metabolism, which means you’ll burn fat more easily.
- Eat right: There’s little point working hard at the gym if you’re going home and polishing off last night's pizza. Fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand, so it’s important to eat a = to give yourself the nutrients you need for the change in activity levels. And you should again have your fitness goals in mind. For example, if you’re wanting to lose weight, opt for lots of fruit and veg, alongside fibre-rich foods which will keep you fuller for longer. And if building muscle is your goal, go for foods which are high in protein, such as eggs, tuna, and lean meat.
- Don’t overdo it: Enjoy going to classes and try out as many as possible, but don’t try and do too much too soon. The gym should be fun, not a chore. Start with a few sessions in your first week, and gradually build on it. Many gyms offer a trial period, so try and make the most of it, but listen to your body. Give yourself a day off if you’re particularly tired or sore from a previous workout, as you’ll need to give your body a chance to repair itself.
- Make new friends: We get so lost in the safe confines of our earphones that we rarely interact with our fellow exercisers. If you go to the gym regularly, you’ll likely see familiar faces, especially if you go a similar time each day. Don’t be afraid to chat to the lady in the changing room, or ask for advice from the guy on the treadmill. Gym-goers are people too, and you might make some new friends along the way.
Which fitness equipment can I use at home?
If you have a busy work, social, and family life, you might wonder how you’re going to fit the gym in too. But fortunately, working out doesn’t have to mean going out. There is plenty you can do at home to get fit, build muscle, or get your waistline in check. You won’t need to shell out for pricey gym memberships, you can exercise when it suits you, and you won’t feel self-conscious in front of other gym buffs. You can really go for it and build your own home gym if you have the space and the money, or just invest in a few simple pieces of equipment to make your workouts more effective, such as; a yoga mat for exercising on, kettlebells or a medicine ball to strengthen muscles, a skipping rope to burn calories, or a pull up bar to work your upper body and core. But there are also lots of exercises you can do with no equipment at all, just using your own bodyweight. In fact, bodyweight training is an efficient way to decrease body fat, increase heart rate, and boost muscular fitness.