How to become comfortable at the gym
If you never played sports in Highschool or weren’t a college athlete, you probably never HAD to go to the gym.
You probably never had someone tell you how to work out, what weights to lift and how heavy, what to eat before/during/after, how to stretch to avoid injury… the list goes on and on.
And for someone who wants to get healthy but has never actually been to the gym… this is scary and intimidating.
Well… you are not alone. There are many people out there in the exact same boat. This guide is for you! 😉
First …. a quote that I once heard – “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.” ~ Olin Miller
Now I know it sounds a bit harsh… but it’s the truth. People are much more focused on themselves then they are on you. If you make eye contact with someone and wonder why they are looking at you, I guarantee they are wondering why you are looking at them.
You HAVE TO STOP getting nervous about doing something embarrassing at the gym. You are trying to make a life change, and that is going to require doing a few things that are uncomfortable. It’s okay… push through it and you will be glad you did. And unless you are this guy.. You have nothing to worry about. 🙂
GET A GYM MEMBERSHIP if you don’t already.
Don’t even plan on working out that day. Just go to the gym, sign up for a membership and have them give you a tour of the gym. Then leave!
Phew… you did it, you got a membership!
Now, let’s actually make that membership worth your while. The biggest problem we see, and why a lot of people stop going to the gym, is a lack of planning .
Let’s start breaking it down!
Step 1: What to Eat and When?
Timing for MOST people is not as important as people make it out to be. It’s generally driven by supplement companies to sell their products.
Like pre-workout, protein powders, BCAAs…
Timing becomes very important for endurance athletes and more intense “gym goers”. However, if you are still reading this post… that is not you.
What we recommend…
Don’t go to the gym starving… Don’t go to the gym stuffed
Simple as that!
“Wait what? People always tell me to eat carbs right before a workout!!”
Trust me… eating enough carbs is never an issue for people. We already over-eat carbs. You already have enough glycogen in your body to get you through your workout. Adding more right before working out is not necessary. Plus, you most likely aren’t giving the carbs enough time to turn into glycogen in the first place.
Eat something light before your workout (greek yogurt, cottage cheese) … then something a little more substantial after your workout (Eggs/Omlet).
Don’t overthink this! Simpler is better.
Step 2: Warm-Up
Warm-up the muscles you will be using. NOT A TIME TO SIT AND STRETCH.
Appropriate warm-ups are also referred to as dynamic stretching. Warm ups should be preparing your muscles to perform.
The best options to warm-up:
Hit the treadmill/bike/rower/stairs for 5 minutes to get moving.
If you are just doing cardio that day, than start slow to get your body warm and then increase speed/resistance as you go.
If you’re lifting weights, strength training, conditioning… work the muscles lightly that’ll you’ll be using during the workout. You can use no weight, light weights, or a band. You wouldn’t hop on the treadmill and immediately start sprinting, the same applies for lifting weights.
For example: If you’re going to be squatting. Squat without any weight for 20-30 reps to warm up your knees, hips, back etc. then add more weight.
Warm up time should be about 5-10 minutes. And you should actually feel “warm/damp” when you are done!
Step 3: Strength Training
Many beginners simply head straight to the cardio machines and stay there for the duration of their workout. Why? Because it’s familiar/comfortable and doesn’t require any “thinking or prep”.We CANNOT recommend strength training enough. Especially for gym newbies. It is the fastest way to see results and generally will solve a lot of your other physical problems.
Most of us have terrible posture from working at computers, being on our phones, and sitting often. Strength training is the fastest way to correct these problems. AND the quickest way to weight loss. 😉
We could talk for hours about weight lifting/strength training for hours but these are the BASICS and WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
~ Don’t worry about sticking with one/two muscle groups per session (Day 1: Chest and Triceps, Day 2: Legs and glutes etc.) when you are new to the gym, you are probably only going once or twice a week. It’s okay to do a full body work out each time just give yourself enough time to recover before going back.
~ As a beginner start with the machines. They are easy and most have little pictures on the side to show you exactly what muscle groups you will be working. When you become more comfortable with the machines you can start to add in some simple movements off the machine.
~ Figure out how much weight to use. How much weight to use will differ from person to person. You should be able to do 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets/times (60 second rest between each set). It should be challenging to finish the 15 reps and should get harder and harder as you move through your sets. If you are cruising through, increase the weight for the next set, if you can’t finish the 15 reps after the first set… lower the weight.
Write down in your phone how much weight you used so you don’t have to play the guessing game next time. Also, this is the only way to see progress!
Movements that are great for beginners (video links):
Seated Band Pull
Lat pulldown (cable or regular)
Incline Dumbell Press
Hollow holds (arms by ears for added difficulty)
Push ups (on knees if needed)
Strength training shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes when starting out. 30 minutes with the proper intensity is great. You should be moving efficiently through your workout.
Step 4: Cardio
No matter what your health goals are, cardio is important. A lot of people HATE CARDIO! They think they have to run for miles until everything hurts and they can’t breath. They are wrong!
Cardio comes in MANY forms. Going for a long, fast paced walk could be your cardio.
However, if you want get the most “bang for your buck”… we recommend HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) once or twice per week.
15 minutes max. You might only get to 5-10 minutes when first starting out.
Here is what we recommend …
Incline treadmill (I mean really incline… all the way up or almost all the way up), stair stepper or spin bike. Pick the one you feel most comfortable on.
Crank up the speed as high as you can handle for 20 seconds. Then stop and rest (I stand on the side of the treadmill) for 40 seconds while leaving the equipment running. Once 40 seconds is up, hop right back on at your top speed for another 20 seconds and back off for 40 seconds etc. etc.
Repeat for 5-10 rounds. As you get better you can move it up to 15 rounds. Don’t go over 15 rounds. Increase the difficulty (faster speed, more incline, more resistance on the bike etc.) rather than the length of time.
Step 5: Stretching
Static stretching at the end of your workout will help prevent muscle soreness. Light biking and walking will help as well.
As for increasing flexibility… consistent stretching it is important. Work on it at the end of your workouts when your muscles are warm. Strength plus mobility is what keeps our bodies balanced and prevents injuries.
Stretching, however, shouldn’t be used to relieve pain instantly. Or to press, twist, turn your body so hard that you feel better.If you are having pain in specific areas, it is most likely due to muscle imbalance …and over stretching is not going to cure that.
A foam roller is a great tool, but don’t over do it! Use it for a couple minutes after a tough workout but also add in static stretching.
FINAL ADVICE FOR YOU…
JUST GO! The more you go to the gym, the more comfortable you will get. Use Fit to be Hitched as a resource, we are ALWAYS happy to answer questions and provide advice!
If you are just looking to get started with a healthy diet and workout program you should check out our 7 Day Nutrition and Fitness Guide. It will walk you through what to eat and what exercises to do at the gym, with videos so you know what each exercise is suppose to look like.