A lot of us will be planning on going to the gym in January. But for many newcomers, the moment that they walk into a gym for the first time can be daunting.
Data previously collected by DW Fitness Clubs showed that 48% of people are apprehensive about going to the gym because they are “not as fit as other members”, while a further 31% suggested that they were worried about using the equipment in the wrong way.
The latter is easily resolved. When you sign up for a membership you’ll be given a thorough induction, during which you will be taught how to use machines safely and effectively.
We explain gym inductions in greater detail in this blog post.
As for not being as fit as other members? Just remember that they were new once, too.
To help you settle into 2017 and to bring you up to speed on gym etiquette, DW’s resident health and fitness expert, personal trainer Carly Tierney, has come up with a handy list of do’s and don’ts for beginners to follow.
1) Have a plan
Signing up for a gym membership is a big step for many first-timers, but it’s only the start of your health and fitness quest. Think about what you want to achieve and how you plan to go about it.
Carly says: “When you set foot in the gym you should always have a plan of what you are going to do. Beginners can fall into the trap of not planning ahead, they wait until they get to the gym and just do whatever they want. This leads to a lack of direction and results will fall short. Going to the gym and just doing some exercise is like walking into Topshop and saying; ‘I’ll take anything, any colour, any size. I don’t care if they fit or suit me. Just give me clothes!”
2) Warm up before exercise
You might be excited to get started, but don’t be too hasty! If you fail to warm up properly before each of your workouts, you run the risk of sustaining an injury and putting yourself out of action.
Carly says: “If you’re short of time, adjust your rest periods. Do not miss your warm up. Not only does skipping a warm up increase your risk of injury but it can significantly reduce the effectiveness of your training session. You wouldn’t not brush your teeth before bed because you were in a rush to sleep. Apply this principle to your workout. Make it non-negotiable.”
3) Ask for help
As we’ve already alluded to, nobody’s expecting you to swagger into the gym and instantly know how everything works.
Carly says: “Teachers help you to pass exams, driving instructors teach you to drive and hairdressers do your hair. So why is it that many of us step into a gym and risk injury and wasting our time by guessing something as important as what to do with our bodies? A good personal trainer will educate, support and help you push yourself beyond your limits. We’re here to help, just ask.”
You can check out our personal trainers here.
4) Think about your nutrition
It’s become a bit of a cliché in the health and fitness world, but the fact remains that you really cannot outwork a bad diet, no matter how often you go for a gym workout.
Carly says: “Nutrition is 90% of the puzzle. You can work your butt off performing the perfect workout plan, using the best form and the with the most intensity but unless your nutrition is sound then you will not get anywhere. Training and nutrition go hand-in-hand. One cannot succeed without the other. It’s a bit like buying a car and forgetting to fuel it.”
If you're looking to build muscle, then you'll find some killer nutritional tips in this recent blog post.
5) Remember your water bottle
Before you get settled into a routine of going to the gym, there’s bound to be at least one item that you forget to pack. If you’re going to forget anything on your first day, make sure it’s not your water bottle!
Carly says: “Water is vital to ensure that you remain hydrated for the duration of your workout, to help with your performance and to save you from wasting precious time in the gym queuing for the water fountain. I add amino x to my water to help fuel my training and to add some flavour to my H20.”
You can read more about the importance of good hydration in the gym here.
6) Overdo the cardio
A lot of new gym-goers will head into January wanting to lose some weight, and they’ll naturally assume that running is the way to go. While any exercise is better than nothing, you shouldn’t throw all of your eggs in the cardio basket.
Carly says: “Cardio is often the ‘go to’ exercise of choice for gym newbies wanting to lose weight. However, cardio can damage your metabolism by burning your muscle as well as fat, leaving you in a worse position than when you started. Limit your cardio and work more effectively, not for longer. How many marathon runners or keen joggers have you seen and thought ‘wow they have an amazing body?’ None? Then why do you think it will work for you?”
7) Skip weight training
Even if you don’t want to ‘bulk up’ per se, you cannot underestimate the importance of incorporating weights into your workout plans.
Carly says: “’I don’t want to get massive’. If I had a pound for every time I heard this concern I’d be lying in the Maldives sipping on a coconut water, not writing this blog in Barnsley! Weights help to shape your body, increase strength, protect your joints, increase your metabolism, burn fat, increase confidence, decrease anxiety and stress, and are fun!”
8) Give up
In 2014, we created an infographic to show how long people stick to their New Year’s fitness resolutions for.
There are various myths about how long it takes to create a new habit – some say it takes 28 days whereas others believe it can take more than two months. Either way, it’s vital that you keep going. Don’t let the novelty of being fit and healthy wear off.
Carly says: “I will set this expectation for you before you even step foot in the gym. You will not get a cheerleader’s body or become able to bench press 50kg within a month of training, even if you do everything to a tee. You will progress if you are patient, consistent, willing to learn and just keep going.”
9) Stay in your comfort zone
Again, just because you’ve walked into the gym, it doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to smash your targets, least of all if you’re doing the same old routine day after day. You’ll inevitably hit an exercise plateau, which is a natural sign that you need to mix things up a bit.
Carly says: “Be faithful to your partner, not your gym routine. Whether it’s from a lack of imagination or a misguided belief that ‘exercise is exercise’, or that ‘there’s only one way to lift a weight’ some people keep doing the same routine year-in and year-out.
“The body adapts to workouts whether they be weight workouts or aerobic workouts. That’s why there are so many fat gym-goers. They’ve done the same routine for years and their neurological system is so accustomed to it that it costs them little in calories or effort to complete the workout. Workouts should be cycled every four to six weeks for maximum effect.”
10) Guess or copy others
When you’re new, you’ll inevitably look towards others for inspiration, but remember that everyone’s body is different.
Carly says: “What works for one person will not always work for the next. There is also no way of knowing if the exercise the person opposite you is doing is correct or the best thing for you.”
So, there you have it! 10 things you should and shouldn’t be doing when going to the gym in January 2017.