Because I was a newbie once, and I don't think there is enough kindness and encouragement shown to the new influx of gym members in January, I thought I'd share my top tips for getting the most out of your new membership. I was fortunate that the first time I stepped on a gym floor I had a gym buddy, so I had a wing man to figure things out with. Did we feel like a pair of idiots? Yes. Is the reality that people thought we were a pair of idiots? Hell no, I'm sure NO ONE cared! And that's the point - most of the 'gymtimidation' will be in your head. Sure, there are a few losers out there, but most people just adopt their resting gym face and don't mean to look so unapproachable; I'm a great example of this, but I do try and look open and approachable to people who are looking a bit uncertain and in this last week it has paid off; I've very happily helped fellow members adjust benches, find certain pieces of equipment, even spotted a new guy on his bench press and he was made up!
Obviously these will vary depending on the type of gym you've joined and what's on offer there, but never be afraid to ask a member of staff or fellow members!
- Familiarise yourself with every part of your membership: Often there are perks of signing up, so read every bit of paperwork and email you get. Quite often this might include money off gym gear, a free induction, free guest pass for someone to come with you. Don't leave any stone unturned!
- Use your free induction: If you're lucky enough to get an induction with a fitness coach or PT, I'd massively urge you to use it. If nothing else, they'll show you some basics and at least you can get familiar with the equipment. Perhaps even ask if you can take some short video clips of them setting up or using certain pieces of equipment, so you're not at a loss when you come back to it
- Join a class!: I used to live for my gym classes; Bodypump was a firm favourite and actually was the thing that gave me confidence to step out into the weights area a couple of years back. I met some great people in classes, including my absolutely amazing PT. Sure, there will be the 'clique' on the front row, but just find a spot and do your thing. Don't be put off by the group exercise regulars; there will probably be some that won't have time for you, but a little small talk will help you identify the friendlies and the foes! There's a class quite literally for everyone, so work your way through the timetable until you find something that takes your fancy.
- Get creative when it's busy: When it gets cray cray busy (usually Jan, soz!), that's when you'll need to be the most creative with your workout. Any good gym will have fitness coaches and PTs on the gym floor at any given time, so don't be afraid to give them a tap on the shoulder and ask for some pointers of what you can do instead of the thing that's in your programme, but for love nor money you can't get on that one piece of equipment. Going to the gym is a bit like building up a repertoire of moves; once you've got plenty in the bank, you can be much more agile with your programme and the variations will not do any harm at all.
- Do a deal with yourself: Make a deal with yourself to have a go at something new each week; setting yourself mini goals will help keep you coming back too. Whether that's attempting a new personal best, having a go on a new piece of equipment, signing up for a class, conquering a fear of a certain area of the gym, starting a conversation with someone
- Don't pay *too* much attention to anyone else: This sounds slightly counterintuitive, but I'll tell you why... it's tempting to look at Jacked Up Jimmy over in the corner and think 'woah, he looks like he's lifting heavy, I fancy a bit of that'... but there's a couple of flaws with that. His form might not be great, so don't be tempted just to copy the way he's executing a particular exercise. Also, whatever he's working on might not necessarily help you towards your goals. Stick to professional advice, but no harm in asking what someone is up to, or what they're training for!
I think overall I'd say, don't overthink it. Even if you follow only one of my tips above, you'll help yourself avoid those common excuses we've all made like "Oh, the car park is a bit busy... I'll just go home" or "That guy's using that piece of equipment, I'll just stick to the treadmill".
Let me know if you've just joined a new gym, or how you're getting on with your current training!