Avoid gym intimidation: A guide to a beginner gym session
Are you someone who simply avoids gym sessions because you don’t know how to use the equipment or feel intimidated? Let me help you gain some confidence so you can walk in to your next gym session with expertise!
I’ve spent a lot of time working in a gym and am very familiar with the deer-in-the-headlights look of a new gym-goer. They tend to come in with new tennis shoes and an outfit that screams ‘I’m new and nervous!’ I’ve seen them stick to the treadmill to avoid all the other useful yet complicated-looking equipment. If this sounds like you or someone you know, let me help reassure you with a simple routine so you can make your next gym session a pleasurable one.
Before you head out for your gym session, do some research. This can be done by familiarizing yourself with fitness. Get on YouTube and watch examples of strength workouts and stretching videos. It’ll help to write what you learn down on a piece of paper so that you are essentially taking a personal trainer to the gym with you.
Beginner Gym Session
First things first: find the stretching area when you get to the gym. Grab a mat, sit down and perform some simple stretches. This is a perfect time for you to look around and see where everything else is located. You can also calm your nerves if you need to. Some of my favorite simple stretches (among many) are:
-Neck stretch: Sit up tall and slowly roll your neck from side to side. Hold the stretch on each side after a few rounds.
-Upper back stretch: Loosen muscles in your upper back by reaching your arms out wide and then crossing them over to the opposite sides. It looks like you’re giving yourself a big hug
-Calf stretch: Stand up and place one leg in front of the other. Slowly bend the front leg, keeping the back leg straight with heel on the floor. Repeat on the other side.
-Quad stretch: Find something to hold on to for balance for this stretch. While standing, grab one ankle and gently pull back until you feel a stretch in your thigh area. Repeat on the other side.
These are just a few examples; keep stretching until you feel ready for a workout.
Warm up with cardio equipment
Once you’ve looked around during your stretch, head over to your favorite piece of cardio equipment and spend 10 minutes getting warmed up at a steady pace. If you need help operating a machine, gym staff is usually more than willing to help get you started. Some cardio machines you might try are an exercise bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine. The aim of this portion of your gym session is to just get your blood flowing.
After you’ve warmed up, go to the free weights area. Grab a set of dumbbells that suit your fitness level and perform some upper body exercises. Here’s a sample beginner circuit:
-15 Overhead chest presses
-15 Bicep curls
Repeat so each move is done 30 times.
It’s time to go back to cardio equipment! Spend 20 minutes doing an interval style workout getting used to increasing your intensity and reducing it. I advise using the manual setting instead of using a pre-selected program as it will give you confidence with the equipment. For beginners, work hard for 30 seconds, and active rest such as walking or a very slow pace on a machine for 30 seconds. If you want to challenge yourself, work hard for 45 seconds and then rest for 15 seconds.
Hit the machines
In my opinion, the squat machine is the simplest piece of equipment in the gym. In fact, it is difficult to do it incorrectly. If you’re a gym newbie, this is a great place to start with machines. Perform three sets of 10 squats using a light weight. Other machines to consider are the chest press machine, leg press machine, and hamstring curl machine.
Cool down stretch
Now that you’ve worked hard during your gym session, it’s time to go back to the stretching area for a cool down. Sit down, breath a sigh of relief that you made it through your gym session perform some stretches, holding each stretch for 20 seconds. Be creative and make up your own favorite cool down stretch routine. Do what feels best for your body.
Take advantage of the group fitness classes because they tend to cater to all fitness levels. Group classes are a great way to learn body awareness and simple body movement techniques that you can transfer onto the gym floor. A good group instructor will make you feel welcome and will teach you great technique. Finding a good class may take some trial and error, but never feel like you have to stay in a class that you’re not enjoying! Just slip out the door if it’s not for you. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve wasted an hour of your time doing something that you don’t enjoy or getting injured because it is too advanced for your current fitness level.
Don’t be intimidated by the gym or by the people in it. In fact, the majority of regular gym-goers love to help out a gym newbie! The ideal situation would be to have a personal trainer guide you through your first few gym sessions. However, if a personal trainer is not in your budget, simply take me with you on a piece of paper or on your mobile device and work out by following along with one of my videos or blog posts. After a few weeks you will no longer be the new one in the gym and might even be able to offer help to the next new exerciser that you see walking through the door.
Do you have a gym experience you want to share with me in the comments section? I’d love to hear from you.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.
Find out more at: http://www.DiscoverHerbalife.com
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