When you walk into a gym for the first time, it's easy to be intimidated by all the options: rows and rows of cardio machine, free weights, fancy weight machines, and an endless stream of new things to try. It's no surprise so many people have trouble sticking with fitness plans; they don't know how to make the gym a fun and exciting place, so they settle for dull routines that get them nowhere.
But just because you're a newcomer doesn't mean you can't have an effective fitness routine. If you want to make progress, here are five things to know for when you walk into the gym.
1. Set Goals. Be Specific and Realistic
Everyone wants to look and feel great, although success is subjective. Some people prefer aesthetic goals, such as gaining 10 pounds of muscle or losing 10 pounds of fat. Others might have specific training goals. If you want to train for a 5K race in a few months, your fitness routine won't be the same as that of the person who wants to lose 5 pounds in the same amount of time. Knowing what precisely you want to accomplish, and what timeline you're aiming to meet, is the first step. Regardless of the type of exercise you want to start, clear your program with a doctor; this is especially important if the goal is purely health-related.
2. Plan and Organize Your Goal
Once you have in mind why you're going to the gym, it's time to set a sustainable plan that fits into your lifestyle. If you want to put on 10 pounds of muscle, internet resources such as Bodybuilding.com are a great place to start. As you begin to understand the type of equipment you need and how to use it, those complex machines will suddenly have a purpose and seem less daunting. If your goal is to run a 10K race, Runnersworld.com has plenty of resources to help you get started.
As you read up on your new training protocol, keep in mind your lifestyle. Do you want to train three times per week, or five? Are you an early-morning runner or a late-evening lifter? Be honest with yourself. If you're not the kind of person who wakes up at 6 a.m. every day with the gumption to go to the gym, you're probably not going to start now. Plan a time and frequency that you can stick to. There are many home gym equipments you can find at www.basictrainingsf.com if you don't have time to commute to the gym.
3. Get to Know Your Body and Your Movements
Now that you have a plan, you can go to the gym with intention and purpose. When you get there, however, you may realize you don't know how to do the first exercise on your list. And how much weight should you use for the second? And what do you do if you can't run all the miles you set out to do?
First, relax and remember that people are not born with these abilities; they have to learn them and practice them. The first few weeks or months are going to be as much about learning as about training. You'll learn how your body reacts to consistent activity, and that some movements are more natural for you than others (and that's OK).
A note on weight training: if you're starting any weight training program, it's important to watch as many videos on form and technique as you can because proper technique is the key to not getting injured. It is also essential to practice with light and manageable weights until your position is correct and comfortable. Do not start bench-pressing your maximum on your first day out. If it's within your means, working with a trainer to learn proper form is an ideal way to establish healthy movement patterns.
4. Be Flexible But Resilient
For those new to an exercise program, life's normal upsets like an illness, a work trip, or a major holiday, can be disruptive enough to make you fall off the wagon. To avoid this, newcomers must be flexible in their plans. If life happens and you miss a workout (or a few workouts), forgive yourself. Perfection is not the goal here; consistency is. Figure out how to get back on your plan, making adjustments as necessary. If the half-marathon is six weeks away and you just missed a week of training, what can you do so that you'll feel strong on race day? Be resilient. You started this with a goal in mind; hiccups are natural, and you can get back on your feet and overcome them.
5. Consistency is Key to Whatever You Do. Building Community Can Help
The best way to achieve your goal is to keep at it. Change doesn't happen quickly, and it can be discouraging to feel like you're stalling. Trust the process; if you made a good plan, it's probably working. Learn to see your successes whenever they come. Maybe your mile time went down by 10 seconds, or you broke through a plateau on your squat. Recognize those moments as signs of achievement.
Finally, an exercise routine does not have to be a solitary endeavor. If you see the same people at the gym all the time, introduce yourself. Tell your friends and family about your goals so they can be there to support you. You can even find online forums where people are going through the same process you are. Your community, whoever they are, will give you the strength to be consistent.
With these five tips, anyone can be confident in the gym. No matter your fitness level or your previous ability, following this guide will give you the tools to meet your workout goals.