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Gym 101: Your Guide to Working Out

By: Jose Maria M. Villarama IIGym 101: Your Guide to Working Out

Almost everyone has a horror story to tell about their first time at the gym. Gym blunders can range from dropping free weights that are too heavy or not knowing how to work a machine or a piece of equipment that seems simple enough to operate.

Other reasons for unpleasant first-time gym experiences are rooted in the personal more than the technical.  Not feeling fit or able enough to engage in exercises or strength training compared to buffed up gym rats can make the experience daunting as well. In short, no one wants to look like an idiot in front of gym enthusiasts or even friends.

But the purpose of going to the gym is not to merely look good or look good in front of others: it’s about becoming healthy.  Letting go of fears and resolving first day jitters are therefore very important to ensure that one will achieve one’s fitness goals at the gym.

Consider first why one needs to go to the gym. Is it for weight loss, strength training, increasing flexibility, or improving cardiovascular health? Once determined and decided, it is time to head to the gym.

Before heading to the gym:

  • Inquire and ask several gyms about their amenities (shower rooms, lockers, etc.), promos, and programs that suit one’s time and money. Once the location, program, and schedule are set, come back and get started.
  • Wear appropriate gym wear like moisture-whisking or sweat-absorbing tanks and t-shirts, breathable and comfortable shorts/pants, and rubber shoes/trainers. Avoid wearing too much clothing and accessories. Gadgets with health trackers such as smartwatches, smartphones, etc. can be used mostly on the treadmill while listening to music.  Make sure to secure your valuables.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Bring a towel and toiletries if there is a shower available after exercise. Some gyms offer in-house towels for client use.
  • Don’t forget to bring a water bottle to stay hydrated during and after workouts. Most gyms have water fountains or sell bottled water and energy drinks.

While inside the gym and during your workout:

  • Most gym memberships include an orientation by a trainer on how to operate equipment and what muscle groups to exercise using which equipment.  For obvious reasons, trainers will only give a teaser on how an exercise is performed. Otherwise, one will have to enroll in a personal training program to get the benefit of full training and guidance from an instructor. It’s therefore best to take down notes and research further on how these exercises are performed.
  • Strength training machines may be a bit much for first-timers. Don’t be afraid to start with the basic pushups, sit-ups, squats, hip thrusts, and planks. Try other exercises with the use of dumbbells, medicine balls, or kettle balls but keep in mind the proper form to get the most out of one’s exercise. Do at least 8-12 reps of each to maximize stretching the muscles.
  • With fitness goals in mind, one can map out a plan on which exercises to do (usually the lower body first, then the upper body, and then cardio). While frequency and regularity are important, learning the proper form and way of executing the exercises are key to attaining results. Going to the gym on a regular schedule, and not just when one feels like going, is also important.
  • Exercises are optimized by getting and staying ‘in the zone’, i.e. maintaining one’s training heart rate or momentum. While cell phones offer a good diversion to while away the next 30 minutes on the treadmill, they can take away focus when performing other exercises, especially those involving free weights.
  • Gym etiquette is important. Clean the equipment after use and return it to its proper storage. Respect the house rules and gym goers’ privacy. Keep in mind that the gym and its equipment is for everyone’s use.
  • Joining a group class may inspire motivation.  More than the pressure of keeping up with others, allowing oneself to be driven by people with the same goal can help attain the desired results.

After workout:

  • All that post-workout sweat making your clothes stick to your body may leave you feeling dirty and uncomfortable. Let your body rest before hopping in the showers.
  • Eat right. Most fitness professionals are in agreement that diet weighs more heavily than the actual training to attain results. Gyms usually offer meal planning services for new gym members to help with dietary requirements for a certain training plan. Depending on one’s fitness goals, one must keep tabs on what one is eating.  

Many people enroll in the gym expecting to see instant progress towards their ideal beach body. Having no goal or plan is one reason why many gym goers do not get the results they want. Others merely enroll in a gym and go through the motions expecting it will eventually transform their bodies. The most important thing to remember is to have focus and discipline.

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