When you first start the gym it can be a very daunting and scary experience. When I first started I was very nervous before my first session. Here are my top 10 tips for a beginner who needs the advice and courage to join!
Tip 1 – Joining Fee
When you first sign up for a gym membership there is usually a one time joining fee that you will be asked to pay for. Sometimes there are special offers which can either reduce the cost of this and sometimes you can completely skip this fee and get started for free! If you have a friend who goes to the gym that you’re planning on joining, make sure to ask them if they have a promo code that you can use to join for free. There are also student offers with NUS cards, so if you’re a student with one of these then check if these have specific deals for you. Also, at certain times of the year the gym itself can offer deals on their website to join without this fee. This usually happens when summer is beginning and also after the Christmas period when the new year is starting. Neat!
Tip 2 – Busy gym times
So you’ve just purchased your first gym membership and you’re ready to get started on your first gym session! Maybe you’re thinking in your head “What if it’s really busy and people judge me because I don’t know what I’m doing?”, “Will I feel insecure in the gym when people who are in a great shape are around me?”. Asking these questions to yourself is completely normal and you definitely shouldn’t let it hold you back. One of the best possible ways to feel most comfortable for your first few gym sessions is to go at off-peak times. From personal experience I have been to the gym at every possible time during the day, so I can provide my advice on when to go. PEAK TIMES: Before work: 07:30-09:00 am, Lunchtime period 13:00 – 14:00, After work 17:00-21:00 pm. If you’re in full time work, avoiding these times could be difficult, if you haven’t got enough time outside of these periods then I would recommend going either before work or during lunch. The after work period is by far the busiest in any gym that you will go to. Going to the gym at quiet times for your first few sessions can completely change your first experiences in the gym due to less pressure of people looking at you, and it also gives you more time to experiment with the equipment and ask for help from someone who works there.
Tip 3 – Watch some online tutorials or do some research before you go
Learning about different workouts and how they will benefit you before you even enter the gym will help you a huge amount. If you even have a brief idea of what exercises you wish to try beforehand, it can make you feel much more relaxed on your first few gym sessions. Researching a few exercises will also teach you the correct form to use when lifting and completing particular movements, thus preventing unwanted injuries which will really hold you back. Trust me, if you know how many reps you’re going to do, what muscle group you want to train and how to perform the movements correctly, you will feel much more relaxed and your experience in general will be more enjoyable.
Tip 4 – Starting with basic exercises
When you’re trying out a variety of exercises at first, it is crucial to stick to the more basic exercises and movements. Bare in mind, that basic exercises are going to benefit you just as much as the more difficult compound ones in the early stages of your gym journey. I believe it is all about slow progression and eventually creating a solid workout plan that works best for you. An example would be doing squats by holding a single dumbbell in the palms of your hands, rather than using a barbell on your back. My reasoning for this is that because you’re a beginner, it’s better to build strength with a much lighter weight at first to prevent any injuries that may incur from poor form. A barbell typically weighs around 20kg, and it requires you to balance it on your back to perform a squat. Attempting a wide array of basic exercises will also help you get a feel of the type of workouts you enjoy completing. Once you have an idea of what sort of workout plan you will enjoy, you can begin to implement advanced lifts such as the deadlift, squats, barbell rows etc.
Tip 5 – Keeping notes on the weight you’re lifting and how many reps you’ve completed
I personally used the notes app on my iPhone to keep track of what exercises I have completed and the amount of weight I have used. A simple notepad and pen can work too, but that can be inconvenient to carry around the gym with you. Another option could be to write it all up once you get home, a great memory test! The reason keeping track of your progression is important is because to keep gaining strength and seeing a difference in your body, you need to implement progressive overload. Progressive overload is basically a gradual increase in the weight that you lift, so your muscles become stronger. So many people go to the gym and lift the exact same amount of weight every time, and then complain about not seeing many changes in their body or level of fitness. Your muscles will not grow or get stronger if you don’t attempt to force them to do more than they’re accustomed to. If you continue lifting the exact same weight, your muscles will not need to grow or adapt to become stronger. The number one way to burn fat is by increasing the stress placed upon your body and muscles. I will be writing a future blog that will further elaborate on this.
Tip 6 – People are not going to judge you
When I first started the gym I was very self-conscious as I was quite skinny and felt small compared to some of the buff dudes in the gym. I felt like everyone was looking at me and laughing inside whilst I was attempting my recently learned exercises. THIS IS IN YOUR HEAD. Sure, people will look at you whilst you’re in the gym, but no-one actually cares about what you’re doing, everyone is focused on themselves a lot more than you would think. Every individual in the gym is on their own fitness path, with different ability levels. The gym in a generally friendly environment, it may not seem it but there’s a level of mutual respect there as everyone is there for their own personal reasons whether that is to lose weight, gain weight, boost confidence or just to become healthier.
Tip 7 – Go with a friend
The completely daunting idea of going to the gym for the first time becomes a lot more exciting when you go along with a friend. This can literally eliminate any anxiety you have about going as you will be with someone that you are comfortable with. It will provide you the confidence to try out more things whilst you’re there, trust me. Having a friend there is also beneficial because they can spot for you. I won’t go too into detail but spotting someone is where you stand close to them with your hands ready to assist the person lifting if they can’t lift the weight anymore and need a little assistance for the last few reps.
Tip 8 – Don’t over train
Being a beginner to working out unfortunately means that you’ll need a greater recovery time. Remember those days in High School when you would have an intense PE lesson and the next day your whole body would ache? This is the exact same feeling you will get the day after your gym session. Although it can be uncomfortable, this can be a sign of a great workout and you should be happy and proud of yourself if you wake up in a lot of pain. That sounds odd..! I would personally recommend going to the gym three times a week, adding in one cardio session. DON’T WORRY, your muscles will eventually start to get used to the level of stress you’re constantly putting on them, and the recovery from gym is nowhere near as bad. Over training can lead to injuries, especially when you’re just getting started. a few clear symptoms that you’re over training would be: Shaky muscles, not being able to lift as much weight as your previous session and extreme fatigue. TAKE IT SLOW. You could also strain a muscle by overworking it so listen to your body, if you’re still feeling it from the previous session, don’t be ashamed to take another rest day.
Tip 9 – Dieting
So you’ve been going to the gym for 2 weeks now and you’re making progress. You start to wonder “what foods are best to eat in order to supply my body with the perfect fuel for working out?”. The key three macros are Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats. Protein is the key to building and replenishing your torn muscles. The general rule is you should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Examples of foods that are high in protein are: Chicken, Fish, Beef, Milk, Nuts and many more. Carbohydrates are the supply of energy that you body will use whilst completing your workout. This will ensure that you can finish all of your exercises thoroughly without getting too burned out. Examples of healthy carbohydrates are: Nuts, Rice, Pasta, Vegetables and fruits. Finally there are fats. Fats are also essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. Just like carbohydrates, this will assist you by supplying the energy you need to complete a full workout. Some examples of healthy fats to consume are: Avocado, cheese, whole eggs, fatty fish and also nuts. I will be writing many blogs about dieting where I will go into depth about this.
Tip 10 – Enjoy yourself
The final tip I have for you is to enjoy yourself. If you see going to the gym as a chore, it will be much harder to get up out of your bed and exercise! I can promise you that although at first it may seem really hard, after one month it will become a fun habit that you will be excited to indulge in. Gym for me is really enjoyable, I go in the mornings and it’s the perfect way to wake me up and it makes me ready to tackle the day ahead!