Need a Beginner Workout? How to Start Working Out at the Gym

Stretching those legs to perfection
The key to making the most out of a new gym membership? Don't try to do everything at first. (Image: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages)

You finally did it! You got a gym membership. If you're pumped to get started, but a little nervous at the same time, don't sweat it. Almost everyone is a little bewildered when they first enter a gym. Where do you even start?

The key is not to try to do everything at first, says Los Angeles-based fitness coach Andrew Heffernan. “Learn a few moves, work till you feel a little sweaty and leave before you get exhausted or bored,” he says.

And don't forget to keep an open mind. You might look a little awkward in the process, but in a few weeks you'll be feeling much more confident — especially when you start to see results. In the meantime, let this be your survival guide as you navigate the rewarding (but sometimes confusing) gym world.

Don’t give in to your legs
A fitness class is a great way to learn new skills and meet new people. (Image: PeopleImages/E+/GettyImages)

First, Recruit Some Help

Setting foot in the gym is the hardest part. Certified personal trainer Jacque Crockford suggests taking the guesswork out of your first day by setting up a meeting with a member of the fitness staff.

“Whether this is a personal trainer, fitness specialist or front-desk team member, it’s important to have a tour of the facility, understand the club culture, ask questions and perhaps get a few demonstrations of some equipment you find interesting,” she says.

After that, Crockford recommends scheduling a more in-depth consultation with a personal trainer or certified health coach. “They will be able to help you with the next part of the equation — understanding your ‘why.’” Once you identify your reason for joining a gym in the first place, your trainer can start showing you how to achieve those goals.

Many gyms offer a free introductory session with a trainer, or you can invest in a low-commitment single session — which will help you become comfortable more quickly.

Top Tips for Gym Newbies

Want to stay in the game or become a gym dropout? These tips will set you off for a successful start to your gym experience.

Get to Know the Gym Equipment

A large gym can have hundreds of pieces of equipment which, to a beginner, may or may not look like contraptions that you'd need a manual to decipher. No need to worry about it! Just learn a few basic pieces of equipment and a handful of exercises that will carry you through your first few weeks at the gym.

Try a Group Fitness Class

Most gyms offer classes. Some even have an extensive class schedule with everything from strength training to Zumba. “If you’re new to fitness, group classes can be a great way to meet like-minded people and learn something new,” says Crawford. Check out your gym’s class schedule to see what sounds interesting and what fits your schedule.

“Be sure to say hi to the instructor before class, and let them know you’re new to the class,” says Crawford. It’s also in your favor to tell the instructor you’re new to exercise and ask if the class is appropriate. If not, put it on your calendar for next month when you’re less of a newbie.

People at the gym talking to the receptionist
The gym can be intimidating, but most of the etiquette is based on common courtesy. (Image: andresr/E+/GettyImages)

Follow Basic Gym Etiquette

The gym can be a very intimidating place for a newbie, particularly when it comes to a lack of knowledge regarding gym etiquette. “Luckily, the majority of the ‘unwritten rules’ follow basic principles of common courtesy,” says Morrison.

Here are his pro tips for avoiding awkward situations:

1. Clean up after yourself — both weights and sweat. This is huge and No. 1 on the list for a reason.

2. Try to give other lifters enough personal space so they don’t feel like they’ll hit you while swinging around a kettlebell.

3. If you also need to use a piece of equipment, ask if you can share with the current user (or just come back to it later).

4. Try not to spend too much time at one station (or be open to allowing other people to work in with you).

5. And, most importantly, never, ever, ever do curls in the squat rack.

What Do YOU Think?

What do you find most intimidating about joining a new gym? Do you prefer working the cardio machines or the weights section? What other beginners' information would you like to learn about? Let us know in the comments section.

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