Joining a gym can be a daunting experience, especially if you’ve never stepped foot in one before, but it really doesn’t need to be. Contrary to what you might think, they’re not full of body-beautiful individuals, dressed head to toe in lycra - just normal people working towards a healthier lifestyle.
Here are some top tips to ensure you choose the right gym for you and what you can expect from your first visit.
Choosing a gym
With so many gyms to choose from, it’s important to pick one that’s going to best suit you. Things to consider when looking at gyms are the facilities that each gym has to offer. For example, some have pools whereas others provide a variety of exercise classes. Do the exercise class times fit in with your schedule and does the gym equipment meet your needs?
Another factor to consider is how easy the gym is to get to. If it’s close to home or near your work, you’ll be much more likely to go regularly than if you’ve got to go out of your way to get there. Remember, you should be aiming to go about three times a week, so it makes sense to make it as convenient as possible. Also, do any of your friends go to the gym? Having a gym buddy can keep you on track as well as providing a great opportunity to catch up with friends throughout the week.
Just as there’s a huge choice of gyms, there’s also a variety of membership options to suit all budgets. Joining a gym doesn’t have to be costly, in fact some can be as little as the cost of a latte each week, so it’s up to you whether you save of splurge on this. It’s also worth looking in to peak and off-peak prices, as there can be a big difference between these. If you’re retired or work shifts, you might be able to take advantage of cheaper rates by going to the gym at times considered ‘off-peak’ i.e. during the day throughout the week.
What to bring
Everybody’s different and gym facilities can vary, but until you’ve been a few times and worked out exactly what you’ll need it’s best to take the following with you, just in case.
- A pound for the locker – You won’t want to carry your bag around with you, so if your gym provides lockers you might need £1 to operate them. If your gym doesn’t provide lockers then just take in the essentials…
- Towel – It’s common courtesy to wipe down the machines after you’ve used them. I’m sure you don’t want to sit in someone else’s sweat, just as they don’t want to sit in yours. Have a towel handy to wipe your face or lay down on any machines you use.
- Water bottle - An absolute essential item. Although some gyms have water stations, you don’t want to risk going without your own water bottle. It’s really important to stay hydrated during any physical activity.
- The right clothing – We’re not talking ‘all the gear no idea’, just comfortable clothing which isn’t going to hinder your workout. Look for fabrics which will keep you cool and wick away sweat, helping to keep you comfortable. Clothing with a good stretch will allow you to move freely and it’s time to invest in some comfortable, supportive trainers.
- iPod/phone for music – Although a lot of gyms have music playing, it might not be to your taste. Taking your own music in can be a great motivator during your workout. Just make sure the item doesn’t get in the way of your workout, arm bands to sit mp3 players in can be really handy, or some workout clothing even has built-in pockets for them.
If you’re unfamiliar with gym equipment, it’s important you know what each machine does and how to use it correctly to help prevent injury. Once you’ve become a member of a gym, before you’re allowed to start using the facilities, you’ll have an induction with one of the personal trainers. These usually last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and are really useful to make sure you’re starting off at the right level and making the most of your workout.
The personal trainers will talk you through all the equipment and may also be able to put together a bespoke workout plan for you based on your current fitness level, what you’re looking to achieve and how long you’re planning on spending at the gym each visit.
You’ll find that most gyms are divided into different areas, usually cardio machines are on one side and strength training on the other. Some of the machines you can expect to find in the cardio area include: treadmills, cross-trainers, stationary bikes and step machines. This area is great to head to warm up and really work up a sweat.
In the strength training area you will usually find equipment organised by muscle group, such as chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs and lower body. These machines can sometimes look a bit confusing to start with but they’ll be covered in your induction and usually have some simple instructions on the machines to recap. This is the area to head to once you’ve warmed your muscles up on the cardio equipment. Start off slowly using light weights until your body is used to the new exercises then slowly build up the weights and reps of each exercise.
Now you’re equipped with everything you need to know about joining a gym there’s nothing stopping you - enjoy your exciting new journey to a healthier you!