Joined a gym: Advice for starting out?

I tried searching for threads about this, but my search was mostly fruitless because “gym” is too small for the search engine.

My husband and I finally bit the bullet and joined a gym. We’ve been getting very little incidental exercise since we both started commuting to work, and we haven’t been motivated to exercise at home for various reasons, so I think it’s necessary for us to have some external motivation to work out. Our goals are more fitness than weight-loss oriented, although we both could stand to lose weight, and the gym membership includes various classes (yoga, pilates, cardio circuit, etc) and has a pool, an indoor track, and a pretty standard equipment setup. It also includes an initial session with a trainer, although more sessions cost extra- I should add that we’re willing to try extra sessions if they’ll be super-helpful. We’re planning to do a mix of cardio and weights to start out, then work into trying the classes. I used to do yoga frequently, so I’m interested in that, and I’m also interested in the aquatic classes once I work up the courage to put on a bathing suit.

We’ve never done this before, so does anyone have any advice on what to do to stay motivated and get the most out of it? Also, does anyone have any tips, tricks or things we should know before we start out?

I made a bunch of sacrifices in my life (no eating out, way less beer) and hired a trainer at my gym. It’s expensive, but that’s what motivates me. Since July (and with me taking 2 months off when my wife had our baby in December), I have gone from 190 pounds and 29% body fat to 197 pounds and 21% body fat.

If you get a good trainer, he or she will be worth every penny. My wife is at the same gym as me now, and is working with a trainer who also has a young child; she is very, very good at helping my wife lose baby weight and more.

If you get a bad trainer, switch. I worked with two others before linking up with my current trainer; he’s much more in-tune with my goals, and far more educated about health and weight-lifting stuff than the other two were.

Don’t use the communal blow-dryers on your pubes.

Don’t worry, I can get that out of my system at work, where we have those super-powerful hand dryers.
Thanks, wmulax93, I’ll definitely keep that in mind. The place we joined has a wide variety of ages and fitness levels among its members, and the staff seems really nice, so I’m optimistic about finding help if we need it (which isn’t unlikely).

The best thing for staying motivated for me is to have a set time to go to the gym. After a few weeks of going at the same time it became a habit and I found that on days when I couldn’t go at my usual time I really missed it.

For me, I never set out to over do it. I tell myself I will do the elliptical for 20 minutes (3 minute warm up, 2 minute full out) and then go longer if I’m into it. This seems to keep me from feeling overwelmed.

Another thing I recently did was to switch mornings before work. This made a HUGE difference! I now go almost daily. I feel so much more motivated in the morning.

So again, set easy goals.

Couple things:

  1. take it easy for the first few visits. I know way too many people who overdid it at the beginning, got injured and never got back on track.

  2. A lot of people benefit from classes. The social aspect and peer pressure of people noticing when you miss classes can be beneficial. My wife doesn’t enjoy ‘working out’, but loves yoga/step/aerobics/whatever.

  3. I found having a trainer set up your schedule and then having semi-annual visits to check for progress and change-up the schedule was very useful.

Taking it easy is probably the best thing we can do; it’s easy to get excited, though!

I’m definitely excited about the prospect of both yoga and aquatic classes. My husband, not so much. Luckily, he’s better motivated than I am.

I’m definitely going to see what the trainers can do for us; we need a plan.
Any suggestions on gear or accessories? We have basic workout wear, but are there any little things that are useful, or brands that are particularly good?

If you haven’t already, buy new shoes. I find that if my knees (or whatever) are starting to hurt, it’s time to buy new shoes. I generally buy my athletic shoes one size larger than I would normal shoes. I find that it keeps my toes from getting mashed up in the ends and prevents me from getting bruises under my toenails.
If you plan to use an iPod/MP3 player (which I highly recommend), I suggest getting over-the-ear headphones designed for working out. Earbuds tend to slip out when you get sweaty.
I encourage anyone who’s new to a gym to pay special attention to gym etiquette. Wipe down the equipment when you’re done, don’t hog the machines or loiter around waiting for someone to get off a machine, etc. If you’re respectful you’ll fit in quickly. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t know where the stuff is to wipe off the machines, or can’t find a certain piece of equipment, ask. Most people are happy to help.
Setting a specific time to go is very important, as has already been noted. If you go at about the same time every day, pretty soon it will become habit and that’s just what you do at that time of day.
Good luck, and have fun!

Now you tell me.

Remember - You are not in competition with anyone else but you. It is easy to look around the gym and see others in much greater shape than you. Don’t allow that to discourage or intimidate you. You are not competing with them, only yourself, and every day you go you are one step closer to your goals.

(Says the guy who has not been in the gym in a month!)


I just started going again myself. Usually, any time before this I’d try to overdo, end up sore, achy and injured. I’d get out of the habit of going while I rested my injury (and feeding it bags of chips, to recuperate).

This time, I am sticking with a plan, by golly. I found some music to get into shape and/or jog with. Music here . At the start of every week, I think they are trying to kill me. But so far, I am able to make it to the next level by the end of the week. I jog. My wife stationary bikes. But we both do it to this music.

If you go every day at a set time, try this. Find a person who has a body you like and causually observe their routine. Obviously don’t be well obvious about this, but you get my point.

Try all the machines and go slow.

Start with bikes then move to treadmills, then elipticals, then treadmills.

ALWAYS repeat ALWAYS vary routine.

My strongest advice is stay away from free weight, unless you have a friend who knows how to use them properly or you have a trainer. I have see COUNTLESS number of chipped teeth and broken toes because people don’t use them right. If you insist on free weights, get a trainer, or go very slow and get some good books on them. Be very careful of free weights till you know what you’re doing. Unless you got a good dental plan :slight_smile: For the price of fixing one chipped tooth you can get a trainer to show you how to do it right

If time is an issue and it’s a choice of weights or aerobics do areobics. Running and the like, benefits youre heart. You can live without making a muscle in your bicep. You can’t live without your heart.

How to stay interested, the best thing I found was books on tape. I get them for free at my library and I tell you all the books I never had time to read, I have now “read,” while working out.

Music helps a lot to. If you have an iPod (or even if you don’t you can convert it) you can download free podcasts. Check out Archive (dot) Org they have free public domain old time radio shows. You can work out and laugh silly at Jack Benny and Gracie Allen.

Some good advise given here already.

I would just stress, as others have mentioned, the importance of not going too hard too quickly. The most important thing is to go on a consistent basis. Lots of people get really motivated and start going for 2 hours a day and pushing themselves really hard at first. Only to burn out rather quickly, just get tired of it, and eventually quit altogether. The gym membership books are chuck full of names the employees can never put a face to.

A regular, consistent, routine is the key. Even if you’re short on time, stopping in for a quick 15 minute workout is better than nothing, and keeps you’re routine going.

Regarding how to workout, everything you said in your op that you’re interested in, is what you should try. Not all at once of course. But a key aspect is to tailor your routine to your interests and not just doing what the trainers and books say is the most beneficial. This can end up making it feel more like a job. Make it an enjoyable hobby and it’s more likely that you stick with it long term.

That’s not to say that a trainer isn’t worthwhile though. I don’t personally think they’re necessary for the long term, but they are very helpful in the beginning. It’s good to have some guidance while learning how to do things properly and safely.

A little weight training goes a long way to supplement an aerobic routine. Remember that having more muscle causes your body to burn more energy consistently. Also, after working your muscles out, they use even more energy over the next couple of days while they repair and recover.

Clothes and accessories. Choose comfort over trendy. Again, to let your hair down, and make it fun. Splurging on a new pair of very comfortable shoes is always worthwhile in my opinion.

I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one. But I’m not a fan of the headphones at all while working out. With all the people wandering around doing potentially dangerous stuff, I like to hear whats going on around me. Both so I know when to duck, and so I can help the guy who didn’t learn how to use free weights safely, and gets stuck under the bench press bar without a spotter.

Also, I highly recommend finding an outdoor hobby, or two, that feel more like fun than working out. Tennis, bike riding etc. My personal favorite is rowing around a lake while takeing short breaks to fish. :smiley:

Have fun!

Marxxx’s perennial advice to steer clear of the most beneficial training tools available begs for a rebuttal.

Using free weights is a good way to train for anyone, because:

Free weights fit everyone, regardless of height, weight, limb length etc. Various machines fit various people varyingly well, and few machines fit very small or very tall, or very wide people.

Free weights are the same everywhere. Once you learn a handful of barbell and dumbbell exercises, you’re good to go, no matter where you find yourself training.

A modest array of free weights can be used to work one’s entire body. Machine availability and coverage varies from gym to gym.

Free weights offer a completely ‘customized’ range of motion, wrist alignment etc. based on the trainee’s personal skills, goals and preferences. Machines do not.

A pair of suitable-weight dumbbells needs no adjustment. Grab 'em and use 'em. Makes for more efficient, more enjoyable workout for everyone (less waiting).

The extra control needed to handle free weights is exactly what one needs to improve one’s all-round physical skills. Grabbing and moving awkward stuff (or yourself) under control, rarely seated, is how real life happens. Do a set of dumbbell rows and feel your hands, sides and belly working alongside the arm and back muscles. Almost every sport relies heavily on a strong grip which machines won’t develop. Carrying heavy luggage or moving furniture becomes a breeze with free weight training.

Free weights are simply cool. They’ve been used by the mighty since before any of us was born. Hoisting heavy stuff in the air feels great regardless of the training response. There’s nothing cool about extending a handled lever with a pulley system strapped to it while sitting on one’s ass.

I don’t know where Marxxx trains to see COUNTLESS chipped teeth and broken toes from weight training, or if this is just HYPERBOLE. I haven’t seen any, and can’t see how they’re even possible short of a disastrously failured rep, which never happens with sensible training methods. Nor have I injured myself by starting from full sedentary and working out with free weights from the start, unguided but well-read. As long as one starts with a weight that’s completely under control, studies proper execution of the movements and never does stuff like benchpressing solo without safety bars, free weight training is safe even for the beginner. Training with machines improperly leads to injury, as well.

I’d recommend reading up on gym etiquette. There are a lot of guides on the web that should be helpful.

Having said that, a lot of it is just common sense and courtesy. Some of these principles have been discussed on the SDMB before: Wipe your sweat off the equipment. No loud talking. No giggling during group classes. No swearing except in private. Don’t park your stuff on any of the machines. And so forth.

Thanks guys; this has been really helpful!
We went shopping for gym clothes last night, and it’s almost overwhelming how many options are out there. In particular, sports bra technology seems to have come a long way since I was last working out consistently.

We do have some smallish free weights at home, and I used to use them fairly consistently, so I do have experience using small free weights. I’m a gym noob, but we used to have an elliptical machine (old one, though!) and have a stationary bike now, so I’m not totally hopeless on anything but the weight machines, which I haven’t used in years. (And treadmills, but I hate them so it’s unlikely to come up.)

The person who showed me around went over basic etiquette when I signed up, but I’ll definitely read up on it so I don’t do anything heinous accidentally. Luckily, all the equipment wipes are very well identified and in obvious places. As for showering- do people use shower shoes in the gym showers? It seems like they would. I don’t anticipate showering there frequently because it’s about a mile from my house (walking distance!), but I might start if I end up swimming in the morning during the summer.

I do have an ipod, but I probably won’t use it until I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.

We’re starting tomorrow! (Thurs-Sat-Mon is the schedule we’ve set for ourselves to start out.)

Good point on the shower shoes. Some do some don’t. I always do if I plan to shower there. I usually don"t shower there though. You can pick up some pretty creepy stuff on your feet otherwise.

You may wish to check out the people in those classes, to help you work up the courage. IME they tend to be an extremely diverse bunch for looks, ages and fitness (both apparent and actual), so you should see that aesthetics are absolutely no reason to avoid joining in.

Sign up with a site like Daily Burn to help you track your workouts, nutrition and progress. They have a pay service but the free one works just fine for me. It has a bunch of pre-made workout routines or you can make up your own, as well as forums and goal tracking to help you stay motivated.

The great thing about the site is that its completely web based, and there’s a mobile website you can hit from a phone. So as I’m working out I can track my reps and weight for each exercise and it tabulates it all as I go. I’ve got a daily burn gadget on my google homepage that shows a scoreboard for my progress and it really helps to keep me motivated to keep going.