Although I quit my gym membership last year, I have some advice for noobies:
- Shop around. Don't go to the first fitness club you find. Let them know you are shopping around and ask if the price is negotiable. After I had been a member of DW Sports for some time (and paying the full price) I discovered they do a public service discount (10% I think). All I had to do was ask and show them my ID card. The cheapest might be cheap for a reason and it could be too cheap. Is it in a convenient place with the right opening times? Could any of your friends, family or colleagues recommend a gym?
- Don't waste your money on sports drinks at £1 a go in the changing room. They are over-priced and mostly unnecessary. The only time I would take a drink is during a 10 mile treadmill run lasting up to 90 minutes. Even then it would be tap water in a cycle water bottle.
- Be wary flirty people, especially if you're a woman. From my own observations, lots of men hang around posing and their eyes pop out on stalks when they see an attractive woman arrive in the gym. My advice is just ignore them, be flattered they have noticed you but just get on with burning those calories. Also fitness club staff are often badly paid and some (with good physiques) also earn money from the sex industry - escorts, porn models etc
- Ask if a personal trainer can set you a training programme to help you achieve your goals. If you can get this as part of the deal, this is valuable. Some personal trainers are real experts and know the answer to any query or question, plus they can help keep you motivated. They can also show you how to use the various machines and suggest what would be the right speeds, weights, repetitions etc for you.
- When you start, make a note of your measurements and weight, so you can see how you improve over time!
- Make a commitment to yourself about how often you will go and then stick to it. How often depends on your circumstances but I'd suggest 3 work outs a week is a good start. They key is to stick with it. Afterall, diets only work if people have the discipline to stick with them! Be realistic as well: going to the gym for 3 hours a weeks may not make a huge difference on it's own. Try to make other changes in your life that will bring some fitness benefits (walk, cycle more, take the stairs instead of the office lift, consider what you're eating).
- Always "warm up" when you arrive at the gym. A cross trainer is ideal for this and give yourself 5 minutes on it. This gets the blood pumping around your body and warms your muscles. I think it's important to do this for a number of reasons. One of the most vital reasons is a way of preventing injuries to your muscles during your work-out - cold muscles, tendons or ligaments being stretched or strained can become torn and set you back for a while. Likewise, if you have had a strenuous work-out where you have been sweating and pushing yourself hard - finish with another 5 minutes on the cross trainer to gently ease back down. This is called "cool down" and your heart will benefit and also your muscles as you move that lactic acid on - it is not about burning more calories.
- Does it hurt? Some people say "no pain, no gain" or some tee shirts say "pain is your weakness coming out". Don't be fooled. If you're doing something which hurts you, especially if it is a sharp sudden pain, back off because you're probably going to cause yourself an injury. Chest pains might be something more serious!
- Talking to your Doctor might be a good idea, especially if you have any medical issues. Chances are your Doctor will be supportive of you taking more exercise but s/he might have some specific advice for you. Please note I'm not a Doctor myself, you need to make that decision for yourself.
- Clothing. Although a personal choice, I think many people get it wrong. Don't worry about the latest fashion as this could be unnecessarily expensive and useless. Synthetic, moisture wicking materials are best and they work well if they are in contact with your skin. Cotton tee shirts or cotton track suit bottoms simply absorb sweat, smell and appear unsightly; plus you are more likely to over-heat if you're working hard. It's up to you whether you wear shorts or full length pants, long or short sleeves. Women might find a sports bra is helpful but that's not something I have any experience of!
- Be mindful of hygiene and don't be afraid to point out short comings to the staff. Remember that as other people might drip their sweat and splutter all over the equipment, you will be doing the same also. So, take a small towel with you so you can wipe things over ready for the next person.
- Don't use your mobile phone anywhere in the gym. You might get people worried you're filming them - once I got a bit concerned while I was stark naked getting dressed in the changing room and I realised someone was pointing a phone at me. I reported it and you should do the same.
- Enjoy the gym as it could be one of the best things you can do in life. Remember you don't always need a gym or a fitness club to get yourself into shape but it can really help.
I hope this is helpful, please feel welcome to leave a comment or suggestions that might be helpful to other readers.