So, this is it-- the year you’re finally going to stick to your resolution to get in better shape. Yes, I realize the italicized “finally” may seem a bit sarcastic. If it does, consider it tough love. I want you to succeed. I love seeing people make awesome transformations or build lasting, healthy habits. That’s why I’m writing this: to help you make the most of your resolution so that these habits you build over the next few weeks will stick with you for years to come.
If you’re reading this, odds are you are either new to the gym altogether or you are returning from an extended hiatus. A lot of what I’ll be sharing is going to be applicable to both groups, and it may even help someone who is already a “regular” to the gym but needs a little boost.
Here are some of the topics I’ll be touching on to help you stick with your resolution:
- What the heck you should actually be doing at the gym
- Not looking like the biggest newbie
- Accepting that you are, in fact, a newbie
- Avoiding injury
If you are brand new to working out, the first step is having a plan. Most people who fizzle out on their resolution do so because they don’t have a set goal in mind. Pick something concrete: adding muscle, losing fat, or changing the measurement on a certain body part. It's far easier to stick with “losing 10 pounds” than it is to stick with “going to the gym a few times a week” because you know why you’re doing it.
Once you pick a goal, you can lay out a plan. That plan can include things like setting your workout schedule/routines and making sustainable adjustments to your eating habits. If you want this to last, you've got to know what you're setting out to do before you do it. If you don't know where to start, there are plenty of places online to find a good routine. If you're looking to drop some fat, we have our Fat Loss series that debunks some fat loss myths (that you'll hear a lot of as you start your journey). If your goal is to pack on some muscle, take a look at our "Why Can't I Grow?" series. And, as always, feel free to ask us what we do! (For real, if you comment on this or e-mail us, we'll get back to you and make sure we help you out).
Now, onto the whole “newbie” thing. No one is going to judge you for being new or not knowing exactly what you're doing, and people that have been working out for a while are going to know you’re new. That is okay. Heck, I’d even say that’s the ideal situation. Your goal is to improve, and there are going to be plenty of people around you who have had that same goal for years. Take advantage of that! Find some fit dude/dudette and ask them what they do for arms and shoulders (or any body part, for that matter); you’ll get some good information and probably make their day.*
However, these people aren’t going to be too fond of you if you have terrible gym etiquette, but I’ve got you covered there, too. I promise this one isn’t too complicated-- it’s mostly wiping down equipment after you use it and putting your weights back. Sounds pretty easy, right? That’s because it actually is pretty dang simple. Oh yeah, before I forget: don’t curl in the power rack either. And please, put on some deodorant before you go.
*If asking people you don’t know for help isn’t your thing, or the thought of asking a stranger how to work out sounds like your idea of a haunted house, I suggest going to YouTube! There are numerous channels (including ours) that are dedicated to workout and nutrition tips. Go find someone you enjoy watching and look through the tutorials on their channel.
Also, someone will probably come up to you at some point and ask to “work in,” or ask “how many sets you have left” (which will usually be followed by “bro,” regardless of gender). Each situation is different, but I will usually ask if they want to work in. If I’m about to finish up, I’ll let them know I only have a set or two left. If you’re in doubt, general courtesy is usually the right way to go, but don’t feel pressured to surrender a machine to someone else before you’re done. For the most part, people are receptive to working in on a machine and will welcome you to work in with them if you're eyeing the equipment they are on.
Oh yeah, about those nifty machines: if jumping right to dumbbells and barbells (a.k.a. “free weights”) seems like a daunting task, start with machines! If you aren’t ready to do free weight exercises with the form they require**, machine lifts are a great way to get used to movements without worrying as much about “doing it wrong.” They keep you in a fixed plane of motion, so you can pretty much only do the exercise/movement that the machine was intended to do. Even after you are able to comfortably work with free weights, machines are always a good alternative if you have trouble feeling a certain exercise working or if the free weight version of the movement is painful for you.
**Along those lines, make sure you take the time to master the fundamentals. Learn correct form on lifts and make sure your posture is good while doing cardio. You will be forming lifelong habits during these first few months, so you want to be sure that those habits are sound. I’ve never suffered a lifting injury and don’t ever plan to, and I attribute that to using proper form and not ego-lifting. Please, don’t ego-lift. Trying to lift something heavier than you know you can/should just to look cool will usually make you look stupid, and it adds a huge injury risk. If you use good form and weights that you can control, that will go a long way towards preventing injury.
Also, after your first week in the gym, it may feel like your whole body is injured or dying, but there's a good chance this is just DOMS, or "delayed onset muscle soreness." If you're actually injured, you'll most likely know. But if you just feel achy and stiff, this is your body calling you names for putting it under physical stress. If you're experiencing DOMS, being inactive isn't going to help; keep going to the gym, but make sure to get warmed up well. The intense DOMS will start to go away after a few weeks, so don't let them show you up.
Alright, so hopefully you’re about ready to set out to the gym now. Once you’re there, stick to your plan and make sure you have a sense of direction in there. It can be easy to lose motivation and call it a day after doing a few easy sets on some different machines if you go to the gym without a plan for the day. But, if you go with a plan and know what exercises you want to do that day, you’ll be a lot more likely to continue with the whole workout and not quit on yourself too soon. Now, go out there and kick some butt!