I remember the first time I stepped into a gym. I was a freshman in college and had NO idea what anything was let alone how to use it. I was not out of shape by any means; in fact I was probably in the best shape of my life. The thing is I was a competitive gymnast for my entire life, which meant I could hang upside down, climb a rope, do hours of core work and flips, but a treadmill and weights were a foreign concept to me. I walked in the first time and thought “what do I climb?” I had gone from working out 5-6 hours a day to being on my own and truthfully, it was terrifying.
I can only imagine that this is how everyone feels the first time (ok, well maybe not the climbing on things part, but you know what I mean) So before you go and spend $200 on a gym membership and then feel so overwhelmed and unsure of what to do, it is important to get set yourself up for success. Here are the five things you should consider before starting a fitness program:
- What is your goal?
If you don’t know how to pick a goal, check out this post first. Once you have a good goal in place, you can then focus on how to reach it. Starting a program with no goal in mind will have you spinning your wheels and losing the motivation you need in order to build a habit.
- How much time do you have?
Is it realistic for you to workout out for two hours every day of the week? For most people, probably not. This is where you need to be truthful with yourself. This time commitment needs to be something that you will actually stick to, and it needs to be in line with your goals. If your goal is to lose 40 lbs by June, working out only once a week probably is not going to set you up for success. Take a look at your schedule and figure out what you can stick to. Once you get in a habit it is easy to add in time or days as you see fit, but you want to start with what you can handle. My general recommendation for beginners is 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes to start off with, and then we build onto the program as we go.
- What Gym is right for you?
Aside from all of my other tips, this may be the most important factor before starting a program. You should feel comfortable and enjoy going to the place where you workout. Gyms these days range from private personal training studios where you may be the only person in there at one time, to big commercial gyms where there may be hundreds of people in there at a time. Big commercial gyms are cheap and typically have every piece of equipment you could ever need, but if time is an issue, you may be waiting for to use the equipment and have better results at a smaller gym. If you are a woman and don’t feel comfortable working out with big, gnarly sweaty men (sorry guys), then you may want a woman’s only gym. If your motivation to work out alone is lacking you might find it best to work out in a group-based circuit style gym. If you want to compete in a strongman competition then you want to find a place with that kind of equipment, you get the idea. It’s important to visit a bunch of gyms, ask for a trial pass and decide if it is somewhere you can see yourself working out at.
- Don’t be afraid to seek guidance.
If you are new to working out or just new to a gym, you can waste a lot of time and effort by not knowing what the equipment is or how to properly use it. You may also not have any idea of what types of things you should or shouldn’t be doing in general!
Find a friend who has been in the gym for a while and ask them to show you around. Not only can this help you get acquainted to the gym, but it can help with any intimidation you are feeling, and boost your motivation. Spending a few weeks learning the correct way to use the equipment and which exercises are best for YOU will benefit you in the long run. Personal trainers are expensive, but the value is worth it if you are new to fitness. Hiring someone for even a week can help save you wasted time and energy in the gym. It’s important that you also research the trainer you hire and don’t pick the person just because that’s who everyone else goes to. Check into their education, their experience, their beliefs, and their ability to tailor a program to your specific needs and goals.
- Be consistent, but mostly… be patient.
No matter your goal, time, or gym you are at, consistency will bring you results. Your training program may not be the best, you may not be able to give a lot of time to training, but the more consistent you are the more you are likely to see results.
Some tough love here: results do not come overnight. If you are a beginner you may see some changes relatively easily, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you set yourself up for success, regardless of results, you should enjoy adapting fitness into your life.
In the end, what it comes down to is how easy you make it for yourself to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle. Find something you enjoy doing and do it! Don’t be afraid to start with the very basics and learn as you improve!
Readers: What is the hardest part about getting into a workout routine? What has stopped you from staying consistent in the past?