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1.08.2015

Ask a Health Advocate: I’m a newbie at the gym. Do you have any helpful tips?

Did you join a new gym or renew your current membership for the New Year? Good for you!

You may be nervous about getting started, but there’s really no need to feel intimidated by your new fitness studio. Here are some tips to help you feel right at home:

Don’t be shy about your current fitness level! Whether you are new to the gym or returning after a long break, the most important thing is to get moving. Focus on your goals and avoid worrying about what other people are thinking. Start with activities that you feel most comfortable doing to build your confidence and learn from your success. We all have to start somewhere, so congratulate yourself on taking the first step!

One-on-one attention. Take advantage of the expert staff at your gym. Many facilities offer new members one or two free personal training sessions to help you become familiar with the equipment and to get started with a workout plan. Ongoing personal training can be helpful by providing you with motivation and holding your accountable to your goals, but it may be cost-prohibitive. If you’re on a tight budget, consider small group training to get the same benefits at a lower cost, or meet with your trainer once every four to six weeks to update your exercise plan.

Explore your options. Most gyms offer a variety of group classes that are included with your membership. Classes can help you stay motivated, learn a new skill, and meet other people. Picking classes that appeal to your interests and meet your current fitness level will help you stay safe and meet your goals. If you are unsure about the intensity level of a class, talk to the instructor or other people in the class. If you are nervous about “doing it wrong,” remember that at some point everyone was a beginner and had to learn the right moves. You will get there—just stay positive and be consistent.

Which equipment should I use? Trying to navigate through all the machines at the gym can seem overwhelming initially, so here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Cardio machines, like the treadmill and stationary bike, are simple to use and allow you to adjust the intensity as you become more fit. For a beginner-level workout, choose the manual setting and pick an intensity level that is comfortable for you. Start with 15-30 minutes per workout and increase the time by 10% each week.
  • The elliptical and stair machines are a bit more challenging; select a lower intensity to start and gradually increase it once you are able to use the machine for at least 30 minutes at a time.
  • And don’t forget the resistance training! Machines are great for taking the guesswork out of a weight training workout; just be sure you have the information you need to set up the machine to match your size. Free weights allow more flexibility but may require more guidance to help you stay safe and get the most out of your workout.

Be prepared! Work out comfortably by making sure you have the right equipment, including athletic shoes, sweatpants or shorts, t-shirt, and the appropriate undergarments. Fancy gear is not required—just make sure what you wear allows you to move freely. Remember to pack your gym clothes the night before, and don’t forget deodorant—after all, you will be breaking a sweat!

One final tip: Remember, always consult your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to the Wellness Coaching program, reach out to your Wellness Coach for more helpful fitness tips.

Have a question for a Health Advocate? Email nhess@healthadvocate.com, and your question may be the topic of an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!