So you think you want to start working out? It takes a lot of time and commitment to start going to the gym on a daily basis. Make sure your ready to put that kind of time in if you want to be successful and truly transform your body. If you are ready, follow these 10 steps to dominate at the gym!
1. Have a game plan!
The biggest way to waste your time at the gym is to arrive without a plan. Randomly trying machines in no particular order or simply jumping onto a treadmill and walking is just a waste of time.
Go the the gym knowing what muscle groups you are going to concentrate on. Read up on the basics to develop your plan of attack. Know what exercises, how many sets, and even the number of reps you will do. Get SPECIFIC! You can download apps on your phone that provide workouts to follow. These apps will also save each workout, track your weight and other stats, and even time rest periods for you. If you can afford it, consider paying for a trainer from time to time to ensure that you have proper technique. But whatever you do, never go to the gym without a plan.
2. Learn proper form and technique
If its your first time at a gym, you most likely don’t know how to use all the equipment, what weights you can handle, or what proper form is for a particular exercise. Watch videos online, or hire a trainer to show you proper form for every lift. This will stop you from getting hurt, and also help you to build more muscle!
If a trainer isn’t an option, utilize books or the internet to read up on different types of exercises and proper form. Many websites allow you to search an exercise and watch a short video clip demonstration.
3. Don’t try to conquer the world in one day
Many first time gym goers try to lift as heavy and as hard as possible. This is a marathon not a sprint, you are not going to build muscle overnight. Make sure you lift the proper weight in a controlled manner.
There is such a thing as working out too much. When it comes to working out, more is not necessarily better. A well planned out 30 to 45-min workout is much better than an hour plus checking your phone between every set.
Work a few muscles groups, and hit them HARD. After all, you are fitting the gym into your already busy day. You don’t get extra points (or pounds lost) for spending more time in the building or tediously over-exerting your body. Get your heart rate up, hit your muscle groups for the day, or work through your cardio routine, and then head home.
It’s also not your goal to work out so hard on your first day that you pass out in the lobby. You are not in competition with anyone. Keep your speed, duration, and weight levels in a safe zone.
4. Practice Good Gym Etiquette
There is such a thing as gym etiquette and practicing it is very important.
Ask if you think someone else may be using the fitness equipment.
Before starting with any piece of equipment, take a quick glance to see if someone else is using it. If someone is near a machine just simply ask if they are using it, if not then get to work! It’s also ok to request to “share” and work into their set.
Always clean up after using equipment.
After you finish using a piece of equipment, towel off the equipment seats or handles etc. with a towel or a gym-provided wipe. Nobody wants to sit in your sweat.
Clean up your weights!
If you are using free weights and dumbbells, don't forget to put them back once your finished! If you are using a machine, it’s also a great idea to reset weights back to 0.
Don’t walk between exercisers and the mirror.
Always walk behind those standing in front of the mirror as they are likely concentrating or spotting their form while they lift and they do not appreciate you blocking their view.
5. Pack a Bag
Pack a gym bag. Besides your essential gym gear, include a towel, a shaker bottle/water bottle, your cell phone to display your workout routine exercises, and headphones are always awesome. If you take supplements like pre workout, BCAAs, aminos, fat burners, energy drinks and protein then don't forget to pack them in your bag as well. Utilize a locker to make your time at the gym more comfortable while still having everything you need essentially on hand.
Find a water bottle that works for you. This Ice Shaker protein mixing cup is the perfect solution for a water bottle and protein shaker. It is insulated so it will keep your water ice cold, and the kitchen grade stainless steel bottle doesn't absorb odor making it the perfect bottle for supplements and protein.
6. Think Beyond Cardio
Cardio is a great place for beginners to start, but after you’ve developed a good, consistent gym habit, start warming up to the idea of incorporating weight-bearing exercises into your routine. Not only does weight lifting spice things up and keep you interested in your routine, but lifting can seriously boost your efforts. When lifting weights, your heart rate will be elevated as well and you will not need to do as much cardio. Also, if you build muscle by lifting weights, you will increase your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.
Check out other equipment like the battle ropes to switch up your cardio/lifting routine!
7. Change up your routine!
A lot of people fall into the trap of doing the same routine each and every week. It's great to have a routine but after a month or two, it is time to switch up your routine if you want to see continued success in the gym. It's as simple as changing the order of the lifts you do, or changing the amount of reps or sets. Also try finishing your lifts with burn out sets, keep going until you can't do anymore! The change in routine will work the muscles in different ways that they weren't being worked before and in turn will help them grow!
8. Dress for Success!
Look good, feel good! Researchers have actually coined the term, "enclothed cognition" to describe the mental changes we undergo when we wear certain clothing. Wearing your favorite color or appropriate clothes for the task at hand CAN and DOES affect our behavior and our success at performing tasks! Feeling good in what you wear to the gym helps you get there and motivates you during your workout.
If you are working your arms, wear a cut off shirt so you can see the muscles you are working in action! Another tip, if you are doing a one arm exercise, use your other arm to feel the muscle you are working in action. This will help stimulate the muscle and also gives you a better idea on how that muscle works!
9. Don’t Get a Smoothie
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because you worked out you can now eat whatever you want, that is not how it works! If you want to loose weight then you need to eat healthy, especially after working out! Have you ever heard the phase "Abs are made in the kitchen"? This is referring to the fact that you MUST also eat healthy if you want to see results! What good is rock solid abs if you can't see them!
10. Don’t Worry About What People Will Think of You
This is the big one. If you are new to the gym, a big fear for many is that others will be looking at you and judging your actions or appearance. First of all, relax. Chances are everyone else at the gym is way too consumed with themselves and what they are doing to even notice you.
If you do items 1 through 9 on this list, there is no reason to fear the gym or the judgement of others. You will be armed with the knowledge you need to confidentially take your first steps into the world of physical fitness and have a great first experience at the gym! This is not an “invitation only” affair and you deserve a place in that room as much as anyone else who values their health.