I’ve actually been asked about this before, so I thought I’d write it all down and share a bit of my wisdom(!) with anyone who’s a bit nervous about starting at the gym/not knowing what on earth to do, how to train, how many times a week to go etc.
What I’d say first and foremost is to book an induction or talk to a personal trainer. An induction will ensure you know how the equipment works and where everything is, and talking to a qualified PT will make sure that you can chat to someone who will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to get where you want to be.
But I get that that’s daunting. So here are some basics I think everyone needs to know when starting:
How many times a week should I go?
When you first start off your body will not be okay with training five or six times a week. It won’t be used to it, and you’ll just feel really tired. It’ll be counterproductive and put you off going at all after a few weeks. Ease yourself into it. Try 2-3 times a week at first, and as your body adapts to the changes you can up the amount of days you train.
What type of training should I do?
This is completely goal orientated and the reason why I suggest talking to a PT at your gym is a really beneficial idea. But typically, to ‘lose weight and tone up’ (the main reason why most people join a gym) you need a mixture of cardio and weights. Start off light and work your way up; do full body workouts to start off with and then start to split your training to isolate the different muscle groups once you get more comfortable with what you’re doing.
How long should I train for?
Again, this is totally goal orientated. I now train for an hour-an hour 15 mins max. Some people will do a 45 minute class then do some more training after, or some people will do half an hour of cardio. It’s important, though, not to make the same mistake I and a lot of others do and overtrain: try not to exceed two hours (I’d only ever do an hour and a half max really), because your muscles will be really tired by this point. Overtraining heightens the risk of injury, as your muscles will be weak by this point and your form will dip, and not only that, but you won’t be putting in as much effort as you should be.
When should I go to the gym?
Everyone is difference and everyone has different schedules. Typically, I prefer to go in the morning when it’s quiet and there’s not a queue for the squat rack… But this is because it fits into my current working routine. I would tend to avoid busy periods such as straight after work, because you will have to fight for the equipment you want to use, but if that’s the only time of day you have free just grin and bear it. Weekends are actually quite quiet at my gym, and I love training on sunday mornings (I even drag myself there with a fuzzy head after drinking the previous day). If you’re conscious about going to the gym for the first time, I suggest picking a quiet time like this to start off with to build your confidence up.
Do I even need a gym?
No. For my personal goals, I need a gym because quite frankly I cannot afford to build my own gym. All my training is weight/resistance based and therefore a gym is needed for me because I don’t own any weights/squad rack/etc. But if you’re just looking to ‘get fit and lose a bit,’ there are so many home workouts you can do. Youtube is full of the things, so you don’t even need to buy a celebrity fitness DVD to lose weight – you can do it all from the comfort of your own home, for free. Personally though, I would encourage joining a gym to keep you on track – I have tried home workouts and I’m so much less motivated than when I’m in a gym setting (especially when you’re talking to a PT mid-set or you catch people watching you, trust me both your form and motivation are dead on!)
I think the final, and most important, thing to remember is that everyone has to start somewhere. Everyone has to have that first bit of confidence to start their journey, everyone has to find the motivation, and everyone begins with a clean slate. It just depends how much you want it and how far you’re willing to take it – whatever your end goal may be.