It’s Your First Day at the Gym: Here’s What to Do

Get ready to make a smooth transition from sitting down all day to being active

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Congratulations on finally mustering up the courage to put on your sneakers and hit the gym. Now that the hardest part, which is getting out of the house, is over, don’t get discouraged by the sight of all those fit people there who look like they exercise for a living. They are just like you – working people trying to make time in their busy schedules to get in shape.

Keep in mind that all of them were where you are at this moment – feeling a little anxious and wondering where to start.

Getting into the right state of mind is important before you begin. It has little to do with fashionable workout clothes or accessories and hitting on other people. It’s about committing to a healthier future you, who feels and looks good (naked too). You’ll get there by dripping sweat, hurting every part of your body and feeling like you’re at the end of your rope.

You can prevent all of that by preparing well and knowing what to expect.

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A common mistake people make is to overwork their bodies on the first day at the gym. It took time to get to the point where you feel like you need to lose weight, Shane McLean, a certified fitness instructor in Dallas, says. “So it will take you time to get out of it.”

Do a little more each day, but don’t spend fours hours at the gym. Otherwise, sustaining an injury is almost guaranteed. That will only put you back on the couch for a few weeks. You will overtrain yourself, which will lead to decreased performance, high blood pressure, decreased immunity and poor sleep patterns, according to studies. Your muscles have no idea what’s going to hit them, so teach them slowly.

Start with 3-4 exercises and move on from there. You’ll give your body time to recover, avoid soreness, and get ready for the next gym session.

Share your goal for the day

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Accountability is one of the best ways to stay determined and consistent. You can’t lie you worked out if you didn’t even make it to the gym. Announce your plans on Facebook or tell the one person you would hate to disappoint.

Recruit a friend to come with you. That way both of you can share the feeling of intimidation and laugh it off. Bring your significant other because, as you know, couples who sweat together stay together.

What to bring

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Bring a lock to put your bag and personal items in the locker. Walking around with your jacket and purse is not a good idea and few gyms actually allow it. It’d be nice to bring a towel to wipe off your sweat after you’re done with an exercise. You can also lay it down on the machines you use to avoid getting other people’s sweat (and germs) on you.

You don’t know it yet but you’ll be thirsty when you exercise. You need to replace all the water you’re losing in the form of sweat. Bring a bottle.

Many people listen to music while working out. That may not be you but bring an iPod and try it out. A lot of exercise clothing has built-in electronic pockets now.

Warm up

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Don’t even think about doing resistance training without warming up. You need to get your blood flowing and muscles warm so they don’t tear too much when you train them. Dynamic stretching is one of the perfect kinds of warmups, according to science. It includes shoulder circles, arms swings, side bends, leg swings, and lunges. Use this time to look around and get familiar with what’s around you.

Do a beginner’s strength workout

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You may feel like you can do more, but don’t push your body’s limits. Good resistance training for newbies is a simple one. Warm up for about 15 minutes. Use lighter weights so you can focus on your posture and technique.

Start with two sets on the leg press machine. Then move to the step-up and do another two sets of 10 each. Many instructors recommend the row machine because you move your entire body at the same time. Row for about 10 minutes.

It’s time for your upper body workout. Pick up a stability ball and to 30 bicep curls. Then go to the triceps pushdown machine and do 30. It’s OK to do fewer reps, just, make sure you work out the opposite muscles equally.

Do two sets of 15 crunches but don’t lay on the floor. Use a bosu ball to ease the pressure on your lower back.

Finish with a 10-minute cool down cardio exercise of your choice.

Try everything out

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The key word here is “try.” No matter what you do, your body will be in shock. You are putting it through unfamiliar stress. You should not really work outmore than three days a week when you first start out. Each session should include more than three exercises for each muscle group. Thankfully, you have a lot to choose from. Don’t make two consecutive sessions the same. Test your body and see what exercises are right for you.

Take notes

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Numbers don’t lie. Measure your progress. Don’t just step on a scale; take your measurements. You may be losing fat and gaining muscles, which means you’re getting in shape even though you’re the same weight.

Write down all exercises, sets and reps you do. This way you will also know what not to repeat next time, which will keep every gym session a lot more interesting.

Recover right

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You have survived your first workout at the gym. Congratulations! Now you have to refuel properly. You have to eat within 30 minutes. Many nutritionists say that the perfect post-workout snack is chocolate milk. You need some protein too, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, to repair the micro-tears in your muscles after a weightlifting session. Don’t go for fatty foods because they slow down the digestion process. You need the healthy nutrients to quickly reach your muscles.

More readings: 

15 Exercises that Doctors Would Never Do

5 Workout Mistakes You Might be Making at the Gym

6 Easy Exercises for a Strong Behind