Gym Tips for Newbies


A lot of you guys are new to weight training and new to the gym. I want to make a point to encourage you in your new interest (Gig 'em! Howdy! Whoop!) as well as help you along the way! I've listed some helpful tips for anyone who is new to the gym:

1. Do a Free Trial - Most gyms offer a free trial for people interested in membership. This is a perfect opportunity to scope out the place. Each gym has it's own character, it's own demographic, it's own amenities, etc. Try a couple different ones out and see what you like.

When we were picking out a gym in Houston, we were wooed by the amenities at Lifetime Fitness (free haircuts, fresh air pumped into workout rooms, etc). When the honeymoon phase wore off, it became very clear to us that it didn't make sense in our budget to spend over $200 for the two of us to go to the gym each month. We decided to go to a more modest, but actually equally awesome place. It costs us $82 to go to the YMCA in Downtown Houston. They have everything we need -- plenty of space and equipment, a wide variety of classes, racquetball courts, nice showers, and more! We've called this place home for over a year now!

2. Come Prepared - Have a plan. There are so many resources out there. You can find workouts on my blog, on Tone It Up, on Pinterest, and on Pick one and go with it. It'd be good to look up each individual exercise on YouTube so that you go into it knowing the proper form. Form is more important than weight or quantity. You can find a weekly workout printable on my blog.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Ask - Sometimes even when you have looked up an exercise, you aren't 100% sure if you're doing it correctly. Don't be afraid to ask one of the gym employees to show you proper form. That's part of their job. Like I said before, form is key.

4. Get a Training Buddy - If you bring someone with you, they can look at your form in comparison to the YouTube video and make sure what you're doing looks correct. They can also keep you motivated and provide a sense of accountability to your workouts.

5. Wear Headphones - Music gets me pumped up for my workouts. If I'm not training with a buddy, I always have my headphones in. Another positive to headphones is that it is a creeper deterrent. Ladies, if you don't want creepy dudes hitting on you at the gym, wear headphones. They're much less likely to bother you when you seem focused on your workout.

6. Grab a Towel - A lot of gyms provide hand towels or paper towel dispensers for you to wipe your sweat. If they don't, bring one. You want to be working hard enough to break a good sweat and you don't want to gross everyone out by dripping all over the place.

7. Wear the Right Stuff - When you start lifting heavy (which you should totally do), gloves are definitely a good idea. Dress comfortably. If you're doing legs, make sure you don't show up in Soffee shorts because you can see right up the leg when you're on the leg press. I prefer to wear legging-type crops, pants, or shorts when I lift to ensure that nobody is looking at my undies.

8. Put your stuff in a locker - Don't bring your whole gym bag with you to each station. It's a pain in the butt and it takes up valuable floor space. I usually just bring a water bottle, a towel, and my phone/armband/headphones with me.

9. No Need to Look Around - Focus. You're not at the gym to compare yourself to others. I'm not saying you completely have to distance yourself and put up blinders, but just focus more on your workout than on other people's workouts. Bonus tip: sometimes while I'm resting in between sets, I notice someone nearby doing an exercise I haven't thought of! I take a mental note of their form and try it next time I'm at the gym.

10. Figure Out a Good Time - Every gym is different. Learn or ask when the gym is most/least crowded. Since my gym is downtown, it is most crowded around 5, right after everyone gets off work. If I go between 5 and 6:30, it can be hard to access the equipment I need. I have learned that it's better to either go straight from work and arrive around 4:30 or wait until after dinner. Also, for whatever reasons, Mondays are the most crowded at my gym. I like to make Mondays rest days for that reason.

11. Pace Yourself - burnout is a real thing. Know your limits and take small steps. Remember to take rest days to allow your body to recover.

12. Track Your Progress From Day 1 - The easiest way to keep yourself motivated is tracking your progress. When you can see results on paper or in a photo, it makes it all worthwhile. You can track your progress with an application, like MyFitnessPal, with a spiral notebook, or with a printable spreadsheet. Make note of your weight as well as your measurements (muscle weighs more than fat, so it's important to not just focus on weight).

13. Know the Etiquette -

  • Be aware of your space and don't get into anyone else's
  • No loud grunting
  • Wipe off equipment after you sweat on it
  • Don't talk on your phone
  • Honor time limits on cardio machines -- you shouldn't do steady state cardio for more than 30 minutes anyways (unless you're marathon training)
  • Wear deoderant
  • Put equipment back where it belongs
  • Don't "claim" a bench with a towel while you do something else -- especially when it's crowded. Take turns.
  • Don't come if you're sick. Nobody wants your germs all over the equipment. Go home, rest, and get better.
  • Place your weights on the ground without slamming them

14. Rest Between Sets - depending on which exercise you are doing, you should take a 30sec to 2min rest between each set. You should not, however, take longer than 2 minutes between sets. Other people want to use the equipment too. Also, it's a rest, not a vacation.

15. Wait Patiently - If someone is using the machine or weights you planned to do next. Be patient and don't hover. Maybe skip ahead to your next exercise and come back to that one when the person is done. If this is the only exercise you have left, ask if you can take turns (lifting while they are resting).

16. Be Confident - the number one way to not look like a gym newbie is to not act like a gym newbie. Be confident in your workout, hold your head high, and enjoy!

Do you have anything to add to this list? If so, leave me a comment below :)