Top Tips for getting Gym Fit

Looking to renew your gym membership or are you a newcomer? Find out what you need to do to prepare for your first workout, including the know-how on gym equipment, sportswear, and gym etiquette.

Mand and woman training in gym under guidance of personal trainer

New Year is the time to bring out your pen and paper to draft your newly crafted New Year's resolutions. Many will inevitably feature aspirations to get fit and healthy – and we couldn't support this more! Health and fitness-related resolutions are among the most common goals on bucket lists, and it's no surprise. Joining the gym is a fantastic way to enhance your physical stats and provides a wholesome means to decompress and boost your mental health simultaneously.

While it’s a great idea to see January as a fresh start, the daily effort and slow progress can be demotivating and, at worst, make you throw in the towel, and it’s not uncommon for your gym membership to fall by the wayside. After all, most gym sign-ups peak in January, and participation dwindles over the following months. Find out what you should do to prep for your new fitness journey with our guidance below.

How to Start the Gym - The Basics

Starting at the gym as a newcomer or someone who's been out of the gym for a while can feel daunting. But don't worry, gym staff are well aware of first-day jitters and ensure they make you as comfortable as possible from the outset. Your first-day gym induction is led by gym personnel to help you familiarise yourself with the gym facilities and gym etiquette, which typically includes the following:

• Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated during and after workouts.
• Carry a towel with you everywhere so that you can wipe machinery after every use.
• Put weights away after use.
• Don't forget to do your warm-up.

Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek extra guidance; gym staff are always willing to assist you and utilise their expertise.

How to use the Gym - Tips and Tricks

Alongside gym etiquette, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your workouts and do so comfortably. How much you enjoy the workout and how much you get out of it rely on you, so consider the following tips below.

Off-peak hours: Gyms can be surprisingly crowded during peak hours, typically before 9 am and after 5 pm, as many try to fit their gym sessions into their workday. While you can still complete your workout during busier periods, you may have to wait for popular workout equipment. A noisier gym could also make certain workouts that require concentration, such as yoga or deadlifts, a little more challenging and distracting. So, keep this in mind before going to the gym during peak hours.

A way around this is to inquire with the gym staff about the least busy times – they'll know best, after all! You can also consider 24-hour gyms, which are particularly common in the city, for more flexibility.

Set a goal and create a schedule: You will likely have a specific goal in mind, whether that's weight loss or simply improving your fitness. By setting a concrete, realistic, and measurable goal, you'll be able to create a plan to achieve your objectives within a reasonable timeframe. It's a good idea to consult a gym staff member for a second opinion and perhaps even get some helpful advice on matters beyond the confines of the gym, including your diet.

The best workout plans aren't improvised but carefully planned, so make sure you target all the muscle groups and exercises you need to reach your goals!

Woman lifting weights in the gym

How to Use Gym Equipment

Take the time to check out the gym equipment and find out which will help you get to the goal you’ve set for yourself. Don’t hesitate to refer to the instructions stuck to the machines and turn to gym professionals if you have any questions.

For a quick overview of the most common gym equipment, see below:

Treadmill - Running machine for cardio, you can adjust the pace and incline.
Elliptical cross trainer - Works upper and lower body in tandem and acts as a low-impact alternative.
Rowing machine - Emulates rowing motion, offering a full-body workout and focusing on building your core.
Exercise bike - Cardio while seated, with a focus on your leg muscles. Can adjust resistance.

There will also be a range of equipment in the resistance area, predominantly for muscle building and toning. See the go-to lifts below:

Chest Press - Dumbbells positioned at 45 degrees to the body, while laying down and pushing weights upwards. This works your chest, shoulders and arms.
Chin and Pull up - Grab a hanging, horizontal bar and pull yourself upwards so your chest reaches the bar. It’s a bodyweight exercise to strengthen the upper body.
Bicep curl - Standing dumbbell lifts with both arms, bringing weights up to your shoulder by bending your elbows.
Leg Press - Sit on the leg press machine and place your feet on the footplate, with your knees bend at roughly 90 degrees and push the footplate upwards by extending your legs (you don’t need to lock your knees). This strengthens your major leg muscles.
Cable machine - Take hold of the handles, facing away from the machine and step forward until you feel the tension in the cables. Push the handles out in front to complete the reps. This provides constant tension during your lifts and offers a more challenging workout. 

What to Wear to the Gym

When it comes to finding the right gym wear, you don’t need to worry about the priciest sportswear available. The most important aspect is comfort, which means tight-fitting, breathable, and comfortable material; everything else is an add-on. If you’re going to join specific gym classes such as yoga or boxing, find out what you need to bring and what the gym offers to ensure you have everything you need before your first day.

Look out for the following features in your sportswear:

Moisture-wicking: Look for breathable sportswear, usually made from cotton or polyester. This means you’ll be able to stay cool during your workout without getting too hot due to heat and moisture management.

To keep yourself dry and comfortable, many sports clothes come with moisture-wicking material. This means your sweat is wicked away from your skin via tiny fibres and drawn to the fabric's exterior. This keeps you dry as the moisture is moved outside and evaporates more efficiently.

Mobility: Sportswear usually provides a full range of movement. Ensure yours offers the adequate amount of mobility you need to work out comfortably for any and all exercises you’ll be engaging in, including weightlifting and using machinery.

Your bottoms will be important here too; choose bottoms fitted with elastic waistbands. This includes gym shorts, jogging bottoms, tracksuits, or yoga pants that provide maximum freedom of movement and are adjustable to ensure you find your perfect fit.

Footwear: Your footwear will heavily depend on the kind of exercise you’ll be doing. For cardio, aim for running shoes, while an exercise bike won’t need much support or protection. Try and opt for footwear for weight workouts that offer ankle and arch support.

If you’re opting for an all-rounder to include a mix of activities, a cross-trainer with adequate shock absorption and stability will usually work best. This will give you the cushioning you need for treadmill running and spinning.

For more specific workouts and classes, consider a few different footwear features, including the level of:

• Lateral support
• Cushioning
• Stability
• Agility (for weightlifting).

It’s also worth considering gym shoes that have non-marking outsoles to avoid leaving stains on indoor surfaces.

Man wrapping wrist in gym

Your First Day

Stepping into a gym can be overwhelming with the sheer amount of options available, from machines to weights to free workouts and more, you won’t be running out of things to do.

As mentioned before, your warm-up is an essential part of your workout routine, but easily be skipped. A good warm-up will loosen up your muscles, minimise injury risk, and boost your recovery process. This can consist of a quick 10-minute walk or job. A good practice is to start with light cardio to get your heart rate up, whether you’re looking to burn fat or not.

You might feel a little self-conscious on your first day, so feel free to get your stretches done at home so you can move straight to the machinery or weights and integrate your warm-up at the gym when you feel more comfortable.

Go for the easy-to-use machinery, including treadmills and exercise bikes, so you don’t tire out too quickly and give yourself enough time to see what you enjoy the most. If you have a specific muscle group to focus on that particular day, opt for the low-intensity workouts first to warm up.

Don’t shy away from resistance training too. Whatever machine you start on, choose weights you can comfortably lift 10 to 12 sets of, make sure to start with lighter weights and work yourself up - and not all in one go! While you might feel comfortable moving onto heavier sets quickly, you risk straining your muscles and even risk injury. So take your time and stick to a timeline that takes this into account.

Starting the Gym Again

Whether you’re brand new to the gym or starting the gym again after a long period of absence, there’s no better time to start than now. For a little extra help, consider a personal trainer and keep track of your progress, whether it’s via an app or simply noting your time/weights and reps. Remember to take your time to mix up your training to stay motivated!

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