My first time going the gym was when I was in university. Some friends in residence invited me to go lift weights with them. I was lucky; they showed me how to get my membership, where to get towels, and various weightlifting techniques. Hopefully you’re also fortunate to have a friend or family member who can show you the ropes but just in case, here’re some tips.
Baring existing health conditions, going to the gym or taking part in exercise classes are great ways to get in your physical activity. If you have a health condition contact the Physical Activity Line for free recommendations.
First Time at the Gym: Where to Start
- Tell the person at the front desk of the gym or fitness centre it’s your first time and ask for a tour or demo session if available. You may choose to work with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist.
- If you don’t want to commit to membership right away, ask about a one day free trial. Take advantage of the opportunity to try as many things as possible. Ask what is included and excluded in the membership before signing up. Don’t feel pressured to sign any long-term contracts. Month-to-month payments are now more common and can give you some flexibility.
- You’ll most likely have to sign a waiver and fill out a PAR-Q+ questionnaire; not difficult, but very important.
- Wear non-restricting, comfortable clothing. I show up in the classic runners, shorts and t-shirt.
- Don’t go on an empty stomach but do wait a couple hours after your last meal before working out. Your stomach needs blood to digest, so if you’re doing a hard workout and most of the blood is going to your muscle you won’t digest very well. Also bouncing/jarring motions could result in a “stomach surprise” if you just had a large meal.
- Stay hydrated by drinking water rather than sports drinks.
- Invite a friend or co-worker to go with you for support if you are nervous.
- Enrolled in an exercise class? Try to arrive 10 minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor. They’d be happy to answer any questions and give you suggestions.
Gym Etiquette: A Little Goes a Long Way
- Machines like treadmills or the elliptical sometimes have signup sheets where you can reserve to use the machine for a time. Check that the machine you wish to use isn’t reserved by someone else and mark yourself down for a time slot to hold your place.
- After using a machine or weights, wipe down your equipment with the provided disinfectant spray and towel.
- Replace the free weight (dumbbells, barbells, plates) on the weight rack when you are done with them.
- Don’t hog equipment, do your work and move on. If you’re doing many sets and someone is waiting, offer to work around them or with them, you can even spot each other. During busy periods cardio machines (treadmill, elliptical, spin bike, etc.) may have time limits of 30-45 minutes. Check with the staff.
- If you listen to music, make sure only you can hear it. If you have to take a phone call, do so outside. I turn my phone off as the gym is MY TIME.
- It’s a fact, everyone sweats at the gym. A little deodorant is fine, but avoid dousing yourself in cologne or perfume.
Before you know it you’ll be a seasoned gym veteran. When that happens, I invite you to take a “newbie” friend to the gym and show them how being active is fun, healthy and for everybody.