Starting Exercise-Routines: A Gym Guide for Newbies!
A Gym Guide for Parents
January means full gyms. It just does. And while that makes my heart happy as a fitness instructor, as a gym regular it fills me with dread. Not that I don’t welcome new gym friends and wish for their success, but I want to be able to do my work out without tripping over someone who doesn’t know how to put their weights away or waiting for someone who sits on a weight machine while they respond to text messages and take a call from their mother. And I was new once too. I hated being the one getting in other people’s way and taking more time than I needed to get through my sets. So here’s some common gym courtesy guidelines and tips to help make the new gym transition a smooth one.
Fitness. To a lot of busy moms, that is a dirty word. A word no one has time for. That annoying thing that your annoying Facebook friend is always posting about. That thing that you miss so much from when you used to have time to spend on it. That thing you have always been afraid to try, or that you tried once, but hated. However you feel about fitness and working out, I think we can all agree that it’s an important part of a healthy life. Luckily there are lots of options and tricks and tips to make time for (and gasp—even enjoy!) fitness and working out.
Here are some tips to get you motivated or to help keep you motivated to get in a workout.
Where are the Local Gyms?
Tips for Going to the Gym
Clean Up After Yourself
Whether you are using a treadmill or a weight bench, clean up when you are done. Wipe down the bench or the machine before moving on. Its cold and flu season, and germs are everywhere.
Bring a Towel With You
Gyms are made for getting sweaty, but it keeps things much less, well, wet if you have a towel with you to wipe your face and hands when things start getting particularly taxing.
Don’t Make Assumptions
People can’t hear you when they have earbuds in. I say this because people are often mistaken for rude or standoffish because they don’t respond to a greeting or question while they are working out with earbuds in. It could be that they just didn’t hear you. On the other side of that, some people wear earbuds when they work out because they aren’t there to socialize. They have a work out to get through and they don’t want to chat.
Some exercises require more time than others. Some workout programs call for more reps. But when the gym is crowded, be efficient in your workout. Get on your machine and do what you need to do and then move on. Don’t respond to 20 text messages in between sets while other people are waiting for the machine. Don’t take a 5 minute break between sets and stare off into space.
Drink water like it’s your job
It is so important for muscle recovery for you to stay hydrated. If you hate plain water, add some fresh fruit for a bit of flavor. Drink water even when you don’t think you are thirsty. This one thing will help boost your metabolism, aid in muscle recovery and growth, and help flush toxins out of your system.
Share the Machines & Ask First
Allow other people to work in in between your sets. If you are doing a circuit and doing more than one exercise per round, let someone hop in on a machine you’re using in between sets.
Ask before jumping on a machine you just saw someone using. Just because they stepped away for a second doesn’t necessarily mean that they are done. Generally people take at least 45 seconds to a minute in between sets on weight machines.
If you have no idea how to use a machine, ask someone. Ask someone who works at the gym or someone who appears to know what they are doing. I would much rather someone ask me how to use something than hurt themselves or break a piece of equipment doing something the wrong way.
Don’t be Intimidated or Let Regulars Make you Feel Unwelcome
Yes, you’re the new kid, which can suck. All the new equipment, new people, new routines, it can all be very overwhelming and intimidating. I promise it will get better the more you go.
There will be loads of people excited that you are there. There will also be people who think that a certain elliptical is their elliptical machine every morning at exactly 7:30 am and they will be annoyed that you didn’t just know that.
Guess what—they don’t own that machine, or that gym and you have just as much right to be using the equipment as they do. Be respectful and polite of course, but if you were there first, you have every right to finish your workout whether they are used to using that machine or not.
Try it All. There are a million different ways to workout.
If you are brand new to the gym scene, there is no way to know what you are going to like and what you will dread unless you try it all. Use the elliptical and the stair climber and the treadmill and the crossover machine. Try lifting free weights and using weight machines. Try group classes. If you try something and hate it, there are tons of other options. Don’t give up.
(Anyone else singing the Shakira song from Zootopia in their head right now, or is that just me?) I was the queen of cardio for years at the gym. 40 minutes on the elliptical every day and that was it. I never ventured away from that machine. It was my jam, and I wasn’t changing it. But your body needs to be challenged and surprised. It needs change. So try everything. Try lifting some weights. Try using the weight machines at the gym. Get on the stair stepper one morning. Get in the pool. Changing it up will keep you and your body from getting bored.
You have to find what you enjoy. If you hate what you are doing, eventually, you won’t do it anymore. So if you hate running, don’t run. Maybe you like to dance, check out a Zumba class or dance fitness class. If you’re intimidated by the thought of a gym, there are tons of Zumba routines and workouts on YouTube. Search for a song you like the beat of with the word Zumba behind it (i.e. 24K Magic by Bruno Mars Zumba) and get yourself moving. If you love the water, find a gym with a pool and take an Aqua class. They’re not just for old people! If you don’t want to take a class, you can just swim laps in a lap pool or walk in a more shallow pool to get in your workout. If you are motivated by group settings, find a gym that offers lots of classes and try them all until you find something that you like. If you are more self-motivated, find workouts online and take them with you to the gym. There are tons of apps that have workout routines that you can put yourself through.
Find an accountability buddy.
This can be a person you actually workout with, it can be a Facebook group, it can be a journal that you write your workouts down in. It just needs to be someone or something that helps hold you accountable. Become that annoying person on Facebook who posts about their workouts everyday if that helps you. There will be less people annoyed than you think, and you will be surprised how many other people you may help motivate.
It does not have to be a huge time commitment.
When I was dieting and trying to lose weight before my wedding, my husband and I spent 40 minutes a day at the gym, 5 days a week. That’s it. And it made a huge difference for us. Any time you spend moving and breaking a sweat counts. If you wake up late one day and only have 20 minutes, use it. Pick up the intensity a bit since it’s a shorter amount of time, and get that workout in.
Make it a family affair.
Take a walk with your kids, or a family bike ride. Play a game of soccer or catch in the back yard. Find a gym that offers kids classes as well as classes for you. Have a 30 minute dance party in your living room. No one is allowed to stop dancing until the time is up.
Remember, You’ll Get the Hang of It
As both and instructor and a regular, I see so many people quit because they get tired of being new. They get tired of feeling like they don’t know what they are doing or they are in the way. You’ll get through that awkward new gym stage. Soon you will be the one who thinks of the elliptical as theirs and you’ll be rolling your eyes at the new person on their phone on a weight machine. Stick it out.
Stick with it.
There will be times, especially if you are just beginning, where you don’t want to do it anymore. You’re sore, and you’re tired, and you had a long day at work or a rough day with the kids. Stick with it. That workout is going to help so much with the stress of everyday life. The endorphins released will make you calmer, more patient, more able to cope with the stress of the day. Eventually, when you find what you like to do, working out becomes something you look forward to, something that you need in your day.
It does not have to be about the scale.
So many times we make working out about losing weight and not about being healthy and feeling better. Scales can make you crazy. Base your fitness goals around how you feel or how your clothes fit, rather than solely on what the scale says and you will be more successful. Scales are a great tool for weight loss and motivation, but they can also hinder your progress. They are only part of the package. Take before pictures, pay attention to how your clothes fit, and more importantly, how working out makes you feel. Then use the scale to keep track of your progress. I haven’t weighed myself regularly in over a year because it was making me crazy. If it went up I was frustrated and mad, and if it went down I would obsess over what I did and try to duplicate it again. Find the healthy balance and stick to it. I workout 6 days a week because I feel sluggish and tired if I don’t. I get up before my kids do so that I can get it in, even if they don’t feel like going to the gym with me that day. I do not workout so that the scale will get to a certain number. I want to feel healthy and be fit, and that looks different on everyone.
Fitness looks different on everyone.
Body types, genetics, bone structure, etc, all play a part in how we are built and how our bodies look. Not everyone was meant to be a size 2, and that’s okay. Working out and being healthy are a personal journey and one that you have to do for you, regardless of how it looks to other people. So do your thing, and remember that everyone is built differently. Everyone has different lifestyles and different tastes and approaches to fitness. Find what works for you and what makes you feel the best, and stick with it. You’ve got this!
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