Joining a gym is the first step to taking charge of your physical fitness, but working out in a public facility can be an intimidating experience for many.
Here are a few tips to help you fit into the gym culture and make new friends along the way.
Do: Bring a Water Bottle. Skip having to run to the water fountain every five minutes and bring a nice bottle of water with you instead—preferably one that won’t spill if it falls over. Staying hydrated is super important while you are working out.
Do: Bring a Towel. If your gym doesn’t provide clean towels, be sure to bring your own. Wiping off your sweat during the workout will help you feel clean and refreshed.
Do: Wear Appropriate Clothing. Pick attire that you are comfortable in, but make a point of covering some skin. Regardless of whether you have a six-pack or paunch, don’t show your stomach. Ladies, be sure to wear a supportive sports bra. And men, please wear a shirt.
Do: Wear the Right Shoes. I used to wear running sneakers with soft, high cushions, no matter what workout I was doing. Then, a fellow weight lifter pointed out that if I were to wear flat shoes, I could have better contact with the ground and lift more weight. Converse shoes and flat Pumas are great for lifting, and you can run in them too.
Do: Wipe Off Equipment. Use a paper towel to wipe off each piece of equipment when you are done with your set. Your fellow gym-goers will thank you. Plus, you’ll inspire them to do the same.
Do: Put the Weights Back. If I had a nickel for every time I had to put someone else’s weights back in the proper place, I could buy my own gym. Returning the weights to the rack when you are done with your set will win you nods of gratitude, so think of other people and pay it forward.
Do: Ask Questions. The only way to learn is to ask questions. So, if you’re unsure of how to use a machine or how to perform a move, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Remember, everyone started somewhere, and staff and trainers are there to assist you.
Don’t: Distract People During Their Set. Refrain from starting a conversation when people are in the middle of their set. Some people may be carrying twice or even three times their weight on their shoulders, and they could get seriously injured if you distract them. If you want to ask a seasoned gym-goer a question, wait until he or she is at rest. People love to pass on their wisdom. Just don’t take up too much of their time.
Don’t: Hog Multiple Machines or Weights. Circuit training is a viable option for working out, but not when you’re at the gym at peak hours, and other people are waiting their turn. If you haven’t used the equipment in the past few minutes, and you’re not standing by it, it’s fair game for all.
Don’t: Give Unsolicited Advice. You don’t know everyone’s situation. Maybe quarter squats are all they can do right now, or maybe they are doing some fancy version of barbell rows that you don’t know about. To save everyone unnecessary embarrassment, keep your comments to yourself—unless you see that injury is definitely going to happen, and soon.
Finally, don’t worry about anyone else judging you—because the fact is, they’re probably not. Most people relish having some “me” time at the gym, which means they are probably too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice much about you.
So hold your head up high and be proud of yourself for sticking to your fitness routine.
Katy Hajzer is a freelance health and wellness writer with a passion for fitness and nutrition. Visit her blog at www.lifteatlovesleep.com.