2022 is here! For a lot of us this means a fresh slate and the opportunity to adopt healthier habits. Many people see January as the best month for starting new activities like joining the gym!
It can be easy to dive into the gym – especially when you are feeling the bloat from the festive season. But before embarking on new gym routines, there are things you should think about and basic principles to consider so that you are properly prepared.
With this in mind I have put together some things to think about when starting out at the gym. Based on top tips and personal experiences read on to learn How to get started at the gym
Have a goal and make a plan
Before you join a gym, or start your new regime, you need to think about what you want to achieve. Maybe you want to lose weight, tone-up or build muscle in a specific area. Whatever your goal is you should do some research beforehand. Watch and read about what exercises, machines and equipment are best for achieving your goal, and you will start to develop a mental picture of your gym sessions. Planning ahead will help you to identify exactly what it is you want to achieve, and the realities of what you will need to do to get there. It’s important to be realistic – to see the results that you want can take a lot of time and effort so it’s good to set manageable goals from the outset. Your overall fitness goal should be something that is attainable over a period of months.
Take an induction
Most gyms and fitness centres offer some form of induction for new starters. It’s worthwhile to take an induction to learn about the gym and its equipment. Some centres offer fitness tests which will help you understand where you are starting from. Inductions and fitness tests are a great opportunity to get familiar with your gym and to get guidance from the gyms’ staff and personal trainers. Inductions will help you to form your workout plans and choose which exercises will help you achieve your goal. A tip is to use the induction to make note of the exercises and machines that you find most enjoyable and then you can incorporate them into your sessions later.
Get in gear
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail; you’re going to need to have the right gear so you’re gym ready. Depending on the types of exercise you will be doing there will be appropriate gear available to buy. The correct gear helps to ensure safety and comfort and many products have been developed with the gym in mind. Aside from your clothing some other things to consider include; running shoes, training gloves, stretch bands, yoga mats and ankle or back supports. Other key items are gym bags, water-bottles, protein shakers, training towels, earphones and phone cases.
One of the main mistakes people make when beginning a gym routine is going too hard. This can lead to injury, fatigue, burn-out and bad mental states. It’s always best to start small and build up little by little. Get both your mind and body adjusted to your new activities. To successfully incorporate the gym into your life you will need to get used to going there first. Make the experience as fun and easy as possible. The right mind-set is key. When starting out you should try to set the bar low with short sessions and little pressure. You can start by doing small 20 minute sessions and build from there. You’ll be surprised how quickly you progress.
Always warm up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down, before and after a gym session is very important. Warming up increases your heart rate and blood flow which enables more oxygen to reach your muscles. A warm-up also activates and primes the connections between your nerves and muscles, which improves the efficiency of your movement. Cooling down allows your heart rate and breathing to return to normal and helps to promote relaxation. Stretches are the most popular exercises for warm-ups and cool-downs. With regular stretching your range of flexibility will gradually increase and this helps promote other health benefits too.
Develop different routines
No matter what your goals are you should think about developing several gym routines to help you achieve them. A mix of routines with different exercises will stop your body from getting used to the same workouts. Many of the body’s physiological systems (like the muscular system) settle into an exercise program after six to eight weeks. If you do not modify your exercise routine you could reach a plateau because your body has adapted to a repetitive training stimulus. Varying your exercise routine can help you stay physically challenged and mentally stimulated. Try developing different routines for different days of the week, or different muscle groups. For example Monday could be ‘abs day’, Wednesday ‘leg day’ and so on.
Perfect your form and technique
When starting new exercises it’s easy to get your form and technique wrong. This can really hold you back from making progress and have detrimental effects on the body. You need to learn the correct form and technique for each exercise that you do; ensuring your stance and posture is right, your equipment is in the proper position and you are engaging the muscle you want to work on. The best ways to check your form and technique are to have a personal trainer watch your moves, look at videos on YouTube, workout in front of a mirror, or for difficult exercises find a partner to help spot you.
Explore nutrition and supplements
The global sports nutrition and supplements market has a value of $17.5 billion US dollars. It’s big business because the right supplements can really strengthen your workouts and help you achieve faster. Supplements usually come in tablet, powder, capsule or liquid forms and there are different products available depending on your fitness goals. Supplements can aid with gaining muscle mass, help with fat burning, provide energy boosts and assist muscle recovery. You should always speak to the professionals and your doctor before starting to take any nutritional supplements.
Don’t be fixated with numbers
It’s important to keep track of your progress at the gym. How much you are lifting, how far you are running, how many sets you have completed or how many calories you have burned. It can become very quantity driven and easy to get fixated on the numbers, which is not healthy. Many things can affect your performance in the gym like if you are tired, have been partying or not eating right. So if your stats are not as good one week as the previous week, don’t take this hard. Trying to force yourself to complete things when your body is tired or not fully recovered from your previous session can have negative effects. You should try adopting a somewhat holistic approach, doing what you can, when you can and listen to your body.
Learn from your mistakes
To grow your health mind-set you should learn to embrace challenges and learn from your struggles. The key is to not let your mistakes deter you or stop you from progressing – making mistakes is one of the most useful ways to learn. Once you have learned from a mistake you can move on and keep going. For example, if you strain a muscle or injure yourself it’s important to figure out what happened and why. Once you understand the mistake hopefully you won’t make it again. Injuries can be painful and the time it takes to recover could put you right back to where you started. So it’s important to pay attention and keep learning.
Around 60% of your body is water and it plays a vital role in every bodily function. You can lose a lot of water when you’re at the gym through sweating and can quickly become dehydrated. Dehydration can affect both your general health and how well you can perform. You’ll feel tired more quickly if you’re dehydrated, and your body won’t be able to control its temperature as well as usual. Drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise will boost your energy levels and help prevent cramps and dehydration. Always take water with you to the gym. To make your owns sports drinks at home mix 200ml of squash (with sugar) with 800ml of water and add a large pinch of salt.
Starting out at the gym can be daunting. There’s lots of people, machines, equipment and etiquette to be aware of. And to see real results takes lots of dedication, patience and perseverance. But having a plan and following these tips can help to set you on your path towards your goals and achieving your fitness dreams. Are you starting out at the gym this year? Let us know if these tips helped in the comments below.