I have been going to the gym and working out regularly for most of my life. I see it every year in the gym…the ‘new years resolution people’ who crowd the gyms from January through March, then quit and go back to their old habits.
Don’t be one of those people.
You CAN do it!
I’m no expert, but I can offer some ‘unprofessional’ advice here. While I have always enjoyed working out and participating in several different sports, I am also prone to gaining weight. As a result, I have always made it a priority to work out and eat right to avoid the weight gain, which can have a negative effect on the athletic activities I enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy as there are distractions everyday.
FOLLOW MY BLOGS if you want to learn from an average person how YOU CAN DO IT!
For the next several blogs, I will focus on working out in a gym, getting a workout in the outdoors, nutrition and food consumption, what to eat before and after a work out, and how to stay motivated.
Doctor’s Approval –
Before heading to the gym for the first time or first time in a long time (maybe last January…), you might want to get an approval from your doctor if you have certain health issues. If you do have health issues, it shouldn’t mean you can’t work out, you might just have to modify your work out.
Visit different gyms before deciding on one –
Try to find a gym that is convenient for you. One that is close to your home or work. This is very important, trust me!
If you live in a big enough city with several gyms, you can visit each one and decide which one suits you. Some will even let you work out for free one day to try it out. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, try to avoid gyms with an initiation fee plus a monthly fee. There are plenty of gyms out there with monthly fees only.
Many Park and Recreation Departments have workout facilities. Check these out first as they will be the least expensive. YMCA’s are also a good choice. Many of the private gyms will charge an initiation fee, which can be hefty. However, some of these private gyms are like resorts. They might have a restaurant, snack/juice bar, lounge area, indoor/outdoor pools and hot tubs, tennis courts, etc. These extra amenities give it more of a ‘club’ environment where you can hang out for awhile before or after a workout, which is nice.
If you like to swim, not all gyms have pools. While most gyms have exercise rooms for fitness classes, etc. some do not.
Most gyms offer child care (for a fee), so be sure to ask if this is a need for you.
Dress appropriately for working out –
Wear comfortable clothing – sweats, shorts, leggings or spandex and athletic shoes. Cotton shirts will get wet when you sweat and stay wet. Find shirts made of ‘wicking’ material such as polyester blends. If you have long hair, tie it back away from your face because you will be sweating!
Personal Trainer or not?
I think it’s a good idea to have at least one session with a Personal Trainer.
If you don’t know your way around a weight room or how to use the machines, it’s a good idea to have someone show you around and give you a written plan for your workout routine – which also changes from time to time as you improve your fitness level.
A Personal Trainer can also help you stay motivated to stick to a schedule or routine. If you are self-motivated, great, but you should have at least one session with a Personal Trainer to get you started.
You can choose your Personal Trainer if there are several on staff. Choose who you feel comfortable with – male or female, someone younger or older, etc.
Some gyms let you have a Personal Trainer at no charge for one session, while others might charge a fee. Always ask ahead of time, and the fees vary from gym to gym and Trainer to Trainer.
How often should you work out?
Start going to the gym 2 – 3 times per week. DO NOT start out going to the gym everyday – you will burn yourself out.
Eventually, you might want to go 3 – 5 times per week. You need about 2 days of rest per week. This is important. Choose your rest days and stick to that schedule. When you are not at the gym, go for a walk or ride your bike. You should be getting some form of exercise at least 5 days per week.
Weight-lifting – using machines or free weights. Start out with 2 – 3 times per week for 30 minutes – 1 hour each day.
Cardio – any form of exercise that elevates your heart rate for a period of time. Use the cardio machines at the gym for at least 30 minutes. Walking, jogging, running, biking, and swimming are all good cardio exercises.
Cardio should be done on a daily basis, but again, don’t burn yourself out if this has never been routine for you. Start out with 3 days per week for 30 minutes each day. Gradually build up to 5 days per week for 30 minutes – 1 hour per day. Go for a walk on your rest days – to keep your body moving!
Cardio versus Weights – Both are equally important.
Cardio strengthens your muscles and elevates your heart rate, which burns calories.
Lifting weights elevates your heart rate, burns calories, strengthens your muscles AND bones, and increases your metabolism.
The best times to go to the gym seem to be mid-morning (9:00am-11:30am) and mid-afternoon (1:00pm-4:00pm). Gyms are usually busy in the early morning hours (before work) and late afternoon (after work). For those who work full-time, get to the gym just before the lunch hour or just before 5:00 to avoid the rush.
Walking into the gym for the first time –
If you’ve never been to a gym, don’t have the idea that it’s full of 20-somethings with perfect bodies. There are all shapes and sizes in the gym and all different ages and fitness levels. Everyone in the gym most likely has the same goal as you — to get in shape and stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle.
Warming up –
It’s very important to warm up before working out. Take a walk on the treadmill for at least 10 minutes or take a walk outside. You need to get the blood flowing in your muscles before you lift weights or do a cardio class or machine. If you don’t warm up, you are more prone to injury – pulling a muscle, etc. In addition, warming up your muscles prior to your workout makes you less fatigued at the beginning of the workout.
Weight Lifting –
If you’ve never lifted weights before or lifted a long time ago, start out very slowly with very light weights.
If you don’t, you will be so sore the next few days that you will not want to continue. Remember, you are using muscles that might not have been used in awhile, especially with added weights. The reason for sore muscles is lactic acid build up, which I am not going to go into because this is not a scientific blog. Just ‘Google’ it for more information.
I recommend doing a circuit work out. This is a work out that focuses on your entire body, not just one part (like legs, arms, chest, back). Start out with one set of 10-12 reps of each exercise. Example: Do one set (one exercise) like barbell curls, and lift the weight(s) 10 – 12 times (reps). When you are just starting out, only do one circuit. (Don’t increase to two rounds of circuit for at least a couple of months.)
By doing one set of each exercise, you don’t have to stop and rest because you are using different muscles for the next exercise, which keeps your heart rate elevated, burns more calories, and boosts your metabolism! Yeah! On the other hand, if you do 2 – 3 sets of the same exercise, you need to rest 30 seconds to a minute between sets. This lowers your heart rate back down, which might be good for some people who have to monitor their heart rate.
Weight Room Etiquette –
Just like there is golf course etiquette, there is also weight room etiquette. (Ahh, didn’t know there was golf course etiquette? That will be another blog!)
When using the weight machines and doing several sets (where you rest in between sets) don’t stay on the machine. Someone might ask to ‘work in with you’. This means you share the machine with that person in between sets. It’s also courteous to see what weight they are using and put it back to their weight when you are done with your set.
When placing weight plates on a machine – like the Leg Press, ALWAYS put the weight plates back on the weight rack where they are stored. This is not always done by people, which is very irritating.
Watch where you’re walking in a weight room. There are people lifting weights everywhere and some are lifting very heavy weights. Give them plenty of space.
Using Cardio Machines –
The Cardio Machines include stationary bikes, treadmill, Stairmaster, elliptical, etc.
Ask a staff member if you do not know how to use a machine.
Etiquette: Always wipe down the machine after use. There should be disinfectant wipes nearby to do this.
Most gyms have wifi (ask for the password) so you can listen to your favorite music or watch video on your smart phone or iPod while on the machine. Use your ear buds! Some gyms have TV’s to watch as well. I like to watch Netflix on my smartphone while running on the treadmill!
Most gyms offer a variety of classes for different fitness levels. Again, if you are not used to working out, start with a very easy class. Read the class descriptions or ask a staff member for a recommendation.
Classes can be a fun work out. In addition, it’s usually a full-body work out, which burns a lot of calories! Feel free to just sit in and watch a class if you are not ready to participate. This will give you a feel for the class and if it is the right one for you.
If you want to try yoga, start with a level 1 class. Yoga is not easy, but it can be very beneficial for your body in many ways. I highly recommend taking a yoga class. There are many different levels. Ask a staff person for a recommendation.
I am a big fan of stretching. Unfortunately, I have not found a gym in all my years of working out that provides a large enough area for stretching. It never seems to be encouraged, which is crazy! Stretching not only feels good after a work out, but it can prevent injuries from tight muscle and lengthen your muscles.
Ask a staff member where you can stretch. There are usually mats available for use once you find the ‘tiny’ stretching area!
When to stretch?
Stretching is done AFTER a work out for at least 10 minutes. Ask a trainer to write down and demonstrate a variety of stretches for you. If you haven’t done much stretching, you will be tight. The more you stretch, the looser you will get, which is a good thing. You will have more range of motion in your muscles and limbs. Stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute per stretch.
Again, BEFORE a work out, do something to warm up your muscles – like walking on a treadmill for at least 10 minutes.
My next blog will focus on GETTING A WORKOUT IN THE OUTDOORS.