Success at the Gym: Five Top Tips for Exercise Newbies

Blast past the fear, the hesitation and the anxiety — here's how to start getting in shape once and for all, for real

Getting started at a gym or in a new exercise program can feel scary and intimidating.

Fortunately, there are some great ways to overcome those feelings that can stop you from enjoying the gym — and improving your health.

Use these smart, straightforward tips to gain some confidence — and prepare yourself for your first forays into fitness.

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1.) Get checked. Before you set foot into the gym to begin any workout program, it is important you get clearance from your doctor. It is easy to overlook this step in the excitement over the idea of committing yourself to getting fit. However, failure to do so can be very costly. For the following groups of people, it is extremely important to hit the doctor’s office before you hit the gym:

  • You haven’t had a physical in the past year.
  • You’re planning a significant increase in the intensity of exercise.
  • You’re undertaking a new form of exercise.
  • You have a physical condition that may be exacerbated by exercise.
  • You have concerns about your physical capability for exercise.

2.) Get comfortable. Gyms can feel intimidating when you’re new because the layout and procedures at your gym are unfamiliar, as are the pieces of equipment and the group-exercise formats. The best way to combat these sorts of concerns is to take some time to tour the gym, to observe different group-based classes, and to receive some basic instruction on use of various pieces of equipment.

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Related: The Best Snack Foods to Eat Before You Hit the Gym

Consider approaching instructors and trainers. Most are friendly and personable, and more than willing to answer any questions you have about classes or equipment. Your fellow gym members can be an indispensable source of information as well. Ask them about their experiences in a class that interests you.

Keep a journal of your feelings before and after working out — and review it when you feel tempted to skip.

By getting as much information as you can prior to joining a class, you’ll feel more comfortable participating when you make the leap and sign up for your first group class.

3.) Get equipped. Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank to gather up a few essentials you’ll want to have when you begin your gym-based fitness journey. Though you’re not going to need an entire new wardrobe, it would be a good idea to pick up a couple of sweat-wicking items (e.g., shorts, T-shirts) and an appropriate pair of shoes.

Other items on your shopping list might include: a filtered, refillable water bottle; showering necessities; a padlock (if your gym provides lockers); and some pre and post-workout healthy snacks. Store the essentials in a sturdy bag to throw in your trunk so you’ll always be ready to hit the gym for a quick workout whenever the mood may strike you.

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4.) Get a partner. Building some accountability in to your new gym routine is a great way to bolster your chances of success. Bringing a friend or family member along to the gym has a number of advantages. When you commit to another person, you give yourself the gift of subtle, positive pressure to stick to your goals.

If you’re waffling about attending class on a given day, the fact that your partner will be there waiting for you can provide that extra bit of encouragement you need to power through your reluctance and show up for class anyway.

In addition, developing a fun competition with your partner can have some spectacular results. Science has shown us, time and again, that people lose more weight when they are involved with a team or are in a competition. Be sure to keep it positive, and you can spur one another to successes neither partner might have hoped to achieve on his or her own.

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5.) Get pumped. You can beat the “I just don’t feel motivated” monster in a number of ways. Finding an effective strategy for motivating yourself is somewhat a matter of trial and error. Try some of the following to discover what works best for you.

  • Create a personalized music playlist of songs that get you moving.
  • Read books and articles about people who have achieved what you hope to achieve.
  • Set up a system of rewards for yourself for meeting small goals.
  • Spend time with people who inspire you.
  • Keep a journal of your feelings before and after working out — review it when you feel tempted to skip.

Regardless of your level of experience — you can confidently succeed at the gym.

Michele Blood is a freelance writer with a passion for children’s literature. Based in Flemington, New Jersey, she leverages her background in psychology in her work for publishers, businesses and NPOs.

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