If you’re a people watcher, you might get an eyeful at gyms during the month of January. They’re usually filled with people who’ve had a good dose of motivation and want to make fitness their thing in the New Year. With cynical sentiments about New Year’s resolutions aside, joining a gym is actually a great idea. There's no shame in that.
But some newcomers may get overwhelmed with the gym culture. I've been there. They get put off by the looks or attitudes of frequent gym patrons or don’t see the results they want when they want them, so it's easy to give up.
Here’s a list of dos and don’ts for those who will venture to a facility with a new membership card in hand in the name of a new you for the new year:
Do ask for help. Strange-sounding group fitness classes, large contraptions and multiple buttons on machines are enough to make a new gym member want to go home and workout alone. But that’s what the staff is there for. Don’t be afraid to ask a trainer or even a fellow gym member to show you how to safely maneuver through equipment and exercise techniques.
Do fake it until you make it. So what if you think you look silly? No amount of self-imposed shame should keep you from sticking to your fitness goals. Give yourself an affirmation before you leave the house and keep it moving.
Do wipe down equipment. You shouldn't have to get sick from going to the gym. Most facilities have sanitizing wipes or antibacterial spray stationed by machines. Use it. It not only reduces your chances of picking up cold germs but also resistant bacteria that could be very dangerous. Make sure to bring your own towels and other personal items.
Do have fun. Forget about an overwhelming goal. Instead, concentrate on enjoying yourself while there.
Do listen to your body. If it hurts or if you feel like you can’t continue, don’t be afraid to give in. You don’t have to keep up with everyone around you. Go at your own pace, and pay attention to how you are feeling. You don’t want to risk injury or overexertion, leading to bigger problems than excess fat.
Do go back. Remember what your goals are and know that with each visit, it’ll get better.
Don’t try to look cute. There’s nothing wrong with being stylish at the gym, but if you pack on makeup and jewelry ask yourself “Why?” The makeup will slide off in a matter of minutes, and you risk losing or damaging any dangling accessories. If you’re really working out, you don’t have time to think about how you’re looking. If someone is offended by your appearance, that’s on them.
Don’t be intimidated. No matter how buff someone looks or how much endurance they have, concentrate on what you can reasonably do. Don’t forget to celebrate your small successes.
Don’t try to impress. This goes along with trying to look cute and listening to your body. I know trainers challenge you to push your limits, but do so with common sense. Trying to impress may lead to embarrassment, or worse, a visit to the emergency room.
Don’t read, talk on the phone or text while on the treadmill. If your head is buried in a phone or you’re holding another device, you’re dividing your attention and that could lead to a less-than-productive workout. There’s also a chance you could get hurt. If you must do something other than walk/run on the treadmill, watch the monitors in the gym or listen to music.