The holidays are already upon us and there are more cookies left to bake than days left in the year. Although the office parties, happy hours, and moments spent with co-workers, family, and friends are fun and memorable, they can certainly wreak havoc on your waistline.
Many people have their sights set on the new year to join a gym and/or re-start a workout program to get back on track. But with this goal comes the memory of some reasons why gym workouts got cut to begin with – grunting “meatheads” on machines, a 20-minute line for the elliptical machines, and others.
While excited about your healthy and strong self-to-be, you may have questions and decisions to make, and even some minor (or major) anxiety about how to get to this new self. Joining or re-joining a gym, especially if you are unsure of where to start, can leave you “gymtimidated” – a feeling of inadequacy, self-doubt, or confusion in a gym.
I’ve put together 5 tips to help you get started on the right foot. These ideas are designed to give you confidence and improve your fitness level, but also to help you stick with it way past the New Year’s rush so it becomes part of your new lifestyle.
Tip #1: Do Your Gym Research
What kind of gym environment would make you feel the most comfortable? Which one has the programs or classes you’re looking for? Women-only, family-friendly, senior-focused, or college-aged? Visit your new potential gym(s) at the time of day you’d normally work out and see if the weight room is overrun with buff muscle heads (unless that’s your thing!). Most gyms or studios will have a trial period that gives you a few days to decide if it’s the right place for you. You many not feel comfortable in a gym at all right away, but if you do the rest of these tips, you’ll get over this hurdle.
Tip #2: Talk with a Fitness Pro
I put this tip second because I feel that this is one of the most important but often overlooked steps once you actually join a gym. By talking to a fitness professional (manager, personal trainer, or instructor), I know that this step could save people months and possibly years of not seeing the results you want. Whether you’re joining a boutique studio or a large health club, there should be well-educated fitness professional to help orient you to the facility and equipment while performing some type of assessment to see what program or classes you should start with.
Tip #3: Learn Technique FIRST
This closely ties into #2. Would you fly a plane without a lesson or two (or 20) first? Before diving head first into the free weight room or Body Pump class, focus on learning the proper technique before anything else. This can help you stay injury free and can be accomplished in a couple ways. You can sign up for some personal training sessions where someone pays 100% attention to teaching you perfect form and helping you progress safely. Or, many places offer beginner/”101″ or shorter versions of classes to help you learn the foundational movements. Once you learn and practice how to properly do each exercise, then increase the intensity and duration.
Tip #4: Find What Makes You Groove
People usually won’t stick to a fitness program unless they’re (1) having fun, and (2) seeing some form of results. I personally love taking a barre class because the time just flies by, yet I feel exhausted afterwards – plus I get to pretend I’m a ballerina! I get the same feeling after a challenging heavy Kettlebell session. You may not love everything that the gym has to offer, and that’s OK. Find a couple things that you do really like and then work to improve your performance by setting goals for yourself. They can be small to start, like “perform 5 regular push-ups,” “take less breaks in class,” etc. Don’t be afraid to try something new, too!
Tip #5: Find a Way to Stick With It
Now it may seem like I’m contradicting myself with this tip and #4. But hear me out. No matter how much you love something, there will come a day (or month) when you’re going to need to drag yourself to the gym. You’re exhausted from work, it’s cold outside, (insert other excuse here). No one ever got better without trying and failing a few times. And no one got better from working out one time per week. Schedule your workouts like any other appointment (Monday: strength training with Kettlebells at 8:30 a.m.; Tuesday: spin class at 9 a.m., etc.). And remember, it takes about 8-12 weeks to start seeing real results, so hang in there! The more you learn, the better you feel and look, and the more fun you have the less “gymtimidation” you’ll feel!