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Is your New Year’s resolution to get healthier, back in shape or lose weight? Then you’ve likely made the monumental decision to reacquaint yourself with (or introduce yourself for the first time to) the gym. Congratulations on making such a positive change for 2018! No doubt, you and the gym will soon be BFFs, taking sweaty selfies together.
“January represents a fresh start for most and the ‘new year, new you’ mentality kicks in,” says Latreal Mitchell, celebrity fitness trainer, Previnex ambassador and founder of Fitness Bunch Foundation, a nonprofit organization fighting childhood obesity. “People feel like they have an opportunity to clean the slate and start all over again.”
Buying new exercise gear, loading an upbeat playlist to your phone and purchasing a gym membership are great first steps on your journey — but at some point, you just have to bite the bullet, step into the gym and climb onto some strange-looking machines. Of course, the foreign environment can make anyone a bit self-conscious. And once you factor in the muscle-clad gym-goers surrounding you, it could be enough to scare any newbie right back into the safety of the locker room (or even his or her couch).
Don’t let yourself get frazzled by a new experience. What you may not realize is that many regular gym-goers started off just like you — unfamiliar with what they were doing and worried everyone was staring at them. Plus, if you really survey the gym, you’ll find plenty of other newbies who look as awkward as you feel. According to a survey conducted by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), 12 percent of all gym memberships are sold in the month of January. See? You’re definitely not alone.
Thankfully, following a few simple rules will have you (yes, you!) parading around the gym like you’re a pro by February. As the saying goes, you’ve gotta fake it till you make it. Start here:
Always have a towel on hand to mop up your sweat during and after your workout. Nobody should have to endure a slip and slide when they step on the treadmill after you.
Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to seek guidance from the gym’s staff or the woman walking by with the to-die-for glutes. You never know, you could meet your new workout partner by sparking that conversation.
Find the right support.
OK, we’re not talking about an accountability partner here (though having one is certainly advisable). We’re talking about support in terms of appropriate gym attire (read: sports bras). So if you’re going to be jumping around, please make sure everything is strapped firmly in place, mkay? You don’t want to have to explain how you got two black eyes.
If you attend a group fitness class, let the instructor know you are new. That will let them know to pay attention to your form and guide you through the class as needed.
Focus on your workout.
Don’t talk on the phone while working out — honestly, you really aren’t that important. “If you are serious about what you are doing, then it can wait,” Mitchell says. “I work with a lot of high-profile clients and even they put their phones down for one hour to get their workouts done.” Unless it’s an actual emergency, it can wait.
Obviously, if you don’t take a selfie and check in to your gym on Facebook, then your workout never happened. We get it, you need social media proof! But seriously, don’t be the fool text messaging and taking selfies for five minutes on a piece of equipment while people are waiting to use that machine. Be respectful of others.
When going into a gym for the first time, have a plan. “There are a lot of fitness apps available that will give you your daily workouts and demonstrate the moves,” Mitchell says. “Don’t get stuck in the world of cardio because of intimidation. Face your fears.” If you’re truly at a loss for where to begin, consider hiring a trainer — even if only for a few weeks — so you can get comfortable with the various machines and learn proper posture.
There are hundreds of exercises you can do for whatever bodypart you are working on — so don’t stalk a piece of equipment like there is no other way to get it done. You may have to adjust and do something different, and that’s OK.
“It will be hard, but don’t be discouraged,” Mitchell says. “All gyms are different, so hopefully your local gym is as welcoming and accommodating as mine. If not, don’t worry about it. It’s your body, your goals — you got this. Just remember the road to a healthy lifestyle is a marathon, not a sprint. Set realistic goals, be patient and never give up on yourself. You’re worth it.”