A lot of people have a lot of questions about the fitness world. They might not want to admit it, but it can be a very intimidating atmosphere: complex machines, ridiculous weights, grunting, sweaty people everywhere. For my two cents on some good workout basics that every new fittie should recognize, I put together a couple lists of helpful tips to keep in mind.
Gym Etiquette :
- Know your limits. This is an extremely important rule to remember. Ultimately, whatever everyone else is doing is irrelevant to your health. Keep the focus on you, and listen to your body. Be aware of your fitness level and understand that it’s there for a reason: do not overwork your muscles or aerobic capacity, or you will get injured–that’s pretty much a guarantee. Respect that your fitness level may not be where you want yet, but you’re there taking steps towards it, and that’s all that matters.
- Respect each others’ workouts. Do not stand around or hog equipment. Don’t bring a friend with you if all you’ll end up doing is spending 30 bucks a month chatting in a very public, very crowded area when you could do that at home for free. Respect others and allow them to complete their workouts without being bothered or distracted.
- Get the most out of your time. That being said, don’t waste your own time at the gym. Everyone’s so busy and pressured that the gym can be a great anti-stresser if utilized properly. Don’t waste time half-assing a set if you know you won’t get anything out of it. Likewise, don’t allow yourself to go unchallenged or take an “easy route”. Work hard for your goals.
- Practice proper hygiene.. please. This covers everything from wiping down machines, to taking it easy on the fragrance, to showering after, and even before a workout. We all get sweaty and gross so it’s completely understandable, but a good rule to remember: if you’re worried that you smell, you probably do. Take care of yourself inside and outside of the gym.
- Always return equipment to it’s proper place. You’ve heard the “re-rack” grievances, but they do have a point: how do you expect someone to get the most from their workout if they spend 15 minutes looking for weights that are missing from the rack ? Goes back to rule #2, respect each other and return equipment to where it should be.
- Eat and hydrate properly before and after a workout. When you put your body through stresses/exercise, your muscles essentially tear, to be rebuilt again bigger and stronger the next day. In order for you body to heal and grow properly, you need to be eating a diet full of nutrient rich, muscle building foods. Yes this means mainly proteins, but you still want to be balanced overall. Keep preworkout foods to a minimum (no one wants to feel sick during their workout), try having a banana/fruit with greek yogurt or cottage cheese. Postworkout foods should be more substantial, depending on the intensity of your workout: think oatmeal, green superfood juice, a healthy protein milkshake, lean meats and veggies. Your goal is to replenish the nutrients/minerals/vitamins you’ve lost during your workout, so keep this in mind and use resources to help guide you. And always remember to hydrate properly with plenty of water before, during, and after your workouts.
Workout Rules for Beginners :
- Know proper form and KEEP it. I always say this, and I can’t stress it enough: there is no point doing something if you do it wrong. This can apply to many things, but strictly speaking, knowing proper from is vital to gaining progress, protecting your body from injury and misuse, and building strength and power. Do not sacrifice form for a “quick finish”–if you feel your form beginning to wane, stop, rest, and start over.
- Find a dedicated trainer. You don’t have to hire a personal trainer year-round if that isn’t in your budget or fitness goals. But many gyms offer a FREE service of a certified trainer for your first session (do your research !). If this is something that interests you, take full advantage of it with questions, workout tips, and proper equipment usage; if they can help you learn what your fitness level is as a base, you can build from there on your own.
- If you are unsure of a move, ASK ! Make sure to learn correct form and a little about your own fitness level from a trainer that is well aware of the moves and has a strong relationship with his/her profession and clients.
- Don’t be a treadmill/elliptical bunny. I hate the treadmill. And while my own opinion is reserved for myself, it’s usually a good rule of thumb not to spend your membership glued to a machine that you hate. They can be valuable for those who are experienced in certain training and have little time, but other than that, it’s far more beneficial to use as many different types of equipment that is available to you. Plus, everyone knows ellipticals basically help you achieve jack squat for your fitness goals.
- That being said, DO YOUR RESEARCH ! By whatever means necessary: videos, articles, personal trainers, etc. There are thousands upon thousands of resources for you to use in the modern world. It does take a while to learn, and it’s a constant search for what works best for you. There are hundreds of beginner programs that give you a good base for what a proper workout might look like for your fitness level, so look em up ! Gain inspiration and find workouts designed by people who have a physique similar to your goals and USE them. Many of these sources are free or very cheap, so spare no expense to improve your health.
Different Workouts to Try :
- Strength/weight training. Studies have shown that compared to steady state cardio, strength training is a more efficient method to burn fat and increase muscle mass in a shorter amount of time. It’s important for everyone to add in strength training to your workout routine. Not only can you also strengthen your bones and improve posture, but every day tasks become easier, and energy increases drastically. For beginners, 2-3 days of strength training a week is sufficient.
- High Intensity Interval Training, HIIT. You may have heard a lot of fitness buffs and their shining praise for HIIT training–I’m a huge fan of it myself. Designed for folks with minimal amounts of time to spend at the gym–20-30 min tops–this type of training is more advanced, but produces higher yields in fat loss and aerobic strength in a short session. Because you are putting your body through a very intense workout in a short amount of time with minimal rest, your body is able to use your fat stores as it’s main source of energy during a workout. This results in high amounts of fat burn, increased aerobic strength, endurance, and overall exercise performance. Mainly done with treadmill or bike sprints, beginners can try 30seconds sprint at 80% intensity, 1minute recovery at an easy pace, done for at least 20 minutes.
- Bodyweight training. Probably my favourite form of training next to running. Bodyweight training is designed to be done anywhere at any fitness level–especially helpful if you don’t have a lot of time to spare to drive to and from the gym everyday. As the name implies, your own bodyweight is the only form of equipment necessary to train, and many of them are familiar from middle school gym class: jumping jacks, high knees, push ups, crunches, v ups, mountain climbers, burpees, etc. There are hundreds of exercises you can use, and many of them can be combined to create a full workout complete with warmup and cool down. Efficient, simple, and still make for an incredible workout. *see other posts for workouts
- Circuit training. A circuit training session is designed as a set of exercises performed back to back with very little amounts of rest in between exercises and sets. I usually combine bodyweight exercises and strength training to create a circuit–done at the gym or at home !–that is constantly different, yet extremely effective every time. Circuits are a great cardio/strength workout, and can be adjusted to fit any fitness level; for more advanced workouts, shorten the rest times. For beginners, a good place to start is 3 sets of an entire circuit, 30-45seconds rest between exercises and 45-1min rest between sets. *see other posts for great home circuit workouts
- Steady state cardio/running. Many people dread running. You’ll see a lot of trainers that advocate HIIT and circuit training as a more efficient yet equally effective method of building strength. It makes a lot of sense for those with minimal amounts of free time, so it’s more of a recent trend in fitness. But I am a runner guys, so I will always tout the amazing benefits that running has never failed to provide. Running is an amazing way to boost cardiac health/output, aerobic fitness, release endorphins and serotonin in the brain, and build endurance and strength. But what’s wonderful is that it not only increases physical strength and muscle mass, but is a great outlet for building mental strength as well. It’s a stress reliever–running chemically alleviates the stresses we encounter every day. It’s a wonderful lifetime activity to have, and if you tried it–really tried it, as in outdoors or on a trail–you’ll see what us runners are so crazy about.
Important Things To Remember :
- Variety. Mix up workouts and running routines. Don’t work the same muscle groups over and over or use the same routine every day, or they won’t have a chance to grow. Overworking muscle groups can inhibit progress, even reverse the progress you’ve made, so keep a good variety of workouts at hand to change up your routine. Try a cardio/circuit routine 3 days a week, and add in strength training 2-3 days a week.
- Education. Doing your research is so important to this lifestyle. Look up proper technique and practice ! Always strive for impeccable technique to prevent injury and improve performance. And when in doubt, if you don’t know what to do, ask !
- Determination. Set realistic fitness goals for yourself. Envision yourself with the body that you want, and work towards it every day. Make small daily decisions that push you further towards your goals.
- Patience. Be patient with your body. All it wants to do is be healthy and shine for you, and it won’t make any progress with you putting yourself down every day. Be proud of everything you have accomplished, be mindful of the steps you’ve already taken to get yourself where you are. Stay consistent, be patient, and you will get there.
- Passion. All of this is moot if you don’t want it. Many people refuse to see any progress they’ve made, or they put up with exercise because “it’s good for you”. I’ll tell you right now, you won’t get anywhere if you don’t want it. All you need is the passion and willingness to change, to make yourself better. You have to want it for yourself, for the people you love. Eventually, the good feelings will crowd out the bad. You will love yourself and love the way you feel. Fuel your passion, because choosing to commit to this lifestyle will be the best decision you’ve ever made.