Fitness

Navigating the weight room

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It’s always a little bit daunting when you go to a new place on your own to try something different; it’s unfamiliar territory and the weight room at the gym is no exception. For anyone who is new to fitness, weight training or gyms in general (like me), making your way over can be somewhat intimidating. As my New Year’s resolution was to take my fitness up a notch by going from at-home workouts to joining a gym, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to share my recent experiences and a few pointers to getting started.

Many of us like to start the year off by vowing to finally get in shape and workout, so naturally in the first months of each year health and fitness clubs are full of first time gym goers (myself included). The good thing though is that there is usually some kind of discount or deal to gym memberships that are offered during this time, so that’s definitely a win for your wallet. Don’t be surprised to see how packed the gym is your first time around, especially on Mondays and Tuesdays. I’m sure you understand why … it’s the typical “I’ve overdone it this weekend and eaten/drunk too much crap, so I’m going on a diet and hitting the weights come Monday”. Been there. It takes a while to get out of this nasty habit, so keep in mind that this may be the norm for most fitness centers. I find that the most popular times to workout are midday when people are on their lunch break, early evenings right after work and late on Saturday mornings. During “off hours” like when most are busy at work, early in the morning, Friday and Saturday early evenings and pretty much all of Sunday, you’ll notice that there are far less people working out. Although it may not be the ideal time for your schedule, you might be a bit more comfortable at the gym when it isn’t super full and all of the machines are taken and you struggle to find a spot to complete your set. The first few time that you do go, aim for it to be during these quieter times that way you can take a walk around to see all of the equipment, briefly read their instructions and maybe take a peek at how others are using them to get a better idea of how everything works. Thankfully the machines include how-to photos as well so it definitely makes it easier. This is the approach that I have been going with; when it’s quieter I walk around to check out the machines and their instructions and in between sets I check out how others are completing their sets, so that way I have a better idea about proper usage. Unfortunately on my first day when I was completing some lat-pulldowns, the bar for the cables slipped right out of hands and slammed straight back up to the machine. Apart from the slight embarrassment on my end, thankfully I didn’t get injured and I definitely learned my lesson: always maintain proper form and a sturdy grip.

Speaking of which, let’s cover gym safety. Accidents do happen, but there are some basic things that can help you avoid them as much as possible. The #1 rule is to pay attention when you are walking, more importantly to do not look down at your phone while walking. There are heavy weights and machinery everywhere and if you walk into somebody or something, it will cause some serious harm. Keep in mind when working with heavy free weights, most will drop them on the floor when their set is done, so try to give yourself and those around you enough space so that you don’t drop weights on someone or vice versa. Make sure you always wipe down any equipment that you use before and after your sets, always have a towel with you and if you choose to shower at the facility I strongly suggest that you wear flip flops.

When you are ready to go for your workout, have a game plan, as in a set workout plan for that day and a few back up exercises in case the equipment you were planning to use is being hogged for too long by other people. This was my case a few days ago, it was leg day and every time I went for leg extension or curl machines, someone would always beat me to it. However I had a few alternative exercises planned for that reason. If you are unsure where to start, then before you get the membership call ahead and make an appointment to meet some of the staff, tour the facilities and get any questions answered. Let them know where you are at, what your goals and how you hope to use your membership. They can give you some excellent suggestions in terms of what services and what programs might be suited for you. You may even want to consider hiring a trainer for a session or two just to get a physical assessment done, to show you how the equipment works, to show you proper form and to maybe give you a workout/nutrition plan. Some gyms offer new members this service for free for one session, otherwise it may set you back, but it is worth it to have this knowledge and the extra help.

For those of you who happen to be gym veterans, although this time of year is probably very frustrating with all of the added newbies in your space, I recommend that you try to stay patient. Remember that once upon a time you started at zero too and that you didn’t have all of the answers. If you see someone who looks confused or maybe is struggling or their form is off, then consider offering a helping hand or at least signal one of the staff to help out. Also try to keep in mind that just because a woman is wearing makeup during her workout or someone happens to be wearing a fancy/expensive/tight looking outfit doesn’t mean that they are not serious about fitness so try not to judge. Just I had mentioned for fitness novices, go to the gym with a workout plan and some backup exercises just in case, so that you can still get a great workout in no matter what.

I must say that since I’ve started going to the gym after work, it has been overall a really good experience and it’s something that I actually look forward to. Of course lugging around my gym bag, lunch bag and giant purse everyday on the bus and then having to walk several blocks with it to and from work is a hassle, I know it’s worth it. In the beginning when you start a new plan it’s normal to feel a bit tired or overworked, but eventually it’ll all be part of your regular routine. So if you choose to join a fitness club, then really go for it; do it regularly and make sure you get your money’s worth by giving it your all each time.

Start It, Finish It

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