Breaking the Ice…at the Gym

The first time you step foot in the gym can be kind of intimidating, right? So many people who seem like they know what they’re doing; some people writing it all down in a workout journal (that’s me!); people working with personal trainers, or nonchalantly running on a treadmill or using one of those leg extension machines.  Well I can’t blame you if you’re a little intimidated, especially if you see a sign like this one below at YOUR gym. It says (yes I know it’s blurry): “USE OF INCONFORMITY ANGLE TO EXERCISE POSSIBLY RESULT IN BODILY DAMNIFY”.

Ummmmmm….WWhhhuuuuuaaatttt? That was actually posted on a leg extension machine at a gym in India, where I recently returned from a family vacation.  Setting aside the fact that I was completely unable to perform the exercise properly because I was doubled over laughing so hard, it made me think, well geee….if I was a total newbie, I certainly would NOT want to damnify my body, so I’d better move my tail on to something safer,  but what??

If you are unable to enlist the help of a personal trainer, do what the other girl did to me in the gym while I was training myself in “plainclothes” the other day. ASK.  I was in the middle of doing some overhead barbell presses, and was the only woman out on the weight room floor with a room full of men. This newbie wandered right up to me (I wasn’t in uniform though she did presume I worked there anyway) and proceeded to ask me about what machines were around for her ab work.  SMART move. She said she was new, and just needed some general advice.  More often than not, as long as you don’t interrupt someone mid-set, most people are HAPPY to show you what to do, or at least point you in the direction of a qualified professional.  Moral of the story: don’t be shy!

Here’s another great newbie tip. Be FEARLESS.  Seriously, some of the people in there who look like they know what they are doing really don’t.  So don’t worry, you certainly aren’t going to break anything (machine wise).  I’ve dropped 45 lb plates on the floor (and my toe even!) and those things don’t break either!  Oh and by all means, ignore rule number 2 from the sign below from the India gym! Make lots of noise if you need to, and ignore the dirty looks—you’ll get the hang of it eventually.  Until then everyone else will have to deal.  They’re lying if they act like they’ve never done the same before!

HAVE A PLAN.  Think about what muscle groups you want to exercise and look at  the pictures or instructions on the machines. Read! If you can read this, you can read basic instructions on a Cybex.   Along the sames lines, get to know the lay of the land. Either have the membership director of the gym give you a walk-through or take a few minutes to wander around your new gym.   If you’re completely new, start with a machine you might be more familiar with; a bike, a treadmills, or a stair climber.  After a little while on one of these machines, you’ll have established the habit of GETTING to the gym in the first place, and you’ll be more than likely to tread over to the weight room.

In all seriousness, though it’s important to have fun with the whole process, if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, STOP. You can always start with a light weight until you feel comfortable with the machine.  Many gyms do offer orientation sessions with a trainer at no charge as part of new membership promotions, so check with your gym’s fitness manager to see if a trainer can show you the ropes.

HAVE FUN and see you in the weight room!

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