Beginners Guide to Traversing the Commercial Gym

Happy New Year!  It’s 2016 and with the changing of the year comes new resolutions.

According to data provided by Statistic Brain Research Institute the top New Years resolution is, as you probably could have guessed by the topic, to lose weight!

While there are many roads you can take to arrive at your weight loss goal the most conventional way seems to be joining a commercial gym, so I decided to provide you with a brief guide.  Now why do I say commercial gym and not just gym?

tpsdave / Pixabay

That is because this guide will revolve around the Youfit’s and LA fitness’s of the world, the big name gyms that most cities have.

Inside you will find a sea of cardio equipment, fitness machines scattered around, and a wall of free weights in front of the biggest mirror you have seen in your life.

These gyms are large and usually have quite a few people frequenting them.  I know for some people, myself included, they can be pretty intimidating when you first start working out.

Lucky for you I am going to share the tips I have picked up along the way that will help you assimilate into gym culture and reduce the feeling of intimidation during the first few weeks of your fitness journey.

 

1. Learn the Equipment/Proper Technique

I cannot stress this enough!  Every year in early January some guy, ripe with enthusiasm, comes strolling in the gym with absolutely no idea of what he is doing.

As he bounces around to different machines doing “some of these and maybe a little bit of those” he realizes people looking at him.  Is it because he’s overweight, nope.  Is it because he’s new, nope.  It’s because he’s using the equipment totally wrong.

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To avoid this, I recommend watching videos on each exercise you wish to preform during your upcoming gym session.

I usually never do more than 4 different exercises per muscle group during a single workout (expect for legs) and each instructional video is usually only about a minute so it won’t take you that long to learn how to use all the equipment necessary for your workout.

My favorite resource is Bodybuilding.com‘s exercise guides.  Just click the muscle group you plan on working out and it will provide you with a comprehensive list of exercises with instructional videos on how to preform them.  They also offer all-inclusive programs complete with meal plans and supplement stacks that will cater to any fitness goal.

 

Once you have your exercises down and have arrived at the gym it’s time to put theory to practice.  The first thing you will want to do is adjust the weight to something light and adjust the seat/part of the equipment to fit your height.

My first time around I went to the gym very late or very early when it was dead because I found myself making adjustments 2-3 times before I found the height and range of motion that I needed.  I didn’t want to have people waiting on equipment and making me feel rushed, but that was just my preference.

Once you have it perfect make a mental note or jot it down in a fitness log so you’ll be good to go next time you use the machine.

 

2. Wear the Proper Clothes

While this may seem like a no brainier, I still see people walking around the gym in flip flops (lifting not just in the locker room), cargo shorts, boat shoes, jeans, even no shoes.

Now I know some people that say “well I take my shoes off to squat and deadlift and it gives me way more stability”.  I’m sure it does, but please, just buy powerlifting shoes or some Chuck Taylors.  Other people don’t want to smell your sweaty feet.

Unless you’re this guy, please put your shoes back on.  Arnold_Schwarzenegger_powerlifting_deadlift

While cargo shorts and jeans really only have the negative side effect of limiting your range of motion they look silly at the gym,  just trust me, wear athletic shorts!

I get most of mine from TJ Maxx or Marshals.  You don’t need anything fancy, just something comfortable and easy to move in.

As for shirts, I recommend any t-shit you feel comfortable in, the more breathable the better.  Dri-fit material is my personal favorite but can get a bit pricey.  Any cotton T-shirt works.

Now we move onto the tricky part, shoes.  Why are shoes tricky, because certain shoes are better than others for certain activities.  For now I would recommend an all purpose cross-trainer as your first pair of athletic shoes if you currently don’t own any.  They are a nice mix of running, lifting and can even be worn around town with the right outfit.

At this stage I wouldn’t advise on powerlifting shoes, your current sneakers or new cross-trainers will get the job done until you progress into heavier lifts and are ready to upgrade.  That leaves us with running shoes.

If you plan to run a lot, I would say anything over 3 miles a day I would invest in a good pair of running shoes.  They will reduce the impact on your joints, reduce shin splints, and save you from some unnecessary muscle soreness, but ultimately the cross-trainers should be fine.

3. Be Courteous to Other People

While I don’t think anyone comes to the gym thinking, “Hmm, how can I be a total idiot today?”, some people, unbeknownst to themselves, absolutely are…total fucking idiots, despite their heart being in the right place.

So let’s dive into some areas where the light-hearted new comer earns the ire of the gym veteran.

First, never ever ever ever…ever ask anyone anything during a lift/exercise!  I don’t care if the guys pants are on fire, he probably knows that and just wants to finish his set while he’s in the zone.

Always wait until the person has finished there set and is now resting to ask them a question.  Also, if the person has headphones in, it is your job to try your best to ask him what you want to ask him without having him take them off.

unnamedSecond, don’t walk close to people while they are lifting.  It’s super distracting.  Not only now do I have to focus on lifting this heavy ass weight, but I also have to worry about not hitting you in the face with it and potentially dropping it.

Your best bet is to either take a longer way around or just wait until the set is complete, while no one will thank you, it is much appreciated.

Last, don’t ask people if you can work in, let them offer it to you or wait patiently.  Also, if you know you have a crazy high set number, or are going to do an exercise that requires you to reconfigure multiple parts of the machine it’s best to just wait until you have the machine to yourself.

Also if you have 2+ sets left and someone approaches you asking how many sets you have left, I would advise asking them if they want to work in.

Obviously if you are on a time crunch or are doing some type of circuit training routine you might have to ask if you can work in instead of having it offered and that’s fine, just remember to adjust the weight and machine settings back to where they were for the person who was there first.

 

4. Keep Your Gym Clean

It seems like everyone in the gym knows the golden rule, but no one seems to follow it.  Rack your weights!  If you have been going to the gym, and haven’t been racking your weights please e-mail me.  I would love to pick your brain to find out why.

Not only is not racking your weights inconvenient for the next person who wants to use the equipment, but it just makes your gym a lot more pleasant to workout in.  I mean, who really likes clutter?

Also, there is nothing worse than having to play a game of “find the free-weight”  when you’re in the zone and ready to hit your next set or exercise.  Walking around the gym in circles looking for that elusive free-weight really throws me off my game, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.  So please guys, experienced vets or gym rookies, RACK YOUR WEIGHTS!!

The other part of keeping your gym clean is wiping down the equipment.  It’s never the next person using the equipment’s job to wipe away your sweat, you filthy animal!  Lucky for us, most gyms provide paper towels and a disinfecting solution so you don’t even have to carry your own towel around.

If your gym doesn’t provide these things you should definitely bring a small sweat towel with you.  I personally don’t start wiping equipment down until I start sweating enough to leave a mark on the seat/bench.

Similar to the phenomenon of people not racking their weights are people who don’t throw out their garbage, I don’t know what goes through their head!  Every time I go to the gym I see empty bottles and used paper towels laying all over the place.  It’s not difficult, just throw out your shit.  So to the beginners reading this post please start forming these habits early and never let them fizzle out.

 

5. Bring a Water Bottle/Get Some Supplements

While I would imagine every gym has water fountains, I find it much more efficient to have my water right next to me so I don’t have to get up mid set for a drink.  Also refilling my water bottle, only if it’s half empty, after each exercise is a nice break and allows me time to figure out which exercise I want to do next.

The other nice thing about having a water bottle is it allows you to mark the equipment you are going to use while you hunt the gym for missing free weights that people NEVER RACK!!  Rack your weights people!!  I find that bringing a water bottle also prompts me to drink more water, and staying hydrated during a rigorous gym sesh is always a good thing.

Now that you’re all set with everything in the gym I just want to briefly outline somethings you should consider for after the gym and those things are supplements.  Anyone who has successfully changed their body will tell you it’s only attributed to about 30% of what you do in the gym and 70% of what you eat.  While I won’t go into detail on proper nutrition I will give you the basic supplements to get you started.  If I could recommend a beginner only one supplement it would be a post workout whey protein shake ideally one with L-Glutamine.  The post work-out protein shake will help with muscle recovery and help maximize muscle growth by providing your depleted body with the nutrients it needs.  Any whey protein shake will work as a beginner but if you want the best, make sure you get a whey protein isolate.  The isolate will absorb into your body faster and kick start your muscle recovery process.

Hopefully this guide provided you with basic information to start you on your fitness journey.  If you have any questions feel free to e-mail us or reach out to us on social media!

 

 

Brandon R.
Lead coach- GentlemenRefined.com My goal is to help men have thriving social lives, and guide them to becoming the best versions of themselves.

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