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Increase Your Comfort Level at the Gym

By Aarti Patel Email By Aarti Patel
May 2012
Increase Your Comfort Level at the Gym So you’ve finally gotten that gym membership but are somewhat intimidated and confused about what to do next. You get to the gym and you see all those machines—rows and rows of cardio equipment lined up for your use. And if that isn’t enough there are many more rows of alienating weight training equipment that looks like it just landed from outer space! How do you develop a sense of comfort around that much equipment and what exactly should you do? Here are some tips on making your gym experience a successful one:

Purchase a few sessions with a trainer: All gyms have trainers who are willing to work with new clients. You might have to spend a few extra dollars, but a trainer’s professional insight could be invaluable. A trainer can guide you and explain how to use different weight-training equipment. You may even want the trainer to write out a workout routine for you and then follow up with him/her to update that routine every month. During your session, be sure to take notes as the trainer explains the use of each equipment.

Overcome gym shyness: Use the gym during the less crowded hours—gyms are usually busy early mornings and late evenings. Most people feel uncomfortable walking around equipment and trying to figure it all out when there are too many people around. Try to avoid busy times so that you are able to walk around and familiarize yourself with each piece of equipment without a crowd. The newer equipment also has instructions posted so that you can use it safely. Take your time and be sure to adjust seats and handle bars before beginning.

Develop your knowledge base: When it comes to weight-training equipment, you have to have somewhat of an idea of what you are doing. Get familiar with all the major muscles of your body and look up some exercises that you can perform to work each muscle group. Visit www.acefitness.org to get a variety of information about exercise and different workouts. Have a workout planned before you go to the gym, to make your gym time flow better instead of randomly jumping from one piece of equipment to the other.

Keep a fitness journal with you: In your fitness journal document which exercises you will perform for that workout and how much weight you were able to lift during the workout (weight can be filled in later). This enables you to see your progress and incorporate a variety of exercises in your workout instead of always using the same equipment and doing the same routine.

Strength-train upper and lower body muscles on different days: Instead of trying to tackle a full-body strength-training workout each time, train the lower half on one day, and the upper half on the next day. So, for example, when working on the lower half, perform exercises to train the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals and calf muscles on one day. Then the next time train upper body muscles by performing exercises for the back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. This way, your workout is not so overwhelming and can be easily accomplished.

Wear something “cool” to the gym: Let’s face it, if you’re dressed nicely, you’re going to feel better about yourself. Leave the tacky T-shirts and baggy sweats for cleaning the house. Instead, wear “cool” sports attire when working out, so that not only do you feel good when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror but that you immediately feel serious about your workouts.

Finally, a positive attitude with an open mind goes a long way. Look at your gym experience as something that you are doing for your body that will make you fitter and healthier and soon enough you will feel confident about going to the gym.

[Aarti Patel serves as the columnist for Fitness Lifestyle. She has a B.Sc. in Health Information Administration and is certified by the American Council on Exercise as a Personal and Group Fitness Instructor, and Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach. She can be reached at (404) 376-5655; info@aartifitness.com. This column rotates monthly along with the Ask the Doctor column by Gulshan Harjee, M.D.]

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