If you are considering joining a gym, or are a gym rookie, then you must avoid the most common mistakes. Try these tips – before you know it, you’ll find yourself right at home in your local gym or fitness center.
1. Wear the right clothes (or pack them). Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes like a t-shirt and some basketball shorts. No one, and I mean no one, wants to see you in a pair of 1980’s cotton short shorts and a fanny pack. For shoes, get some comfortable cross trainers. If you’re squatting, wear wrestling shoes, squat shoes or Chuck Taylors. The flat soles will keep you from pitching forward and losing form. Don’t ever wear your street shoes in the gym in the winter. You’ll get water and salt on the floor and the equipment.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your clothes. If you’re going to spent money, do it on your shoes. Two hundred dollars’ worth of fabric won’t help you get more fit, but one hundred dollars’ worth of shoes can keep away shin splints and increase your comfort factor significantly.
2. Don’t be an equipment hog. Let others work in when possible, especially if you’re circuit training and hopping between three pieces of equipment. Even the biggest clubs only have a few of each type of bench or machine and, during peak hours, you’re going to piss someone off if you won’t share.
3. Ask questions. Come out of your shell a little and ask the experienced lifters or runners for advice. “How should I use this machine?” “What do you eat after your workout?” “What muscle group does that exercise develop?” Ladies, this is a great way to connect with a guy as well. Two birds with one stone.
4. Eat. Remember, starvation does you no good. First of all, you’ll be weak, tired and dizzy. Also, it puts your body into a storage mode. Everything that goes in will be turned to fat because your body is afraid it won’t get fuel again anytime soon. To get the most out of your workouts, eat regularly throughout the day and make sure you get the right amount of complex carbohydrates for energy. After your workout, you’ve got less than an hour to give your body lean, slow burning proteins and branched chain amino acids. Some simple carbs won’t hurt either, but don’t go overboard with two Snickers bars and a two liter of Coke.
5. Have a plan. If you just show up at a gym and say, “Okay, I’m going to get fit,” but all you do is wander around and fiddle with some machines, you’re going to fail. Consult friends that have been working out for a long time, do some Internet research and talk to your fellow lifters. One of the best things you can do is hire a trainer for a few sessions and let them know what your goals are. Look to see if they have an American Council on Exercise (ACE) or similar certification. A professional trainer can teach you how to put together a workout, track your progress and even build a meal plan.
6. Hydration. You’ve got to drink plenty of water, and not just at the gym. Make sure you drink enough water all day. Gatorade, Powerade and other sports drinks are good for during and after your workout, but they’re too sugary to drink all day. Stick with good old tap or bottled water throughout the work day. A gallon a day is a good target. In 12 hours, that’s only about 10oz an hour. It’s not hard to drink a glass of water every hour.
7. Sleep. The world is busier than ever before and our lives are more and more busy every day, especially in the world of VPN access and smart phones. Try to set aside 6 – 7 hours for some good, restful sleep. Without rest, your body cannot repair itself and prepare for your next workout.