Beginning a workout regime at the gym can be overwhelming in many different ways. If you haven't been before (or haven't been for a long time) it can seem as though everyone knows what they're doing but you. You worry about looking stupid, or about what people will think about your body, or about whether you'll remember everything you've been told.
The first day is usually okay (because most gyms provide an introductory session on how to operate the machines) - but the second day can be confusing and even embarrassing, unless you've signed up with a personal trainer. You're quite likely to find that you can't remember which machines you're supposed to use, or even how they work.
Relax. Everyone goes through it. You'll find it easier on the third day, and by the fourth you'll be feeling quite confident. Within weeks you'll be powering through your exercises as though you were born in the gym!
Here are a few tips that might ease the way in the first few weeks:
1. If you're a complete beginner, it might be worth your while to sign up with a personal trainer for at least a couple of sessions, until you're feeling more confident. Otherwise, go with a friend. If you're both new, you can muddle through together. If your friend is experienced, he/she will help you out.
2. Take a notepad and pen with you for your introductory session. Write down the name of the machine and its position in the gym as well as a few words that will remind you what you're supposed to do on it. (Some machines can be used in several different ways.)
3. Don't hesitate to ask a staff member for help if you can't adjust the machine for your weight and height, or if you can't remember exactly how it works. They won't mind showing you again. They want their customers to keep coming back!
4. Don't push yourself too hard to begin with. If you work out so hard that you can barely walk, you'll be tempted to miss a day while you recover. One day doesn't matter much, but if you continually skip days because you're too sore, you're likely to drop out altogether. What's the hurry? After a few weeks, when your body is getting used to the extra exercise, you can increase the intensity.
5. If your knees and ankles react badly to increasing the speed on the treadmill, try increasing the grade instead. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that a slower speed, with the treadmill on an incline, burns more calories than jogging.
6. Smile and nod to the other gym users, but don't hold up their workout programs by chatting. As you become recognized as a regular, you will find that you gravitate to your own little group - probably people who have the same goals and needs as you do.
7. Wear comfortable clothing - either loose or with plenty of stretch. Avoid the temptation to buy workout gear that's two sizes too small in the hope that you'll lose weight quickly. (You might well shed those pounds fast - but if it takes longer that you'd anticipated, you'll always be conscious of those too-tight clothes.)
8. Don't worry about being overweight. In a way, it's good to start off with quite a few excess pounds to lose - your success is much more noticeable than it is on slimmer gym users, and you'll find the positive comments really motivating. Make sure you get a 'before' photo of yourself at the gym when you start out. After a few months, you'll be amazed at the difference.
9. If you're considerably overweight, you are likely to find that your stomach gets in the way on some machines. Just do what you can. You might feel better just increasing your fitness and losing some weight on the treadmill for the first month or so, then moving on to the machines when moving and stretching is more comfortable. Consider doing a few laps in the pool (either walking or swimming) as well as your other gym work. The water will help to support your weight and provide variety.
10. Try to find a happy medium between challenging yourself and resting on your laurels. If you can easily manage three sets at the current weight, try increasing it for the first set. If you can do twenty minutes on the treadmill without sweating, then increase either the speed or the grade (or both!) Remember... "if nothing changes, then nothing changes!"
One final tip: once you have decided on your regular gym days, resolve that nothing but an emergency will stop you going. Make your gym attendance a habit - and before too long, the exciting results will have you trying to convert all your friends to becoming exercise lovers too!