The Collegian
Monday, April 15, 2024

A beginner’s guide to the gym

The outside of the Well-Being Center.
The outside of the Well-Being Center.

Whether you plan to run on a treadmill or start lifting weights, going to the gym for the first time can be a scary experience. Rather than going in blind, here are a few tips to get you started and well on your way to becoming a gym rat.

Create a goal and set yourself up for small victories

Before starting in the gym, make sure you establish your personal fitness goals. Whether you're aiming to lose weight, build muscle or simply improve your overall health, having a clear objective will help shape your workout routine. Try not to impose tunnel vision on one type of training! There is a large variety of training methods in the gym to explore and experiment with. 

“Don’t confine yourself to a box in the beginning,” said junior Ava Tankersley, co-president of the weightlifting club UR Lifts. “A lot of people say they train for bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc., but I think just experimenting with different types of training is important. There is no one size fits all.” 

Senior Ally Palalay, co-president of Girl Gains UR, emphasized the importance of small victories. 

“I started in the gym to change my body image and focus on the numbers,” she said. “But I realized that you shouldn’t entirely focus on the numbers. Learn to balance a healthy diet with your training schedule. Don’t compare yourself to others because everybody has a different starting point.” 

According to authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer of the book “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work” even small victories, such as adding 5 pounds to an exercise or consistently visiting the gym three times a week, can bolster motivation by demonstrating incremental progress each week.

Go with a friend

Palalay also stresses the helpfulness of having a friend to work out with. 

“The gym can be daunting,” she said. “But going with a friend can help with the anxiety. It also helps with accountability. You feel more motivated to go to the gym if you’ve given that friend that verbal commitment.” 

Whether it is to try out exercises together or just to have company as you lift or run, having a friend by your side as you exercise is a great way to get started. If you are new to the gym, consider reaching out to a friend who goes regularly for guidance and support. Having a small sense of familiarity in an unknown environment can make the first-time gym experience much easier to handle.

Master the fundamentals. 

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It might be tempting to dive headfirst into advanced exercises, but mastering the fundamentals is essential for building a strong foundation. Start with compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses, which target multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Focus on proper form and technique before gradually increasing weight or intensity. Ask around, watch videos, look up guides– anything you need to feel confident when doing your exercises.

Stay consistent, stay patient and listen to your body. 

Consistency is one of the most important aspects of working out, so commit to showing up to the gym regularly. Be patient with yourself and learn to enjoy the process of learning in the gym. 

Make sure to listen to your body as well. Intentional rest is just as important as intentional exercise. Overtraining can lead to burnout and injury, so make sure to take adequate amounts of rest and drink plenty of fluids in between sets.

Just go for it.

The first step to going to the gym is to actually go to the gym. Take actionable steps toward your fitness goals. This includes research, finding a community and just stepping foot in the gym. Try to take it slow! 

“Just go for it,” said sophomore Tim Khoh, the vice president of UR Lifts. “It’ll be difficult and awkward for everybody’s first time in the gym. The biggest tip I have is to find a community or a friend and do research. Find your reason for working out.”

Tankersley expanded on this idea, stressing the importance of the right mindset.

“I think what’s helped me a lot is changing my mindset from ‘I have to go to the gym.’ to ‘I get to go to the gym.’ Don’t turn it into a chore, it’s an opportunity,” she said.

Starting your fitness journey in the gym can be a novel and intimidating experience, but following these steps can help you take the hardest step in the process: the first one.

Contact staff writer Joseph Jeon at joseph.jeon@richmond.edu.

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