The gym is dark and full of hazards if you are a first-timer. Or is it? Not if you wear a helmet – or at least know the ins and outs of the exercise room before you check in. A personal trainer will show you the ropes (and the barbells and bench press, too) during the first visit, but if you do not want to go in exuding the aura of a total rookie, you may as well arm yourself with the basics of gym gear and etiquette in advance.
Check-up before check-in
Before signing up for any fitness program, schedule an appointment with your physician and run the necessary medical tests to establish your overall health status, fitness needs, and potential risks. Even if you are turning a proud gym member for the sake of a slim waistline and bigger muscles, you should be aware of potential pitfalls and workout elements to avoid. During the preliminary exercise room tour, you should also inform the fitness instructor about your medical history, previous injuries, and dietary habits. This will help the coach work out a personalised training plan and recommend an eating regime for optimal workout effects.
Through the newbie looking glass
For a training newbie, the gym is uncharted territory where dangers lurk at every step. Before you pick up even the lightest of dumbbells, make sure you know how to handle them – and this does not mean just grabbing them off the floor and Hulking out in full sight of other gym goers. Every piece of gym gear comes with a user manual, and failure to follow instructions and/or neglecting posture during exercises will result in either injury or wasted sweat. Do not hesitate to ask your trainer or spotter how different machines work, which weight lifting belt to choose for best effects, how to adjust weight pins, barbell height, and seat position, etc. Remember: it is always better to be safe than sore – or worse still, severely injured.
Know thy needs – and thy limits
Based on your health status and training goals, your trainer will devise a custom training plan starring cardio and/or strength exercises. While running, swimming, and cycling make a good cardio routine for fitness novices, gym-based strength routines can include bicep curls, shoulder presses, and bodyweight drills such as pushups, pullups, and tricep dips. Each of the sets you will be doing in the gym targets a specific muscle group, and each of them entails specific risks (all the more so if you have an Achilles heel such as a weak back and/or shoulder, an old fracture or sprain, or sensitive ligaments).
For this reason, you should consult your coach or spotter about workout intensity, duration, frequency, and drills that entail minimal strain on your weak spot before you put on the tough macho gym show. Also, be aware that you will probably need to modify your diet and in-between workout habits to secure optimal training effects and avoid unpleasantries such as muscle soreness and long recovery which go hand in hand with tough training programs.
Encounters of the gym kind
If you plan to evolve into a gym frequenter with no previous training background, you will have to take baby steps before you can proceed to deadlifts and military presses. Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your bulky muscles – training is not a quick fix, so you should not go in expecting instant results. In case you know a thing or two about bench presses, barbells, and leg extensions, however, you can ask your coach to incorporate workouts featuring specialized gym equipment in your training program. Most fitness centres have free weights and machines, but you should pick your gym poison based on personal workout goals, capacities and limitations.
A brief gym etiquette intro
Many rookies grossly violate gym etiquette simply because they are unaware that every exercise room has a set of commandments to go with the gear. Here are a few common rules on how to behave in the gym in order to stay out of trouble with domesticated lifters.
- Let others work in as you work out. Be a pal – let a fellow lifter use the equipment when you are resting between sets.
- Adjust the gear for maximum safety. Push the weight pin all the way to secure it in position, adjust seat height or bench position for comfort, use weight collars on barbells, etc.
- No phones, please. Leave selfies for the locker room – or better yet, your home sweet home.
- Do not copy others. Do not steal moves from fellow gym-goers. Everyone’s workout program is custom designed for individual training goals, body type, and fitness level.
- Clean up after yourself. Forgetting to re-rack weights and wipe down the bench after use just shows your mom never got around to teaching you good manners.
- Personal hygiene is a must. Shower before the training – even if they sweat a lot, gym goers have a very sensitive olfactory system.
All set? Ready, steady, sign up! Gods of Safe Gym Conduct favour the well-prepped.