Updated: Jan 29, 2020
If you weight train regularly, do you remember what your first day in the gym was like? This can be a nightmare for some, and others may not even remember. I honestly don’t remember my first day working out. I do remember my first official job working at a local Gold’s Gym. I loved it there! I’d get out of school, go to wrestling practice then straight to work until about 9:30 or 10pm. Heck, I worked there for about 2 years before moving on.
If you’ve signed up for a gym membership, the associate at the front desk or a personal trainer will usually give you a tour of the gym along with any paperwork that you’d need. If you didn’t get a tour, you should find another gym! I’m kidding. Sometimes peak gym hours can cause you to miss out on a tour so you should ask for one. Many gyms will offer you a free session with a personal trainer too. As a personal trainer myself, we’re familiar with just about every piece of equipment in the gym we train in so take advantage of that opportunity. Just don’t allow him/her to pressure you into signing up as their client if you want to work out on your own. I’m sure they’d be very helpful, but don’t commit if their available time will be inconvenient, they’re out of your price range or you don’t feel they’re the right fit for you. If you decide not to go with a personal trainer, make sure you perform warm-up exercises for the muscles you plan on working. Lets say you plan on doing shoulders. Exercises like bear crawls, small and big arm circles and overhead presses with very light weight "warms up" or wakes up those muscles.
I ALWAYS talk about this portion before my client’s first day of training. You want to be prepared just like it’s your first day of school. Make sure you have clean and proper workout attire, sneakers, a water bottle or sports drink like Gatorade and a combination or key lock. I wouldn't suggest wearing a sauna suit or waist trainer. If you're considering that, I recommend talking to your doctor first. Anyway, you can always buy water or sports drinks at the gym if you forget. Some gyms will let you rent a locker for the day and others will just let you use whatever locker that you want for free. Just don’t forget the lock! I’ve heard stories where people’s purses, wallet, keys, shoes and even socks ended up being stolen. Make sure you take everything with you including your lock when you leave.
Most gyms have a specific layout. The front desk is always parallel to the main entrance. After that you’ll probably see a bunch of cardio equipment like treadmills, recumbent bikes, ellipticals, etc. This equipment is usually close to locker rooms and men’s/women’s rooms. Many people do cardio last, so they don’t want to walk halfway through the gym just to get their car keys. Your general machines are not far from that. It could be cable crossovers, leg extension, chest press, a preacher curl bench with an ez curl bar… just about any machine. Take note of what you see. Each machine will usually have a diagram that shows what muscle group(s) it works and instructions on how to use it. Be sure to follow the instructions or ask if you don’t understand the instructions. Treadmills have a “key” attached by a thin piece of string or rope. The key is a safety feature that disables the machine when it’s removed. It’s a great idea to clip it to your shirt in case you fall off the treadmill. The rear portion of the gym is probably my favorite area. This is usually where you see the free weights. This includes dumbbells, weight plates, barbells, squat racks, deadlift platforms, etc. Once you’re familiar with each area, look for an aerobics or cycling room. Many gyms offer classes in these rooms that are included in your membership. When these classes aren’t in session, you can use these rooms too.
Important Unnoticed Stuff
If a gym was always messy and smelled horrible, would you want to workout there? You probably wouldn’t! Someone is usually responsible for washing the dirty towels, cleaning the bathrooms, ensuring all the machines are working properly, etc. Those spray bottles with a tinted green liquid are there to wipe the machine pads when you’re done. It doesn’t take long to catch someone else’s cooties. If you notice that something isn’t right (this includes malfunctioning or broken machines), say something to the gym staff. The last thing you want is to end up in an ambulance from slipping on the spilled Gatorade or worse. Look for cameras and emergency exits too. If an emergency takes place, you need to know how to get out. A security camera is a good sign that the staff cares about your safety. Speaking of safety, check for AED’s and a first aid kit. These items should be readily available. Yes, I’ve seen someone pass out once and it’s scary. The AED on the wall saved their life that day. Be sure to learn the rules and follow them too. I use chalk when I lift heavy weight to help with grip. Some gyms don’t allow chalk, because it can be a pain to clean up. Planet Fitness doesn’t allow heavy lifting so don’t go there if that’s what you want to do!
Some gyms offer childcare for a couple of hours so you can workout. You may need to submit vaccination records which is a plus. If they have cameras in that room (they should), that’s a HUGE plus also! Check to make sure they have an effective check-in and check-out system. This ensures that a random person can’t walk in and walk out with someone’s child. As a parent, I look for those things when enrolling my kids in any daycare.
Day 1 Complete
If you’ve completed your first day, you should be proud of yourself. Just don’t let your first day be your last! Make sure you put back any weights you’ve used, benches, bars, attachments, etc. Before heading to the locker room or leaving, make sure you perform static stretches. Stretching after exercising helps reduce tension in the worked muscles, increases flexibility and range of motion. If you need to shower at the gym, bring everything you need to do so including a change of clothes. When it's time to head out, walk out like a boss!