9 things you need to know before starting the gym

[Photo: Getty]

With Christmas done and dusted, New Year’s resolutions are next on the to-do list.  After overindulging on mince pies and mulled wine for weeks on end, you’re ready to get fit and healthy. But before you head out and sign up to the local gym – listen up. There are a few things you should know…

They say motivating yourself is the hardest part, and it’s true. Arrive at the gym with the wrong expectations and you’ll be back on the settee in no time. Read our top 9 tips and tricks before getting started at the gym.

Eat right
A successful gym plan centres on what you eat. Eat too little and you can’t reach your potential, eat too much and you’ll get stomach cramps. It’s about finding the perfect balance.

To lose weight fast, you may be tempted to reduce your calorie intake. The key is moderation – running on an empty stomach can be equally damaging to your fitness goals.

Don’t shy away from carbs. For slow releasing energy, chop up a banana and add to wholegrain toast with peanut butter. It’s super-tasty and easy to digest; giving you the fuel you need to exercise effectively, without leaving you bloated. Eat this pre-gym snack 30 mins before hitting the treadmill.

[Photo: Getty]

Try a taster
You’re all guns blazing at the moment, but when the novelty starts to wear off, gyms can get pretty expensive. Save yourself the money by trying a one-off taster session beforehand. This way, you can find out what you’re letting yourself in for and whether that particular gym meets your needs.

Dress to impress
Deciding what to pack for the gym is tricky. You know it’s not a fashion show, but are your lazy-day joggers a step too far? For gym first-timers, shop basic. Choose breathable, lightweight sporting materials that offer comfort and don’t restrict your workout.  

In the early days, it’s unlikely that you’ll know which exercises you’ll be dedicating most of your time to, so keep it non-specific. Tighter, fitted gym wear is preferred over oversized tees, as they offer the support you need for a great workout. Try easy-to-wear (‘wicking’/polyester-based) gym vests and cropped leggings for effortless comfort and style. Ladies: remember to invest in a sports bra and keep your face makeup free.

For the feet? Again it depends on what you’ve got planned. Don’t splash out on the latest running shoes if you’ll be spending all your time on a yoga mat. Play it safe in durable, multi-purpose trainers that provide the comfort you need to get going.

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Must-packs
You’ve all the gym gear, now what? There are certain essentials you always need to have in your bag. These include a padlock (for your locker), a towel or two – one for the workout/ the other for the shower – deodorant, body wash, shampoo, bobbles, headphones and a couple of plasters (just in case). Importantly, don’t forget your water bottle; hydration drives effective exercise.  

Avoid peak time
A busy gym can be a stressful place. If the thought of exercising amongst the crowds sends shivers down your spine, avoid peak times – early morning at about 8 – 10am and straight after work, 5.30 – 7pm. This way you can concentrate on what you are doing without queuing for machines or fighting for a locker in the changing room.

Always ask
Gyms can be a pretty intimidating place, especially in January. Surrounded by regular gym-hitters and fellow newbies, you’re heading into new territory, which can be a big step in itself. Rather than jumping on the machines and hoping for the best, don’t be afraid to ask the experts what’s what.

Make the most of your induction session. It can help you decide which machines and classes best suit your targets, as well as teach you how to use the equipment most effectively. 

Don’t run before you can walk
The worst mistake you can make when joining the gym is taking on too much all at once. Switching from couch potato to twice a day gym-addict is unrealistic, and will only lead to failure in the long run. Take baby steps when starting out – it’s a marathon, not a spirit.

Build a routine based on healthy habits. Focus on breathing and technique, and work with trainers to ensure you’re doing everything right – how to work the weights, manage your cardio and push yourself. Don’t forget: always stretch before and after exercising.

[Photo: Getty]

Be mindful of others
Gym etiquette is something that everybody needs to abide by, including you. Use equipment responsibly, return everything to where it belongs and give the machines/weights a quick wipe-over once you’ve used them – nobody likes sweaty handlebars. Be considerate of others and keep the noise down. Be that dropping weights or gossiping with friends; many are there to focus on their workouts, and sometimes forget to take headphones.

Take a positive attitude
Leave your anxieties at the door and adopt a positive attitude towards fitness. Exercise is ‘10% physical, 90% mental’ so be the best coach you can possibly be. Remember, everybody’s there for the exact same reason you are; embrace it and work your hardest.

Why not beat the gym blues by bringing a friend along for the ride? Making exercise a social activity is the perfect way to get motivated. Not only is it fun, but planning gym dates with your pals forces you to go – no excuses! If no one’s willing to join you, say a quick hello to your neighbours at the start of a new class. There’ll be plenty of newbies to make friends with during January.

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