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Hooray, I've joined a gym! Now what?
October 5, 2011 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Hooray, I've joined a gym! Now what?

I just joined a gym. It's a small gym (the only one in a small town), and there's not always a person there to help. It is a 24-hour card-swipe gym, and I plan on going early in the mornings when there wouldn't be a staffer around. They do not have fitness classes.

Today I went in for my "orientation" (here's the machines, here's how they work, here's what they do). After demonstrating each machine, the staff member got off and let me try it to make sure I understood how they worked, and made sure that my form was correct.

Great!...now what?

I have the weight and reps that I recorded today. Do I...do the same tomorrow and add more reps? Or do I add weight instead? Or both? Do I wait a day between workouts? How do I know what my pace should be? I don't want to get lazy and move too slowly, and I certainly don't want to hurt myself by moving too quickly.

Uh, to get to the point: I know that you are not my trainers, so what I'm asking here is: How do I progress my training without having a trainer around? I know that this is super-basic, but I'm a total gym n00b. Any books, websites, podcasts, resources etc. would be great.

If it matters, I'm a 33-year-old woman who is borderline obese on the BMI scale. My goals are to become stronger (I have wimpy little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms), more flexible (haven't touched my toes in decades), and have more stamina (I'd love to cross-country ski this winter). In addition to going to the gym, I get plenty of walks in each day due to having an excitable German Shepherd mix; and I also do a fair amount of hiking.
posted by Elly Vortex to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
New Rules of Lifting for Women has lots of good pictures of weight lifting techniques and modifications to make them easier. It also has a simple plan to follow (I don't really do the diet strictly, although I do protein shakes when I'm lifting).

That being said, it wouldn't hurt to do a session or two with a trainer, especially to make sure you have good form when lifting. My 24-hour no-frills gym has a references for a few "freelance" trainers that will work with clients at the gym.
posted by sararah at 1:27 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


With such a general question, I really think you'd be better off getting a few books rather that depending on some brief answers here. Go to the library, browse through the fitness section, and ask the librarian. Ideally, you will spend hundreds of hours exercising over the next 50 years or so; a few hours of reading will pay huge dividends and will answer many questions that you would never have thought to ask.

And yes, once you've gotten started for a few weeks, a few "check-up" sessions with a trainer might be worthwhile. (A decent book will have a section on how to pick a trainer.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:36 PM on October 5, 2011


Sararah - thanks! I'll see if the library has a copy. It sounds like the sort of thing that I'm looking for.

Mr. Know it all - I'm here looking for book/website/podcast/etc recommendations, not for someone to come up with a plan for me. I work in a library so I've got the resources all here in front of me...but I'd rather get a recommendation than just picking one and hoping for the best.

I will stop threadsitting now. :)
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:42 PM on October 5, 2011


Seconding the "new rules on lifting." I've read the original version of the book (for men, I guess?) and it's an accessible, non-intimidating guide to weightlifting that will answer a lot of the questions you have. Some other suggestions:

1. The best fitness site I've ever seen is John Stone Fitness--go to the "forums" section. There's a vast and active community of likable, smart about fitness people on there who answer all kinds of fitness related questions.

2. Make a workout plan. Bring it with you to the gym so you always know what excercise you're going to do (and at which weight, how many reps, how many sets, about how much rest in between sets, etc.). Then record what you actually do next to that day's plan. This is a big part of how you'll measure your progress and know whether what you're doing is effective. Please don't just wander from machine to machine.

3. Speaking of machines, avoid almost all of them. Learn to use the free weights. The new rules of lifting book is a great start, and can be augmented by watching videos of the exercises you want to do on youtube.

4. When you make your plan, start with these guidelines in mind: (A) try to challenge yourself every single time out--do one more rep then last time, do a higher weight then last time, do one more set than last time, etc. (B) focus on the most important lifts--these are the ones that use your biggest muscle groups: deadlifts and squats for your legs, bench press and barbell row for your back (for example); do those first and worry about biceps and triceps and calves later; (C) don't over train and give yourself plenty of rest--don't lift more than 3x a week, for example. You need the recovery time in between to get stronger.

Here's what a simple plan could look like--you alternate between "Day One" and "Day Two." (but there is always at least one rest day in between).

Day One: 4 sets of squats: 1 set warm up (10 reps), 1 set about 50% of your capacity (10 reps), then 2 sets of a heavier weight where you can just barely do the last rep, you want to end up between 5 or 10 reps in these sets.

4 sets overhead shoulder press--same format

4 sets bent over barbell row--same format

3 sets of bench dips (or machine-assisted dips) to failure

Day Two: 4 sets of deadlifts: Same format, except do fewer reps--say a max of 7 or 8.

4 sets of bench press: same format, back to the ten reps like the others

4 sets of overhead cable pulldowns (for your back), same format

3 sets of situps to failure.

On the days you don't lift, you can do cardio if you want to. Stretching and especially foam rolling is great. Your gym will likely have a foam roll. It hurts, but it's worth it.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:49 PM on October 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Get a work out partner. Short of hiring a trainer, I've found that to be one of the best ways to stay motivated and disciplined about going. If you are at the gym at the same time, you might find someone that way. I actually think it's better if it's not a friend. You'll feel more of a sense of duty to show up.

Ideally, that person should be similar to you in goals and fitness level, but I think the former is more important that the latter--switching weights around is easy, right? Ideally, you will push each other harder than if you just are working out on your own.

If you do any work with a trainer to get started, they are sometime able to help you find someone. Additionally, some freelance trainers will train in groups and may charge a little less.

Importantly, you should feel comfortable with them. It really makes working out more enjoyable, IMHO.
posted by robabroad at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2011


Reddit.com/r/fitness has some pretty good experts. They'll recommend Starting Strength which is a great program based around simple, primary movements. The program is set up so that you progress a little on each lift every workout (3x week). They will also recommend you follow their dietary advice, some of which is a little out there, and some of which is pretty useful.

My own advice would be to progress slower than you think you should at first, especially on the weightlifting and crosscountry skiing. Nothing is worse than losing all of your initial momentum by having to recover from an overtraining injury.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 2:13 PM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Join Fitocracy while you're at it.
posted by unixrat at 2:33 PM on October 5, 2011


Try some classes. I like yoga and pilates

Second getting a book. I like Body for Life.

Stick with it. Most of the friends I have that are in poor shape have memberships and just don't go. It keeps my fees lower, I suppose. Whenever you contemplate skipping a scheduled session at the gym, make yourself go for at least ten minutes. Chances are you'll stick around longer.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:47 PM on October 5, 2011


Piles of information at stumptuous.com, but you can start here.
posted by bunderful at 6:42 PM on October 5, 2011


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