First Time Gym User! HELP!
January 14, 2013 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I have no idea how to begin using a gym! I don't have any personal trainers or anything to help me! Help!

As did millions this new year, I purchased a membership to a gym.

This is a Rock Gym with a pretty good work-out area and a swimming pool. I go there often mostly to rock climb with friends. I love rock-climbing, but I don't usually have a partner.

Now I've been thinking about going to a gym because I've been getting out of shape and worn out easily.

My goals are to get more energy, to try to regain some of my high school muscle, and to just be more active. A longer term goal is to get fit enough to become a serious climber.

Now unfortunately, this gym doesn't have any intro to using the gym classes or anything. I asked.

Also, I can only go 3 times a week for about half an hour each day. I go about 5:30am (right when it opens) and then workout for about half an hour (which usually includes me running and wandering around aimlessly wondering what to do) and then shower, and run straight to work (I'm a teacher).

Now there are a few things that are bothering me.

I don't have any kind of good work-out routine. I pretty much am lost, and look it when I come to the gym.

I prefer to stay away from the machines. I think I want to learn how to use the free weights. But I don't know where to start.

I don't know what I should start with, where to go next, where to end with. What types of exercises should I do? What types of areas do I work each day? I go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Any good routines for beginners (men) who only have 30 minutes each session?

I have a workout journal that says I should do cardio, strength, and flexibility. What types of exercises should I be looking for each of these categories? How do I determine how much of each exercise I should do?

I'm just lost and I don't know where to start!
posted by Peregrin5 to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The 24 Hour Fitness. Chain of gyms has a "Workout of the Month" video that they publish, um, monthly, on YouTube. You could watch it home, watch it on your smartphone while you're at your gym, and/or download a print version at their website and carry it with you at the gym.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2013

Buy a copy of the book "Starting Strength", which will describe the essential barbell exercises. For now, don't worry about following to the letter the three-lift program it provides. Instead, work technique for squats, deadlifts, power cleans, and bench and overhead presses for a few weeks. If you only have time for one lift per workout, that's fine.

Then, spend the money to have someone knowledgable take a look at your lifts. A local CrossFit gym could provide private lessons, or maybe you could ask a fellow gym-goer who seems to be doing the lifts the way they're described in the book. Go back to the gym and practice for another few weeks, then repeat. Reread the book. Eventually you will know what to do, or find someone who can help you in person.
posted by daveliepmann at 5:51 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Starting Strength or Stronglifts. Pick one, don't deviate from it for six months. Enjoy becoming the strongest person you know. I personally prefer Stronglifts for beginners because, well, Rippetoe is a dingus.
posted by Sternmeyer at 5:53 PM on January 14, 2013

Read Reddit's r/Fitness FAQ.

tl;dr: Do Starting Strength. You can get through an SS session in ~45 minutes - I would urge you to make time in your schedule to accommodate, up to and including slighting loved ones and compromising your career. It'll pay off in the long run.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 6:02 PM on January 14, 2013

You may be able to find climbing partners at ClimbFind. Does the gym have a bouldering wall? You don't need a partner for that.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:25 PM on January 14, 2013

I'd say at this point, I've built up a pretty athletic body. I couldn't have (and likely wouldn't have) done it without a personal trainer. I'd say suck it up and pay the bill for a personal trainer for a month or two so you can learn proper posture and way to group exercises so you don't hurt yourself. There's no better way to kill your motivation than giving yourself an injury early on. Now after having the trainer for a few months, I can walk into the gym and actually be confident that I know how to workout than most of those muslehead dudes. Before, like you, I was terrified and wandered aimlessly then went home. Now, I walk in like I own the place. It was also useful to have someone push me through the initial start up aspect of the working out that I hated. Now I have enough endurance to push myself through the workout whereas I wouldn't have had that initially. As a teacher, I think you'd learn quick and not need one for long. But I'd say, without a doubt, it's worth the investment to have an expert teach you the basics before you hurt yourself.
posted by DorothySmith at 8:36 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another vote for Starting Strength. As you read through the book, look for some examples on YouTube how to perform the five lifts described therein. Preferably find videos by Mark Rippetoe (the author). Ideally, try to find someone to watch you do the lifts, so they can correct your form.

That's all you will need for a very long time.
posted by Ender's Friend at 8:45 PM on January 14, 2013

I used free weights a lot as a teenager, but never with any proper instruction. I regret this. I don't think my workouts were optimal for the effort I put in, and 5 years later one of my shoulders started playing up.

I would really recommend getting proper, on location guidance for how to use free weights. If only to make sure you are doing it right.

Also, free weights are hard and my experience is that having a buddy there to motivate you is a big plus. Especially in the early stages where you keep pushing through what you think is your threshold.

Used sparingly, a personal trainer pays itself back in spades. Or to put it another way: lots of people join gyms with good intentions in January, do exactly what you do, lose motivation and/or can't see the results coming and end up paying 10 months of gym membership when they don't use it.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:12 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is there another gym nearby that would give you an intro session? I just had one yesterday at the gym near me and it was even free. The equipment won't be exactly the same but if you want to use free weights that won't matter so much, and it's an opportunity to ask your questions to someone trained and knowledgable.
posted by daisyk at 2:21 AM on January 15, 2013

Everything you need to know to get started is in Harsh's worksheet.

A good trainer is a great thing to have, but unfortunately good trainers are quite rare, and most are a waste of money. As nice as it might seem to have someone telling you exactly what to do, you'll be much better off in the long run if you spend awhile doing research and experimentation on your own first, and there's a ton of quality material on the internet with which to do so. Then if you still want a trainer you'll at least have a better ability to choose a good one.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:40 AM on January 15, 2013

I would have similar experiences when I would go to the gym -- I'd be lost in a sea of gym equipment and machines. I'd get intimidated and end up going to an aerobics class or running on the treadmill. That was until I got myself a trainer. The first time you meet with a trainer, you tell them what your fitness goals are, any injuries/health concerns you might have, briefly describe your lifestyle and how committed you are to achieving your goal(s). Then the next times you meet, you get down to business. Each time I met with my trainer, I had her write down the exercises we did that day, the reps, and weights used. Then when I wasn't meeting with her, I'd do that routine 2-3 times a week and on other days, I'd do cardio. I knew that the next time my trainer and I would meet, she'd give me new routines that were a little more difficult/strenuous, so it was incentive to keep up with my strength training. After a year of training with her, I moved to a different city, but I still had all my old routines (24 total) and I still do them 2-3 times a week (cardio the other days of the week).

You don't have to meet with your trainer multiple times a week if you don't want to (or can't afford it). I signed up to meet with her 2 times a month (every other week). I am pretty dedicated on my own, so she didn't have to worry about me slacking.

Get yourself a trainer to show you how to exercise properly to avoid injury. I see so many people doing stuff incorrectly and it makes me cringe.

Good luck!
posted by ATX Peanut at 9:13 AM on January 15, 2013

Nthing Starting Strength. Note - start easy. The first workout should pretty much have you going "wait, that was it?". It'll get harder later when you're more used to how "hard" is supposed to feel.
posted by markslack at 10:24 AM on January 15, 2013

You've got great suggestions above, but really - as long as you're doing Something, you're better off than before, right? So you want to do cardio, strength, and flexibility, and you have three days a week to do them. Take your 30 minutes and warm up on a treadmill for 10 minutes - that's your cardio. Stretch for 5, then do some strength for 10 - upper body one day, lower another - and 5 minutes at the end to stretch again.

You can tweak this so that you spend more time on cardio or strength on a given day, and work in some rock climbing. But the basic strength lifts are pretty easy to learn - look at Starting Strength, what people around you are doing, and web tutorials. Take it easy at first to learn your form. But mostly, don't worry about being the Most Efficient Workout Dude at first - just get familiar with some of the things you can be doing that help you meet your three goals.
posted by ldthomps at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Freelance marketing from another city   |   Escaping the Mommy Track Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.