Getting the most out of my gym membership?
December 23, 2007 10:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I get the most out of my new gym membership?

I'm a mid-thirties out-of-shape woman. I'm not fat (my diet is very healthy), but I am soft and totally out of the habit of exercising. In junior high and high school I played soccer and basketball, ran the mile on the track team, and was on the swim team. Since then, I've done yoga and the occasional hike or bike, but nothing regular. My goals are to improve my cardiovascular fitness, build strength, and stay limber as I get older. I will probably go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week.

I get one 45-minute session with a trainer as a new member, but I don't have the cash for a regular trainer. I'm sure the trainer will have his ideas on what I should do, but I'd also like to get advice from others who have maybe been in my position before.

The gym has a pool, basketball court, indoor tennis courts, a racquetball court, a full complement of cardio equipment and weights, and several different aerobics/yoga classes. I'm attracted to the idea of learning to play tennis and/or racquetball but have never played either. As a complete novice, how do I find someone to play with? Should I jump in with that first or work my way up to it? Start on a treadmill? Start with yoga? Any other general advice about gyms?
posted by acridrabbit to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Krista has the best site for women if you want to learn to lift weights. I recommend that you do, since it helps a lot.

I also like Exercise Prescription, too.

In general, I've found that people in the gym will help you if you ask, too.

Good luck! The gym is a lot of fun, in a sweaty metal way.
posted by winna at 10:41 PM on December 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Go to the gym, and don't just let that go to waste.
Go for squash over racquetball - much better exercise.
posted by lrodman at 11:20 PM on December 23, 2007

You want to do cardio to burn fat, and weights to build strength and tone muscle. Alternate days you do strength training - don't do upper body two days in a row, for example. Mostly, I'd try a bit of everything. Don't let your body and muscles get too used to one routine. Try the elliptical and the pool and the stationary bikes. Try a class. Don't be intimidated by any of it (which I was when I first started a month or so ago).
posted by rhapsodie at 12:58 AM on December 24, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendation - there's a lot of good advice there.
posted by acridrabbit at 6:19 AM on December 24, 2007

My advice is to try a little bit of everything your gym has to offer. Try an intro yoga class, use the pool (some gyms offer free aquafit or aquajog classes). Definitely take advantage of the personal trainer..i worked in a gym for years and yoou don't know how many times i would see people doing exercises incorrectly or doing too much too fast and then quitting. See if your gym has a community board and if you're looking for a racquetball partner you can usually find one there or post an add saying you're a newbie and want to learn.

Most important thing is to avoid getting injured...if you have problem areas (e.g. knee, back, shoulder etc) tell your PT about it at the start of your intro session.
posted by LiquidKarma at 7:15 AM on December 24, 2007

i worked in a gym for years and yoou don't know how many times i would see people doing exercises incorrectly or doing too much too fast and then quitting.

I'll ditto this. Go very slow. You have a lifetime to get fit so stretch it out and enjoy incremental progress. If you go too fast you can't maintain the rewards of progress. Also document what you do so you can see your progress.
posted by srboisvert at 7:38 AM on December 24, 2007

Build "base" for eight weeks. I'd start with treadmill/elliptical and some weight training. Also if they have water aerobics I'd start with that-a really fun way to build your strenth and stamina up!
posted by konolia at 10:41 AM on December 24, 2007

Try all the classes! You're paying for them, might as well test 'em out. Having a class I always go to is one thing that keeps me regularly coming to the gym.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:09 AM on December 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is what has worked for me. I found a way to do something I liked at the gym and work it into my regular schedule. So, for me I decided to swim regularly. I spent a while just getting used to it, gradually building up my technique and then started keeping track of what I was doing for distance and set some long term goals. I arranged a time to go that would give me time to shower and clean up before I went to work. I moved all my bathroom shower stuff to the gym -- this was partly practical because the showers at the gym were better than my shower at home but it also meant I used my "good" shampoo and conditioner when I was at the gym which was more encouragement. Having a long term goal and a schedule that includedd the gym, not just tolerated it seemed to be the thing to motivate me.

One of the things that I found difficult as a new gym-goer was learning to eat right for exercise. I had previously been watching what I ate somewhat and I found that the light breakfast I had been having was totally not okay if I was going to be in the pool for 45-60 minutes. I learned how to eat higher protein breakfasts 30-60 minutes before getting in the pool and I started keeping carb-y snacks around for when I got out. One of the things they say about swimming is that it's hard to lose weight when you're doing it (which I see you don't need to do, super) because you come out of the pool *starving*. I found that it was a good anchor for me being generally healthier, helped me sleep at night and seemed to improve my circulation so that I was warmer too. I've gained some muscle tone in my upper arms legs and butt that I like, but nothing super noticable I just feel less soft overall in a way I'm happy with.

I've also done yoga in the past and while it's great for getting more limber and really winderful for your mental health, for me anyhow, I didn't see it making a big change in my overall muscle tone or fitness. I'm pretty flexible anyhow so it just may have been that what it had to offer werent' things I needed. I did always leave yoga feeling good about myself and my day so if you're looking for that sort of thing I'd suggest it.

The last thing that I'd suggest is having a gym buddy, and finding exercise that you both like. If you're interested in raquetball you might see if there are people looking for novice partners. Having a regular gym date is a good way to learn how things work and learn something new without feeling like you have no idea what you're doing. And, of course, listen to yourself. While you don't have to ALWAYS GO no matter what the weather or your day is like, pay attention if you're talking yourself out of the gym more than you're going and see what you can do to make the gym more fun and inteersting for you. It sometimes takes a little fine turning to figure out the right way to work regular exercise into your day, but it's often worthwhile once you find the routine that works for you.
posted by jessamyn at 11:25 AM on December 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

I have found I can harness my native inertia and develop positive habits. I have definite times I go to the gym which are scheduled in, and while I do miss them occasionally, it is rare. But the habit of going is very helpful when I would rather do nothing.
posted by shothotbot at 2:07 PM on December 24, 2007

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