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Are you someone who avoids gym sessions because you don’t know how to use the equipment, or feel you intimidated? Let me help you gain some knowledge so you can walk in to your next gym session with confidence!
I’ve spent a lot of time working in a gym, and I’m very familiar with the deer-in-the-headlights look of a new gym-goer. They tend to come in with new tennis shoes and an outfit that screams ‘I’m new and nervous!’ If this sounds like you or someone you know, let me help reassure you with a simple routine so you can make your next gym session fun and effective.
First things first: find the stretching area when you get to the gym. Grab a mat, sit down and perform some simple stretches. You can also calm your nerves by doing something that feels familiar. Some of my favorite simple stretches (among many) are:
Once you’ve looked around during your stretch, head over to your favorite piece of cardio equipment and spend 10 minutes getting warmed up at a steady pace. If you need help operating a machine, the gym staff are usually more than willing to help get you started. Some cardio machines you might try are an exercise bike, treadmill, or elliptical machine.
After you’ve warmed up, go to the free weights area. Grab a set of dumbbells that suit your fitness level and perform some upper body exercises. If in doubt, always choose a lower weight—good form can be more effective than a heavier weight. Here’s a sample beginner level strength circuit:
Repeat so each move is done 30 times.
Back to cardio equipment! Spend 20 minutes doing an interval style workout. I advise using the manual setting instead of using a pre-selected program, as it will give you confidence with the equipment. For beginners, work hard for 30 seconds, and active rest such as walking or a much slower pace on your machine of choice for 30 seconds. .
In my opinion, the squat machine is the simplest piece of equipment in the gym. If you’re a gym newbie, this is a great place to start with machines. Perform three sets of 10 squats using a light weight. Other machines to consider are the chest press machine, leg press machine, and hamstring curl machine.
It’s time to go back to the stretching area for a cool down. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Be creative and make up your own favorite cool down stretch routine. Do what feels best for your body.
Definitely take advantage of group fitness classes if they’re available at your gym, because they tend to cater to all fitness levels. Group classes are a great way to learn body awareness and simple body movement techniques that you can transfer onto the gym floor. Finding a good class may take some trial and error, but never feel like you have to stay in a class that you’re not enjoying! There is nothing worse than feeling like you’ve wasted an hour of your time doing something that you don’t enjoy, or getting injured because it is too advanced for your current fitness level.
Don’t be intimidated by the gym or by the people in it. In fact, the majority of regular gym-goers love to help out a gym newbie! The ideal situation would be to have a personal trainer guide you through your first few gym sessions. However, if a personal trainer is not in your budget, simply take me with you on a piece of paper or on your smart phone, and work out by following along with one of my videos or blog posts. After a few short weeks, you’ll no longer be the new one in the gym, and you might even be able to offer help to the next new exerciser that you see walking through the door.
Samantha Clayton is responsible for all activities relating to exercise and fitness education for Independent Herbalife Members and employees. Through in-person training sessions, educational tools and materials, and her blog (www.discovergoodfitness.com), she ensures that the important role of exercise as part of a healthy, active life is understood by all. She also helps create, organize and promote employee fitness programs and activities as an integral part of the company’s corporate wellness program.
A native of Liverpool, England, Samantha initially worked as a consultant for Herbalife for two years and led the Herbalife24-Fit program, the company’s first comprehensive fitness training program and DVD series.
Before joining the corporate ranks, Samantha was a professional athlete. She represented Great Britain in the 2000 Sydney Olympics in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay events. Prior to the Olympics, she won two medals in the Olympic AAA trials – a silver medal for the 200m and a bronze for the 100m – as well as a silver medal in the 4x100m relay during the European Junior Championships in 1997. Her personal records include 11.40 seconds in the 100m and 23.02 seconds in the 200m.
Samantha is a personal trainer and group exercise coach through the American Fitness and Aerobics Association (AFAA) and International Sport Science Association (ISSA).