Column: How to get started in the gym


Haley Flavin, Graphics Editor

Stepping into a weight room or gym for the first time can be intimidating. It may seem like everyone else understands a set of unspoken “gym rules,” equipping them with the knowledge to navigate the ins and outs of personal fitness. Even worse, you may fear that everyone is looking at you or that you are doing everything wrong.

However, the truth is no one is looking at you. Most of the time, people are so concerned with themselves that they don’t take the time to think or look at the people around them. Despite this, though, it’s understandable how these fears still persist, so here are my best tips for anyone looking to get started in the gym:

Go in with a plan

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to consider what you want to accomplish before entering the gym. Create a plan to lift weights, do cardio, stretch or do anything else you want to try. If you are weight-lifting in particular, have a plan for which muscle group(s) you want to target (triceps, quads, etc.). Once you are able to narrow down your workout goals, it will be easier to discern the necessary equipment. 

Find an effective workout split

First and foremost, you do not need to be going to the gym seven days a week. Start with two or three days, then gradually increase until you find a schedule that works best for you. Splits are effective for those who choose to lift at the gym because you can target a different muscle group each time you go. Find muscle groups that you enjoy working together to make your workouts more beneficial. You can always begin with doing arms one day, legs the next, and so on. As you progress, target specific muscle groups. For me, training back and bicep muscles together and chest and tricep muscles together results in the best recovery and growth. Here is an example of a possible workout split:

  • Sunday: Cardio
  • Monday: Back and Biceps
  • Tuesday: Quadriceps and Glutes
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Chest and Triceps
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Hamstrings and Glutes

Machines vs. free weights

Online exercise tutorials show that some workouts can be done with free weights or machines. So how will you know whether to use dumbbells, barbells, or machines? To be honest, it’s up to you. Starting with a machine is an excellent way to get an idea of what the movement is supposed to feel like and enhance your form. However, dumbbells are also very effective since you can complete the same movements without spending time figuring out how a machine works. I highly recommend watching YouTube videos or going on TikTok to see the proper technique and work towards imitating those movements.

Fuel your workouts

In order to be successful and consistent outside of the gym, it’s important to fuel your body properly. Taking care of your body by prioritizing a  balanced diet provides the necessary energy to enhance your workout and see progress in the gym. Before you leave for a workout, it’s crucial to have a pre-workout meal containing carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body by turning themselves into glucose, protein gives amino acids that allow the body to build muscle and healthy fats help manage inflammation. Healthline also reports that eating a full meal around two to three hours before your training session can work to amplify your results. Along with eating well, you must remain hydrated before, during, and after your workout. It is absolutely essential for every type of physical activity that you drink water as it retains the bodily fluids that you lose through sweating. 

Warm Ups, cool-downs, and stretching

Before any activity, it’s imperative to ensure that your body is prepared by properly stretching and loosening your muscles. There are many ways to warm up and stretch based on the intensity of your training. If you are lifting, you should stretch your whole body with a strong focus on the muscle group that you are targeting.

The key to reaching your gym goals is listening to your own body. Drink water throughout your workout, eat a balanced diet to see results, rest when your body is tired, and listen to your own body’s needs so you don’t overwork yourself. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different methods or equipment; learning is essential for development. Do what is best for you and try not to focus on others. Progressing in the gym takes a lot of time and patience, but if you put in the time and effort, you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.