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If you are new to a gym, new or returning to exercise, it can be quite daunting to join a gym. If this is you, and you’ve just joined, congratulations! It’s a big step to take, putting your health first. And you’ve done it. Well done!
I work in a gym. And it’s a lovely gym. We just moved actually, as our old gym was quite old and quite small and so the new gym is a wide open space and it’s just glorious.
Regardless of the gym or gym size, one thing I notice about beginners at the gym is that a lot of them come in, hop on a treadmill or a bike, stay there for 30 minutes and then leave.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Not at all. Our cardio machines are encouraging movement, they are helping people using them to keep their heart healthy - and as my boss at the gym says - there is no person on the planet that couldn’t do with a healthier heart!
However, from lived experience of being a cardio machine user, and from trained experience of watching the patterns of some of our members, I wonder if some of our members would actually like to try some of the other things, but they just aren’t sure how. Or why?
The pattern I’ve seen a few times now seems to be that a new person will start, and without the right support, will hang out on a treadmill or maybe a bike for 20 or so minutes, and then go home.
As I said before this is a great first step. And sometimes this is all the movement someone needs. In other cases, a failure to develop and do a bit more can get a bit boring. The daily habit becomes a few times a week, down to once a week, and then every other week. Before you realise it, the gym is now a chore and you’re simply paying for the privilege of having a tag on your keys. One day you’ll go back. Maybe.
If this scenario is relatable, you can get back on the wagon by enlisting some help. There’s plenty of free help available at our gym definitely, most other gyms too. And there is no shame in it. Trainers and coaches at the gym have one job. To help you. That’s what we do, so please ask. Email me - email@example.com or talk to your gym reception staff.
As a personal trainer, I try to capture as many new and returning members as I can to show them how to progress through the gym, so they can achieve their goals, but also so they don’t get bored.
It’s a difficult balance though. I’m stoked to see more and more new faces in our gym. I could weep with pride to see people moving their bodies who otherwise hadn’t done much of it before. But it’s totally not ok for me to bowl on over and interrupt people exercising and offer to shift them off the cardio machines so they can try something else. A little thing called unsolicited advice, and actually minding our own business is a thing some trainers can be a tiny bit shit at and need to keep practicing to get better!
At our gym we have free orientations, where you can book in with a trainer free of charge, learn how the gym works and get a programme to work from. You can do this every six weeks if you want to. And our training team are happy to help in any way we can. Just ask at reception and they will match you up with a great trainer who can help.
At our gym we have three sections of the gym floor.
How our gym is set up
Cardio equipment - this is a good place to start to get comfortable with the gym. It’s closest to the door, it’s easily accessible, and the machines are straightforward enough to figure out without feeling weird. This is the place where you can work on getting a healthier heart, and start a habit of coming to the gym regularly.
The next section, the row behind the cardio machines, is the strength machines area. A mix of abilities/experience are here. This area is great because the machines are designed to be as easy as the treadmills to use. You can look at the instruction panel to figure out how to use them and it’s quite hard to muck it up and not do it right so to speak. It’s reasonably safe for new people to try.
A little thing my boss at the gym and also my own trainer has taught me, is that you can use the machines in different ways than what is suggested, so if you see people sitting sideways on the chest press, don’t worry! It’s all good.
Behind our strength machines is our free weights section. There is some cool equipment on the back row. It’s mostly people experienced in using the gym, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to. Out here you’ll find squat racks, bench press, barbells, dumbbells, 45 deg leg press, hack squat.. so many amazing things to help you up the ante of your workouts and for some things you don’t need any more experience in the gym in using them. However, some of my PT clients have told me that they feel intimidated using this area of the gym, and that is what I would love to help change. Everyone is welcome in all parts of the gym, and if you are confident in your ability of the equipment overall, there is no reason you can’t use everything on offer.
So you’ve joined the gym.. this is what happens next..
Once you’ve signed up on the line to join the gym, you’ll be offered an orientation of the gym and a programme to get you started. The receptionist on the front desk will match you with a trainer to run an orientation with you. You can request a specific trainer if you’d prefer. These sessions take about an hour. They are not compulsory, but can be useful to get started.
In my orientations, after our initial chat about your goals and what you’d like to happen with your fitness and health, I take you for a walk around the gym. Showing you where everything is first, and then based on how you’re feeling, we’ll try out a few different machines and exercises that will be good for you to achieve your goals. From here I will develop an achievable programme so the next time you come to the gym, you’ll know what to do and where to go. Practice of this exact thing, coming to the gym and following a programme is how you will find your place and your confidence.
If you are a member of my gym (CityFitness) and haven’t had an orientation for a while, please go to the reception desk of your local and book one in. If you go to Newlands gym, you can ask for me to run your orientation, or you can request someone else. Our CityFitness app has a coach finder on there so you can just find who you need. My photo was taken on my first day as a personal trainer and it’s really obvious how nervous I was!
Because this post is all about the gym, I thought I’d run through two machines I use at the gym a lot. I’m sharing official-ish star trac instructional videos as we use StarTrac at our gym so it’s makes a bit more sense.
One thing that bugs me in this video is that it looks like the model locks her knees at the end of the press. Try to keep your knee soft as locking your knees is essentially transferring all the weight you’re pressing from the muscle where it should be to the joint where it shouldn’t. Ow.
We don’t need to get fancy with this one. Adjust the seat so that your feet are comfortably touching the floor and the hand grips (for lack of a better word) are at a comfortable position too. You want to be able to get your hands behind the grips, bar whatever, so you can push forward without over extending your shoulders and back muscles (and elbows!).
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