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The Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the Gym (Without Hating It)

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Stocksy

No matter how much you want to get fit, let’s be real: The gym floor can feel intimidating for first-timers. With complicated machines and seasoned professionals, it can be tempting to sneak back into the locker room and call it a day. But getting to know your way around the weight room is easier than you think. 

We went to the experts (aka certified trainers) to get their best advice on how to come into the gym, crush your nerves, and crush your workout. After all, just remember: Everyone’s been the newbie at the gym at some point—even the pros. 

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Start by stretching out.

“When I first started going to the gym, I would always scan for the designated stretching areas,” says Aliyah Sims, a fitness expert for Degree Deodorant and trainer at Rumble. These areas often have some free weights and other equipment, like resistance bands and medicine balls lying around, and they’re often less crowded than other areas. 

Work out the jitters with a quick warm-up routine (think jumping jacks, push-ups, air squats, or lunges) and a few stretches. Take this time to remind yourself why you showed up to the gym in the first place, Sims suggests.

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Follow the rules.

In every gym, there are typically a set of rules to follow—luckily, most are common sense. The one biggie: Make sure you always wipe down the equipment after using it, especially if you sweat on it, Sims reminds us. There aren’t always people to clean up after you, so treat the space and equipment as if it were your own, she says. Also, always re-rack your weights for safety reasons and just common courtesy.

It’s also important not to be an equipment hog, says Amanda Capritto, a certified personal trainer and health coach. “I know it's tempting to hoard your favorite items, but other people are there for the same purpose as you: to get in a good workout,” she explains. "Do your best to use equipment for what you need it for and then put it back." In other words, don't sit on a medicine ball while you spend 15 minutes scrolling Instagram.

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Come in with a plan.

Show up at the gym with a workout plan in mind, so you don’t waste time thinking about what to do or playing on your phone, Sims suggests. Put your headphones in, play your favorite tunes, and get in the zone. Not sure you have a plan? Don’t sweat it (yet!)—we’ve got you covered. 

Below, Sims gives us a total-body workout that should take approximately 30 minutes, plus options to level it up to a 45 or 60-minute workout.

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The Beginner-Friendly 30-Minute Total-Body Workout

To do this workout, all you need is two medium-to-heavy dumbbells and a mat. 

This workout can be as long or as short as you make it! To make it 45 minutes to 60 minutes, perform three to four sets of the circuits, and add 5 minutes to the treadmill jog. If you’re running short of time, just decrease the number of sets you do or take fewer breaks in between to speed things up.  

Warm-Up: 

  • 5-minute stretch 
  • 5-minute light treadmill jog (3 to 6 mph at a 1.0 incline)

Circuits:

First Circuit

Second Circuit

Third Circuit

Fourth Circuit

Timed Burnout Round: 

End with a five-minute cool-down stretch.

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