Congrats friend! You’re doin’ the thing! You’re going to the gym! The hardest part is convincing yourself to even go in the first place, so kudos to you. Once you get to the gym, that’s when anxiety can set in. We were both gym noobs at one point, so we’ll help you manage the weirdness that is going to a gym for the first time. Deep breath, it’s really not that scary, we promise.

SET-UP IS KEY

There are a couple of things to prep for when you start going to the gym… will you be going right before work, over lunch or right after work? Then you’ll probably have to pack a bag. Here’s what your gym bag should look like: combination lock, headphones, gym clothes, toiletries, towel, shoes, a couple pair of socks, snack, water bottle, pre-workout (if you’re into that).

  • Being prepared when you go to the gym can be one of you cues, too. Those cues we keep talking about that create habits that stick. This can be having your bag ready, for sure. If you’ve decided that working out in the morning will work best for you, try setting your gym clothes and shoes out the night before. I’ve even been known to sleep in half of my gym clothes if I think I’m going to struggle bus it in the morning.
  • Making sure you have a snack of some kind is crucial any point in the day that you decide to workout. Chances are you’re not going to be eating a gigantic meal right before you go to the gym, or hit your workout. This harkens back to things as simple as an apple or a banana to get you through that workout.
  • We can cover pre-workouts and supplements in another episode

Pick a good playlist. The perfect music can turn your shitty workout into a dance party, take advantage of that. Build lots of playlists… need inspiration? Check out our Spotify for some pre-built gym playlists.

  • A workout playlist is almost a must. How many times have you been doing something and your JAM comes on and it automatically puts you in hyper mode. Sometimes I’ll just keep adding and adding to a playlist so that it’s robust with a variety of songs I like. Sometimes I make a playlist based on mood. Pissed off? Add you’re I’m going to punch this punching bag instead of someones face song to your playlist. Playlists are awesome and have gotten me through super tough workouts.

Eat a snack on your way to the gym. We’ve talked about this before, but we are mentioning it again because it’s very important. You need to fuel your body if you’re gonna go work it.

  • Sausha: As far as snacks go, yes a banana and/or an apple will work, but just in case you forget to grab that, I like to keep a protein bar or two stashed in my car or gym bag so I always have something. Fuel is important. 

START SLOW

You’ve made the commitment to start going to the gym and you wanna go every day forever and team no rest days… no. Slow down. Start small by going 2-3 days a week at first, you need to ease your body into exercise, your muscles are about to be very confused and a little angry, so be smart.

  • If you’ve never worked out before or you haven’t been to the gym in a while, you don’t want to be going 6 days a week right out the gate. One: you could injure yourself. Two: you want to build on the sustainability of picking a time frame that will work with your schedule. Like we covered on a few of these episodes: you’re trying to set yourself up for success. You don’t want to overcommit yourself to 5 days a week if it isn’t something you’re used to. Chances are, you’re going to be sore, you’ll want the extra rest, especially in the beginning.

WARM UP. Do 5-10 minutes of cardio to get your muscles loose before you dig into your workout. Do some dynamic stretches like arm circles, side bends, leg swings, lunges, toe touches, and arm swings.

  • I like to do at least 15 minutes of warmup. That way, I know my body is ready to go. By then, my pre-workout is kicking in and I know I’ll be able to do the movements I’ve got on my list that day. If the warmup didn’t kill you, you’ll be fine. HA! You can also look up a ton of free warmup routines on the internet.

If you’re lifting weights, start with machines. They exist for a reason. Should you use them forever? Not necessarily, but they are a great resource when you’re learning now to move your body under a load. Start out by doing 3-4 movements per workout and build from there after your body has adjusted. 

  • Before you even GO to the gym, I would select a basic weightlifting regime. You can find a ton of them for free on the good ol interweb. A lot of them have reference videos on how to do the specific movements and how to use the machines properly. Hell, even while you’re AT the gym, you’ll have your phone on you, so if you don’t recall, you can always re-reference the video or, all gyms have staff there. If you ask, they’ll help you. Don’t ever feel afraid to ask. That’s their job.

If you can swing hiring a trainer or a coach, I’d recommend it. It’s helpful to have someone to watch your form and make sure you’re not overdoing it at the beginning. This is a big life change, it never hurts to have someone hold your hand while you’re getting started.

ACCOUNTABILITY IS EVERYTHING

Accountability is one of the best ways for you to stay consistent and motivated. Post in your IG story that you’re going to the gym, or throw up a tweet… something to make sure you don’t blow off your commitment. 

  • Accountability is important, especially in the beginning. If you don’t have a person you’re going to the gym with or talking to about what you’re doing, always feel free to reach out to us on instagram, facebook, twitter or the email machine at hello@meatheadtestkitchen.com
  • If you call yourself out on social by posting your journey, you don’t want to have to go back on it or post later that you’re starting over again. And again. And again. I know for me, that always hurt when I’d have to post “day one… again!”

If you can’t currently hire a personal trainer, find someone to go to the gym with you… having an accountability partner is a very important step in the journey. 

  • Sadie: I drug Phil to the gym kicking and screaming the first day. After the first week, he thanked me. We all need to be held accountable, that’s going to look different for each individual… but take someone you trust, and are comfortable being awkward around… that’s essential.
  • Sausha: I’m almost positive that you can find someone in your life that will go with you or is already currently going to the gym. If you have a gym membership, a lot of places now offer free sessions with your membership for people to come try out the gym with you. Depending on the gym, some even have a built in bring a friend feature where as long as they go with you, they can use the gym for free. 

GET A TRAINING JOURNAL. Record your workouts, you want this data to look back on later. Write down all exercises, sets, and reps that you do. This will help you know what you want to try again next time. If you’d like a free training journal template, grab them here.

  • Training journals are key. We’ve designed a couple of pages for you guys to use for free. If you don’t know how much weight you used last week, how are you going to build on what you’ve been doing? How will you recall your measurements so you can track your progress. Remember, the scale is only a tool for data collection, it doesn’t tell the whole story, just a tiny percentage of it. Keeping track of all the things you’re doing and seeing your results on paper always kept me pushing myself harder.

RECOVERY

So, you survived your first workout at the gym, good work! Now you need to support the work your body just did. Eat or drink a shake in the next half hour, it will save you from post-training crash. NASM says, “Recovery from training is becoming recognized as one of the most important aspects of physical activity and overall wellness.” **

  • TBH, we could do an entire episode on the importance of recovery. Recovery is one of those things that’s super important but also super overlooked. You have to be willing to listen to your body. When you hurt, listen. Take an extra day of r and r. Go for a walk or a hike or a bike ride or something if you want to move your body, just don’t over do it and end up injuring yourself. That will keep you out of the gym than you want.

Sadie: Think of recovery in three categories:

  1. Immediate recovery – happens in the short time between reps
  2. Short-term recovery – happens between sets or intervals
  3. Training recovery – happens between workouts or competitions

DOMS is a bitch, and it’s something you’re going to deal with at the beginning of finding fitness… so you’re going to want to employ recovery techniques like warm baths or massage to help with some of your muscle soreness. 

You need to sleep. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not getting your full 8 every night. Try to start setting up a bedtime routine to help get your body into the groove of going to bed at a consistent time every night.

  • Get. Your. Sleep. Period. Sleep is a highly underrated part of fitness, but it’s soooo damn important. Sleep helps in recovery just as much, if not more than taking that extra rest day. Trust me, I can tell a significant difference in my performance from a day after not getting quality or enough sleep versus getting 7-8 hours. I can do more shit because my body is actually rested and more recovered.

Going to the gym really isn’t that scary; at the end of the day, it’s people just like you, finding time during their busy day to make their health a priority. You’re one of them now, congratulations! Just remember, we’re here if you have questions, concerns, want to yell about how you hurt, anything you need. Feel free to reach out to us. 

** https://blog.nasm.org/the-science-of-recovery

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