Gym 101: an absolute beginner’s guide

Logo for Gym 101 series

Hello everyone! I am so excited to be introducing my first blog series: “Gym 101: an absolute beginner’s guide”

This is aimed at all of you who are scared or unsure about using a gym. It is a back-to-basics, absolute beginner’s guide, the “101” to gym equipment.

I will be posting to “Gym 101” each Tuesday – put a note in your diary!

Why do a Gym 101 series?

I thought long and hard about how best to position this content because, let’s face it, it doesn’t sound that fascinating! But bear with me while I explain my reasoning.

It can be daunting, joining a gym. Whether it’s your first time or you are a serial re-joiner (like me!) there is bound to be something that looks new or strange.

8kg kettlebell shown from above with pair of trainers
An 8kg Kettlebell – what does that do??!

I think going to the gym can be like travelling to a new country. You agree to go and you are determined to try all the new things. You’re not going to be a typical tourist. Not you! No, no you are going to be a local. Eat in the local restaurants, take public transport, attempt to speak the language.

In the foreign “land of the gym”, however, the culture can seem even more strange and incomprehensible than you imagined. Even the local guides, employed by the gym to show you the ropes, feel unapproachable and obtuse. You look around, trying to remind yourself of your previous confidence and commitment to try everything that this land of the gym has to offer. And then you see it. A whole row of the familiar. It calls to you. You go to it. And, 5 minutes later you are puffing away quietly in your comfort zone. On a treadmill.

The Fear

Now, perhaps some days you venture onto a cross-trainer or even try out the bike. But only the upright one, yeah? Because who can work out how the reclining one works? And sometimes you stare longingly at the girl in the free weights area. She’s there, with all those guys, and she isn’t even bothered! Head goes down and the weights go up. How does she know how to do that?

And don’t let’s get started on the torture racks. Those rows of grey machines that contort their victims into strange positions. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of people getting it wrong. No wonder we all seek comfort in the familiar. Nobody has ever shown us any different and we have an inherent fear of looking stupid!

[Editor’s note: I was going to link to one of those youtube videos but then I watched one. And, well, no. I’m not spreading that. They’re really mean-spirited and perpetuate the fear]

Pushing past the Fear

This is exactly how I felt about the gym until I was lucky enough to work with a personal trainer. She did the job of providing me with a “Gym 101” program:  persuaded me off the treadmill and, with actual physical force, pushed me through the door into the weights area.  Of course not everyone will have access to a personal trainer (although, if you do have the means I would encourage you to sign up for a few sessions – especially if you are interested in free weights). Personally, I couldn’t afford to work with a trainer for the long run but the sessions I invested in were worth every penny.

What do you do if there is no personal trainer in your immediate future? First, I do encourage you to reach out to the coaches at your gym, but if you’re anything like me then you probably find them quite intimidating. If reaching out to them isn’t an option then you are in the right place! This series of posts is for you.

The Disclaimer

Bear in mind, I am not a fitness professional! Geez, I barely know anything about this equipment myself…yet. Don’t think of me as one of the tribe that hail from the “land of the gym”. Rather, I am your intrepid explorer in this foreign land. Your dedicated, if slightly haphazard, trail blazer. I’ve been here before so I’m vaguely familiar with the landscape and I’ll try not to get us lost. I’m going to do my very best but please bear in mind all the usual disclaimers: you should speak to an expert before trying any new exercise program!!

What will you learn by following my “Gym 101: absolute beginner’s guide”?

Each Tuesday I will share a new post to the “Gym 101” series.

I promise to:

  • introduce you to basic terminology – I hate feeling stupid and I find having the right vocabulary is enough to give me confidence. I hope it gives you confidence too!
  • talk you through individual machines – I’ll source and share some videos that show you how to use them (correctly!).
  • Try the machines out for myself, take some pictures and ask some questions
  • report all this back to you in a concise and, hopefully, coherent manner.

And when we’re done we will all meet up in the “land of the gym”, say our vows of allegiance and become card-carrying members of the tribe in full knowledge that this land is our land and we belong.

Put a note in your diary for next Tuesday when the series kicks off and, in the meantime, let me know: what gym equipment are you intimidated by? How confident do you feel in the gym?

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