Going to the Gym for the First Time: A Beginner's Guide to the Gym

A gym can be an intimidating place: the sites of strange equipment, the noise of people grunting, and the smell of sweat lingering in the air. It’s enough to scare a beginner away. Whether it’s your first time in the gym, or it’s been a while, this beginner's guide to the gym will help you feel a little more comfortable walking into a gym.

Here are 9 suggestions to help you be more comfortable when going to the gym for the first time (or the first time in a long time).

9 Suggestions for Gym Newbies

1. Ask for a tour.

Even a seasoned gym rat can feel out of place in a new gym. But having a guided tour will help you know where to begin. Depending on the size of the gym, you may not be able to see all the equipment from one vantage point. 

Whether you’re looking to burn some calories on the cardio equipment, get a good pre-workout stretch, or do some resistance training, a gym employee will be able to direct you to the right spot.

2. Use a locker.

Unfortunately, too many personal belongings get stolen or lost at a gym. It’s always a good idea to place your valuables in a locker prior to working out. If you forgot a lock for the locker, just ask the front desk if they have one you can buy or borrow. If they don’t consider leaving your valuables in your car.

3. Don’t worry about how you look.

Everyone was in your shoes at one point. Yes, the gym may seem like the adult equivalent of a high school lunchroom: everyone seems to be in a clique. You’ll see the meatheads gathered around the power racks, the runners stretching in unison, the yogis in a room of peaceful solitude, and the pretty girls chatting up the jocks.

Just focus on your workout. Remember, you’re here to improve your health.

4. Use gym etiquette.

As a newbie, the idea of “gym etiquette” might sound overwhelming. But it’s really not that complicated. Just be courteous to those working out around you.

“But what does that look like?”

Great questions. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t stay on a piece of equipment too long. If you notice someone is lingering near you, there’s a good chance they’re waiting for your machine or piece of equipment. 

If there’s a water bottle or towel near a piece of equipment, check to see if someone is using it before you do. When using the dumbbells, don’t stand in front of the dumbbell rack while you perform your set. This prevents others from being able to access the dumbbells near you while you’re doing your set.

It’s easy to mistakenly invade someone’s space at the gym. Whether you’re sitting on a bench, stretching on the floor, or doing standing bicep curls, make sure there is plenty of space between you and the next person.

And when you’re done with a piece of equipment, it’s courteous to wipe your equipment off. You should also put everything back the way it was. That means restacking your weights instead of leaving it on the machine or barbell.

5. Go in with a plan.

Before going to the gym, do some research. Too many people go to the gym and anticipate the act of visiting a gym will automatically improve their physique. Know what your workout will be and what equipment you will need to use.

6. Try before you buy.

Unless you live in a small community, you probably have more than one option to choose from when it comes to your workout facility. Most gyms will provide a free trial before you commit to a paid membership. And if they don’t consider purchasing a day pass before paying the initiation fee plus the membership.

You want to make sure you like the feel of the gym and that it suits your needs. After trying it out, you may find you don’t really like it.

There are several things you should consider before purchasing a membership:

When do you plan on working out? Are you working out before work, over your lunch hour, or after work? If so, is the location convenient? 

What do they offer? Do you want to take classes? Do you want a pool? And if you’re a runner, you will need to decide whether you’ll need a track to run on. If you’re a parent, you will need to know if they offer childcare if you plan on bringing your child with you.

Do they provide 24-hours access? Depending upon when you decide to work out, you may need a gym that is open 24 hours a day.

Is the price within your budget? Gym membership prices can vary greatly. Depending on the services offered and what is included in the membership.

7. Read the reviews.

Today, online reviews are helpful when making a choice about a service-based business. You want to know what others are saying about the gym. A close friend of mine loved almost everything about his gym: it had two locations close to his house, provided 24-hour access, and had every piece of equipment he could ever want. However, soon after he and his wife joined they started having problems with the gym’s childcare service. The gym employed high school girls who were less than concerned about the safety and well being of their children. After filing a complaint with management, they chose to leave the gym.

8. Go during a slow time.

All gyms have certain hours when they’re busier than usual. If you’re going for the first time, you may want to avoid this time. Typical rush hours are right before work (5:30 am to 7:00 am) and right after work (5:30 pm to 7:00 pm). But to be safe, call the gym ahead of time to know when they’re slower hours are.

9. Bring a friend.

If you still feel think that you might be uncomfortable going to the gym for the first time, then just bring a workout buddy. Having a friend with you is a great way to minimize the anxiety of going to the gym.


It can be uncomfortable going to the gym as a newbie. You have to find where everything is and figure out how to use the equipment. But following these 9 suggestions will help you be more comfortable when you go to the gym.


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