7 Tips for first-time gym members

A man and a woman ride exercise bikes at the gym.

Like clockwork, the New Year comes and new gym memberships come with it as people vow to work off the excesses of the holidays—and online videos in their basement just aren’t cutting it.

For the uninitiated, gyms can be intimidating. It was hard enough to make the decision to join in the first place, and now you’re committed to working out in public surrounded by people who know what they’re doing.

Fear not. We’ve got some advice to help you blend right in so you can focus on your workout.

1. Know the rules

If you have never stepped foot in a gym before, ask for a tour – some gyms even require one. Use this opportunity to ask any question that comes to mind. Are there time limits, waiting lists or sign-up sheets for popular machines? What about group classes? Does the gym provide towels? How do those machines work? Are there rules for the locker rooms? Do you need a lock?

This is a time when there are no stupid questions. Staff members are not there to judge you, they are there to make it as welcoming as possible. They know the more comfortable you feel, the longer you’re likely to be a paying member.

A personal trainer spots a woman working out on an exercise ball with free weights at the gym.

2. Free trainer session? Do it!

In addition to a tour, many gyms offer at least one free session with a personal trainer. Whether you have any intention of using one regularly or not, you should take advantage of this. It’s another great time to ask questions about the workings of the gym and machines in addition to your personal work out.

As someone new to serious workouts, they can tell you the pitfalls new members often face and give you strategies to avoid them so you can get the most out of your membership.

3. Dress appropriately

The gym likely has a dress code, but you should also use common sense. Dress for comfort and safety—loose clothing can get caught in some machines.

Also, keep in mind that your clothing may move – ride up or ride down – while you’re exercising. That could mean exposing parts of you that you are not comfortable with, and frankly your fellow gym members may not be comfortable with either.

4. Learn to “work in”

This is gym-speak for sharing a machine—one person uses it during the other’s rest period and vice versa. If you are set to use the ab machines, but they are filled with people doing their own reps and rests, ask someone if you can work in.

And if someone asks you, say yes. This works best when you are using similar weight levels so the adjustment time is minimal. This is also key during these busy months after the holidays when the gyms are extra crowded.

5. Keep it clean

Do you want to walk up to a machine that is glistening with the previous user’s sweat? Neither does anyone else. Keep two towels handy during workouts: one for yourself and one to wipe down machines and equipment after each workout.

Most gyms require users to do this and some even have stations with paper towel and spray cleaner to ease the process. You can even carry your own wipes or spray bottle to ensure a clean machine.

6. Stay healthy

You can drive yourself crazy thinking about what germs, viruses or bacteria you may encounter at a public gym, but a few basic precautions go a long way.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes while you’re on the gym floor. A water bottle is key during workouts, but use one that doesn’t require frequent touching to open and close—like a squeeze bottle. And don’t touch it to your mouth when drinking, instead squirt it into your mouth.

Wash your hands the minute you get to the locker room and avoid walking around barefoot. If you use the showers, flip flops or other shower shoes are a must.

A line of treadmills at the gym wait for new gym members after New Year's resolutions.

7. Be aware

This basically encompasses all the other suggestions and then some. Be aware of others around you and how your actions may adversely affect them. Following all posted rules is a great start.

Some people are serious about form during workouts and need to check their positions in the mirror – don’t block their view. Also watch where you’re walking to avoid invading someone’s space or distracting someone during an intense workout.

Using free weights? Make sure you have enough room to move your arms without putting others in danger. (And don’t block access to the rest of the weights – move away from the rack to use them so others can get to them.) When you’re done, make sure you return them to the rack. That goes for cables, resistance bands or other equipment, too.

Regulars: Be kind

These tips should get newbies started on the right foot when they walk into the gym. If you’re veteran gym rat facing the annual influx of January gym-goers, try to have patience. Remember, you were new once, too!

Extra tips

5 Comments

  • Terry says:

    Nice blog! Thanks for such amazing tips! Although I love attending yoga classes in glendale but my elder son who is turning 20 next month is interested in joining a gym. These tips will help me a lot to enroll him as I don’t have not much experience about gym sessions.

  • Jarred says:

    Great useful tips. Gym members often find the pulling, tugging and spraying of conventional cleaning products a very annoying task Promote a clean gym environment. I tried many brand gym wipes and sprays but none of the wipes works well for me. Now I’m using biodegradable natural bamboo antibacterial gym wipes that ticks all my boxes. Here I got great useful tips to make my own gym spray. Sure Will try and let you know the result. Thanks for sharing.

  • Marcus says:

    Excellent advice thank you very much. Please keep the good value coming.

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