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First Time Going To The Gym? 6 Helpful Tips + Sample Workout

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Even thinking about going to the gym for the first time can feel overwhelming and most likely stressful. Many of us feel anxiety about jumping into doing anything new, and stepping foot into that massive room with wall-to-wall machines and weights is up there on the list.

Your first time going to the gym, you may feel insecure about what to do at the gym, what your first time gym workout will look like, and where to even start.

We want you to have an enjoyable first experience as you begin your fitness journey, so we have put together tips for your first time going to the gym and advice about what you should do at the gym starting out.

More specifically, we will discuss:

  • First Time Going To The Gym? What To Wear
  • What To Do On Your First Day
  • First Time Gym Workout: What To Do At The Gym
  • 6 Tips For Your First Workout
An empty gym.

First Time Going To The Gym? What To Wear

If it’s buying a brand-new outfit that helps motivate you to get in shape, go for it! But you can most likely find some clothes around the house that will work if you don’t want to make the investment.

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with what you wear and that you have complete mobility to move around freely.

Avoid anything loose or hanging that may get caught in a machine, but not too tight to impede your movement. 

Leggings or shorts, along with a tank or tee, should be just fine. You will also need a pair of comfortable sneakers that you can use on cardio machines, such as a treadmill, stair master, elliptical machine, or spinning bike, and on the floor to do weights.

A first time gym goer with a personal trainer.

First Time Going To The Gym? What To Bring

Now that you have your outfit ready for your first time going to the gym, you will need to bring a couple of other items along as well. 

Towel: You will want to carry a small towel around the gym to drape over machines and benches, or, if you are like me while working out, wipe the constant sweat from your brow. 

Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is essential, so carrying around a water bottle, either with your favorite electrolyte sports drink or just plain old water, will be handy during your workout.

Workout Plan: Nowadays, most coaches send workout plans as a pdf, or some gyms use specific applications where they can upload your routines. This means you may need to carry around your cell phone to follow your session for the day and input your information, such as how much weight you lifted or how many reps you did. 

Some gyms may still use workout cards with your plan handwritten on them. If that’s the case, just pick up your card on the way in; no cell phone needed.

Change of Clothes: If you are heading anywhere other than home after your workout, you will most likely want to bring a change of clothes and a shower bag with all of your essentials. 

Lock: You will most likely have access to a locker room but may need to bring your own combination or key lock to keep your belongings stowed away for the duration of your workout.

A personal trainer with two clients throwing a medicine ball back and forth.

What To Do On Your First Day

Now, you’re all set to go, but you’re probably thinking, what and I going to do at the gym?

Sign Up For An Initial Consult 

When signing up at most gyms, you are given an initial consult where they weigh you, take your measurements, talk about your goals, and ideally, even perform some basic mobility and strength tests to see what your current fitness level is. 

They may even accompany you during your first workout.

Whether this is included in your membership or an additional expense, I suggest you take advantage of this meeting to get individualized guidance and learn how to use the equipment at the gym. 

If you do not have access to a consult, we are going to give you a first time gym workout and some great tips for your first time going to the gym, so you feel confident and motivated!

A personal trainer watching a person do a squat.

First Time Gym Workout: What To Do At The Gym

For your first time going to the gym, it’s better to start out with less than more. You don’t want to overdo it on the first day and not be able to move the following morning because of your case of the DOMS

As a beginner, you can use machines when possible.

This will help you perform exercises correctly, with good posture, extra support for your body, and less risk of injury. As you improve, you can integrate moves with free weights into your strength training plan for better functionality and improved muscle imbalances.

Warm-up with 10 minutes of light cardio such as rowing, walking, light jogging, elliptical, spinning, or stairs. This is to warm up your muscles and joints and get your heart rate pumping and ready to work.

For exercises 1 through 6, do 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps of each exercise, depending on your current fitness level. For the planks in exercises 7 and 8, start with 2 to 3 sets of just 20 seconds and see how you do. You’ll want to work your way up to hold each position for 60 seconds.

  1. Leg Press (Machine)
  2. Glute Bridge 
  3. Leg Extension (Machine)
  4. Hamstring Curl (Machine)
  5. Chest Press (Machine)
  6. Pull Down (Machine) 
  7. Full Plank
  8. Side Plank (right side and left side)

Start out with very little weight and take notes of how much you are lifting. The first time going to the gym will take a while to get your bearings, but take your time to ensure you are doing the exercises correctly and with appropriate weight.

A person taking dumbbells from the rack.

6 Tips For Your First Workout

#1: Set Goals

It’s important to know why you are going to the gym.

Do you want to lose weight, improve your strength, enhance your performance in a specific sport, or improve your health in general? Each of these goals will result in different weight training plans geared toward what you are looking to do.

Set out clear goals for yourself and track your progress.

#2: Focus On Technique

I can’t stress enough how important it is to perform gym exercises with proper technique. Using incorrect techniques increases your risk of injury and hinders your progress.

Ask the trainers on the floor to explain the technique of each exercise to you and have them watch you do it to ensure you’ve got it right. 

Suppose the gym doesn’t provide on-the-floor trainers. In that case, you can search for each exercise online or use an app such as Trainerize to watch videos and read step-by-step instructions on the correct technique.

Or, if it comes down to it, the gym machines usually have drawings on them of the different exercises you perform on each one.

Use the mirrors as you work out to ensure you are doing each movement correctly and with excellent posture. 

Take your time with each rep, performing it deliberately. Slow, controlled movements are the way to go. 

A person doing the leg press machine.

#3: Go In With A Plan 

Whether with a personal trainer, a general trainer at the gym, or an app, be sure you go into each session with a clear idea of what to do so you can use your time efficiently and get into a great workout.

#4: Be Familiar With Gym Etiquette

Here are a few basic dos and don’ts for your first time going to the gym.

  • Wipe down your machine after each use, so it’s clean and ready for the next person.
  • Ensure the machine you are going to use is not already in use, and if it is, ask if you can jump in during that person’s rest to get your set in. Sharing machines is common!
  • Like any public venue, if you need to make or take a call, be sure to step outside or somewhere where you won’t be disturbing others and their workouts.

#5: Enjoy All Of Your Gyms Offerings 

Each gym will have a particular setup and will offer different benefits. Inquire about what your gym has to offer, such as group classes. 

Group classes are another great way to start out at the gym. You can enjoy guided classes of your choosing depending on your goals and interests. If you like to dance and are looking for cardio workouts, something like Zumba is a great way to go. 

Some gyms offer group functional training classes or machine instruction if you want to build strength.

Learn to swim, take an energy-packed spinning class, or work on your mobility with some yoga.

Gyms have also gotten very creative, with endless options and schedules in some of the bigger establishments. Try out different options to see what you like the best.

A person smiling while running on a treadmill.

#6: Go With A Friend

Something that can help our pre-gym jitters is taking on the challenge with someone else. Even though gyms are a judgment-free zone, some of us can’t help but feel uncomfortable at times. 

I’ve been going to the same gym for 10 years, and just the other day, when deciding to learn to swim, I felt incredibly nervous about joining the class.

Of course, my nervousness was utterly unnecessary. The instructor and veteran swimmers were welcoming and friendly from the moment I entered the class. 

Having a gym buddy is a great advantage if you need support breaking through the anxiety or a push to stay consistent with your workouts. It’s much more enjoyable to share this journey with someone.

You can celebrate your successes and support each other through the challenging moments. 

The most important thing is to enjoy what you’re doing and feel great about your results. There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of needing to up the weight on a machine or add another set to your workouts.

So, are you ready to get started? When is your first time going to the gym going to be?

We have a bunch of exercise guides and workouts if you need them to get started. Take a look!

Bodyweight Workout 

Upper Body Workout 

Squat Variations

Lunge Variations

Glute Activation Workout 

A Zumba class with people smiling.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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