10 things I wish I knew when I first started out in the gym
Picture the scene, it’s your first ever day in the gym. You want to be healthier, lose body fat, gain muscle or simply learn a new skill, but you’re not sure where to start out. Here’s 10 things I wish I knew when I first stepped into the gym…
1. LEARN TO MOVE PROPERLY FIRST
By this I mean prioritise mobility. Learn to move your joints safely in their full range of motion before you start worrying about adding weights to your routine. Being mobile is a crucial part of being healthy and will serve you well as you progress in the gym. Next time you’re in the gym, try these 3 moves during your warm up to help improve your mobility.
Top tip: spend more time getting up off the floor
2. BE CONSISTENTLY GOOD, NOT OCCASIONALLY BRILLIANT
Try to eat more vegetables, drink more water, aim to have enough sleep and avoid drinking too much alcohol or foods high in sugar for most of the week. All of these elements could make a big difference to whether or not you hit your fitness goals but also to how you feel both physically and mentally. Don’t worry about trying to have the perfect diet and training regime from the start but just start to have a go by making small improvements. Think about your daily habits and try asking yourself: What’s one thing you’re doing daily that you could tweak to help you get closer towards your goals? How can you make it so that change you can stick with it over time? Remember, being repeatedly good with your training and nutrition is far better than sometimes being amazing. So if you skipped a workout and had that extra slice of pizza, don’t worry. Just pick things back up and keep the progress rolling.
Top tip: Find someone to be accountable to, a coach, a spouse or a training buddy
3. YOU PROBABLY DON’T NEED MOST SUPPLEMENTS
This may be a bold statement to claim but I can think of many times where I had fallen victim to the flashy advertisements and endless promises. However, after researching supplements myself, I found there are many supplements out there that lack the evidence to support their use so I would suggest doing your research and making a decision before buying into the first thing that you see on the shelf. At the end of the day a supplement should only be there to ‘supplement’ an already well rounded training and nutrition protocol. If you’re without this, time and money would be better spent prioritising the basics.
Top tip: Examine.com is the No.1 resource for unbiased information on supplements, check it out to weigh up if the cost outweighs the benefits you’re going to reap
4. RECOVERY IS KING
Contrary to what you might think, a lot of the benefits you get from exercise actually happen outside of the gym. Recovery is key for ensuring that you can sustain movement and therefore progress. So don’t feel the need to be hitting the gym 7 times a week, each person is different and ultimately able to handle different training loads. Master the art of listening to your body and knowing when it’s the right time to take a step back.
Top tip: Maximising the quality of your sleep would be my first recommendation.
5. YOU’RE MORE THAN LIKELY GOING TO FAIL AT SOME POINT, BUT THAT’S OKAY
At some point in time along your fitness journey things might not be going to plan. It may be that you’re not seeing the results you expected or that goal of learning to Olympic lift just isn’t going the way you thought it would. Don’t worry, we all fail from time to time, it’s part of the learning process. Just see it as a minor setback and then reassess your options from there. Ask yourself what you can do differently. Is there someone who can help you with whatever it is you’re looking to achieve?
Top tip: If it’s a new skill you’re looking to learn, hire a coach. See this as a short term investment with long term benefit
6. I SHOULD USE KETTLEBELLS MORE
For me a good training plan should have 5 main components. Movements where you: push something, pull something, squat something, hinge with something and carry something. The kettlebell ticks all of these boxes, and whilst it is important that you perform these exercises with the correct technique, using a kettlebell makes for an all-round enjoyable experience. Almost every gym will have kettlebells nowadays, so give them a try next time you’re in.
Top tip: Try 10 Swings > 5 goblet squats > 5 press ups (repeat 5-10 times with a challenging weight)
7. THE BEST DIET IS THE ONE YOU CAN STICK TO
You could have the world’s best nutrition plan written up for you by the most experienced dietician in world, but if you can’t sustain this new approach then it’s pretty useless in my eyes. The word ‘diet’ gets thrown around a lot these days - it’s assumed you have to buy into a certain belief system to be successful. Clean eating, Atkins, macro counting, ketogenic are all popular fat loss diets with different applications. However, they all share one fundamental principle for success, and that is they are all simply aiming to get you eating less. Don’t think that you have to buy into one approach or another. Ultimately the most successful diet for you is the one which you enjoy the most and can see yourself sticking to in the long term.
Top tip: If a diet approach if what you’re looking for, do some research first and see if any appeal to you. Don’t be swayed by what has worked for other people
8. FEELING SORE DOESN’T MEAN YOU’VE HAD A GOOD WORKOUT
You may have come across the saying ‘no pain, no gain’ in which the pain being referred to here is what we call DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). It’s caused by connective tissue and muscle damage which is usually experienced after you; try something new, lift heavier than normal or simply decide to go “crazy in the gym”. Having DOMS is not a sign of progress and certainly does not indicate how good a workout was - in fact some studies have shown that high levels of muscle damage make you more likely to skip future workouts. So before you go hitting hard at the gym, day in and day out, make sure you listen to your body and give it enough time to rest and recover.
Top tip: Aim to be consistently good, not occasionally brilliant
9. IT’S OKAY TO ASK FOR HELP
Honestly, that’s why we have staff in the gyms. Don’t be afraid to ask for any help regarding your time in the gym, especially if you’re looking to try something new for the first time, we’re more than happy to help.
Top tip: Some PTs offer a free consultation which is a good chance for you to ask us any questions you may have about training and get 1-1 feedback.
10. WALKING IS JUST AS GOOD AS SPRINTING FOR FAT LOSS
You heard it, both walking and running are effective ways to reduce body fat. Sure sprinting is high intensity and you’re more likely to feel like you’ve had a good workout, but walking is easier to sustain and you’re likely to do more of it providing you get out and about. So don’t feel the need to sprint until you’re blue in face to get results. Whatever method you decide to go with should be based on your preferences, current fitness levels, time and sustainability.
Top tip: Use a step tracker, and aim for over 70,000 steps per week.