The Beginners Guide To The Gym

The Beginners Guide To The Gym

I avoided the gym for entirely too long. I was afraid of it. You see, I’m the type of person who isn’t too fond of the spotlight and I’m just generally uncomfortable when others focus on me.

When I’m at the gym, don’t look at me and don’t even think about talking to me.

The first time I went to the gym I went with Josh. He showed me how to use machines that looked like medieval torture devices (in some ways that’s not too far from the truth.)

But I’m thankful I had someone to show me a couple things so I didn’t look completely stupid and lost, which is what I was afraid of. I went with him a couple times before I was ready to join a gym that was closer to my work at the time. I eased into it and I did what I already knew, because yanno don’t wanna draw attention to myself. And I watched people. I watched people use machines and the free weights which was super helpful for me to learn. Thanks fellow gym goers you’re great teachers.

So I’m a little extreme and maybe you’re not as anxious as I was, but we are all different and have to start somewhere, amirite? I created this beginners guide to the gym to help those of you who are intimidated by the gym just like I was.

Choose a gym.

Duh. Find one. Do research. When will you go, what are the hours, how much does it cost, does it have child care, what other amenities, etc. you know what you need, you’ll find the right one.


Make a Plan.

Don’t just go to the gym without any workouts mapped out, especially if you’re a gym newbie. Things could easily get overwhelming if you don’t have an idea of what to do.

Get a notebook and write down what exercises you plan on doing. I do this and I also have a few “backups”. I always have something extra written down because if a machine that you want to use is taken, what are you going to do instead?

Are you going to use machines or free weights?

I would advise total beginners to start with machines. This will allow you to practice good form and build up strength.

When you use free weights, you’re working harder because you have to force your muscles to keep the weight stable. Machines keep it stable for you.

When I first got started in the gym, I did an upper body and lower body split. Meaning, I worked out my body from the waist up on one day, and the next I worked out from the waist down.

You definitely don’t have to do it this way, but it’s not a bad idea for beginners.

Many lifters have a routine called “Push/Pull/Legs”. This is what I’m doing currently as well.

On push days the muscles worked are the ones you use when you push. Wow is that the best way to explain that or what? Push days are typically chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Pull days are back and biceps.

And leg days are.. You guessed it! Legs! aka.. the best workout day all week. I’m sure some beg to differ.

Leg days target the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.

However you choose to plan your workouts, just remember to rest each muscle group for at least a couple days  to recover fully before working out those muscles again. Many people are eager to get back in the gym to hit legs two days in a row.. I mean, that was just me.

But don’t do that. Your body needs time to repair the muscle and working out the same muscle too soon risks your body not recovering properly.



How to use machines.

So, as a newbie, you probably need to learn how to operate those machines right? Well, the best thing I can tell you to do other than physically showing you, is to do one of a few things.

  • Ask someone. If you’re the type to do those things. I am definitely not, so I learned in other ways.
  • Watch other people use them.
  • Read the actual instructions on the machine. They should be there somewhere.
  • Google the name of the machine or hop on YouTube and watch a tutorial.

Do NOT use a machine blindly. Always be safe, don’t try to do something if you’re not sure how.

Take it slow.

Don’t push yourself too hard in the beginning. Start out with 2-3 strength training workouts and some cardio. You will probably be sore for a few days after you start lifting, but that’s normal. It means you did something right.

But don’t go too hard or heavy. I took some time off from the gym before and when I went back I tried to lift as much as I was previously. But the few days following I was unable to stand up because my legs hurt so effing bad.

My body just wasn’t ready to take on that much weight as it had before. I lost some strength and muscle during my time off, and yes it does take time for everyone who falls off track to get back on. It’s not just beginners.

You’ll be able to lift heavier for longer as you get stronger. So be patient. You will get there!


Cardio or weights first?

Weights first.

Save your strength to lift. I don’t want to spend 20 minutes on the elliptical and then have a crappy strength training session because cardio wore me out.

If you’re tired after cardio, you might end up with bad form when you lift, and therefore you could risk injury.

Ladies! Is the weight room just full of a bunch of dudes? Don’t let that discourage you. Here are six reasons women should lift weights.


Gym Anxiety.

Are you nervous about going to the gym? After all, there are going to be a lot of other people there. I know how you feel completely! I was totally shy and anxious about going to work out around other people. I mean, what if people laugh at me? What if I do something stupid? What if people think I don’t know what I’m doing?

Okay, first, get those thoughts OUT OF YOUR HEAD! I am going to tell you right now that 99% of those people you are worried about, are not going to pay any attention to what you’re doing. Those other people are at the gym for a reason, and I bet you it’s not to make fun of other people. Why pay a membership to do something like that? And on the off chance that someone does, do your best to ignore them. You are trying to better yourself and that person clearly is not.

My favorite thing wear at the gym that says “leave me alone” is a hat and a huge pair of headphones. It works wonders!

Gym Etiquette.

I will assume that you are a civilized person with common sense, so I’m not going to go over gym etiquette. Just remember to be mindful and courteous to those around you. And don’t forget to wipe down the machine when you’re done. (Look around for spray bottles and paper towels, they’re definitely there. If not, hightail it outta there and find a new gym bc other people’s sweat.. ew.)

I hope this beginners guide to the gym eases your mind about going to the gym. Once you start going and get into a routine, you’re gonna feel like you own the place. Trust me on that one.


Did I miss any good tips? What type of advice would you offer a beginner? If you are a beginner, what is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received?


  1. Alisha
    November 8, 2019 / 11:26 am

    Thank you for helping this sista out!! I’m determined to lose my baby weight.. (my daughter is 4 ?‍♀️) but I always feel like gyms are superrrr awkward and sketch. But I just got myself a gym membership so here we go!

    There’s no day like today-

    • Ariel
      November 10, 2019 / 3:24 pm

      I felt the exact same way as you did! Don’t worry, it definitely won’t last long. You got this!

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