It’s Your First Time? Afraid? Read This! Gym Virgin’s Survival Guide!

Jeff Baldelli
Written by
Last update:

My First Time at the Gym Story

I was terrified of going to the gym as a teenager. All I could think about was the stereotypical meathead with his t-shirts with vulgar slogans, his obnoxious bragging, and disgusting body odor.

I had no idea how wrong I was.

Once I joined the gym, I was in for a pleasant surprise. I found a very friendly environment where everyone would ask the same questions “ "How long have you been lifting? How much do you bench? What do you lift?"

I was surprised to see that it was a lovely mix of people … people of all ages and genders. There are three things I have taken from my rather short tenure in the gym:

Don’t focus on people. Focus on yourself.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Just do your own thing. People are there to better themselves, not improve their number on the shirt. You have a unique body which will respond differently to the same exercises, depending on your genetics and diet. Exercise regularly. Stay hydrated and eat right.

Don’t work for the mirror

Be the Man (or Woman) With a Plan!

For most people trying to get into the gym for the first time, the hardest part is getting yourself out of the door and into the gym.

Once you get there, though, you must learn how to survive and how to get the most out of your time there. Just have a plan and it will be MUCH easier.

Do you have a plan yet?

If not, we’ve got you covered. Check out this article for the most important things to know when you enter the gym for the first time.

Once you know what to expect at the gym, read up on what makes a good workout plan. Knowing exactly what you’re doing will really help you make the most out of your time.

Next, take a look at some tips for picking the right workout.

Now that you know what you’re getting into and how to make your workouts more effective!

The Best Cardio Exercises

That you have the desire to exercise, and you know how you can make it more effective is great. You only need a few techniques to really get the ball rolling.

What are the best cardio exercises for you?

Technically, any physical activity performed at a sufficient intensity and for a long enough duration to increase your heart rate and make you sweat a bit can be considered cardio.

Do your Homework

It makes sense that if a muscle is weak or out of shape, training that muscle won’t be as effective as it would be for someone with a higher baseline fitness.

This is the reason why many coaches and trainers create “acclimatization” phases for new athletes or clients when they start training. This involves light training with a variety of exercises and levels of effort before beginning the heavy stuff.

Money is the same way. You have to get used to it. Just like any exercise program, the world has a learning curve. Before you dive into investing, be it for your retirement or to earn money, make sure you understand the risks and rewards. You don’t wanna burn any bridges before you even get the chance to swim across.

When you have a little experience behind you, only then are you ready to start taking on bigger risks. This strategy applies to relationship investing all the way up to seasoned professional investors.

Learn to Be Consistent

Building anything in life has a bit of a trial-and-error process. While this is absolutely true for financial literacy, there are some things that you can do to help you along the way.

One of the most important things you can do is build a set plan of action and make sure you follow through with it.

What to Do in the Gym First Time: A Simple Sample Workout Routine

There are a few things that we suggest you do if you have no experience with exercising or are worried about how or where to start.

Your first time in the gym, start with a sensibly paced cardio workout. If you have no experience with exercising, then start with a slow, short jog on a treadmill for a warm-up. When you’re ready, make sure that the treadmill is set to a moderate speed and increase it while maintaining a gentle jog.

Should you feel too lightheaded, stop the treadmill and stand still for a few moments. if you still feel lightheaded after a few moments, then slowly walk the treadmill at a low speed (not at a jog). Make sure the treadmill is set to a low incline. When you feel that you can jog without feeling lightheaded, use the treadmill as a cardio machine to perform the intervals.

For the intervals, we recommend doing a fast jog followed by a slow jog. The fast jog should be at a light jog, and the slow jog should be a normal jog, not a slow walk. We suggest aiming to maintain a 2:1 speed ratio (fast:slow). An example, if you average a speed of 8 mph, make the fast jog at 4 mph and the slow jog at 3 mph, although this entirely depends on your experience and fitness level.

Beginner’s Anxiety Free Full Body Weightlifting Routine

Looking to start weightlifting at home but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you already have a routine but don’t know how to add weight to certain exercises? Perhaps you’re just confused by all the different exercises out there. Whatever the reason may be, our guide lays out the key basics to training as a beginner and how to safely progress.

Make Some Friends

One of the greatest motivators to stick with your new workout routine is the opportunity to interact with others who are also committed to their own routines.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to make friends who also want to get in shape is to join a group class. The most popular have been yoga studios, but growing interest in more intense workout programs like CrossFit have led to tons of options for those who want to get sweaty on their mats in an environment with other people who are eager to kick their own butts into shape.

What makes group classes so effective is that accountability is built into the structure. Whether you work with a personal trainer or get a group plan, you will be working with someone who will help you see your first results faster than trying to do it alone.

Do It Right and Don’t Worry about Splurging

The fitness-focused world can be quite intimidating, especially for the beginner.

How often should I perform this routine?

Depending on your goals, fitness level and the training program you follow, you may perform this routine 1-2 times, or even 3-5 times a week.

How Do I Get the Best Results from This Routine?

There’s one key tip that you should follow.

Caloric Deficit

That means try to stick to a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories below your maintenance level. Timing is also important when doing these routines since the main objective is to promote weight loss.

Apart from that, “Caloric Restriction Associated with a Given Level of Adiposity Lowers Telomerase Activity and Shortens Telomeres in Mononuclear Cells Derived From Blood.”

Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes at the ends of chromosomes that shorten every time a cell divides. They are essentially an indicator of biological aging. The more you train, and the more intense the training, the more times your body goes through the cell-replication processes that result in this breakdown.

Thus, be sure to make this routine a part of your lifestyle and eat healthy for the duration of the routine to get the best results.

First-time Tip: Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. This way, you learn new things and will have fun while doing it.

Tips for Going to the Gym for the First Time

If you’ve never set foot in a gym, you might be a little intimidated by the variety of equipment and number of people you see working out.

Every beginner is different, so we tried to make a list of tips for any occasion. We divided the list into pre-workout, when you’re actually on the gym floor, and post-workout.


Dress to the nines. You wouldn’t think of eating at a fancy restaurant in sweatpants and a baggy T-shirt, so don’t think of heading to the gym in workout clothes that you threw on at 7 AM while you were eating your breakfast. This doesn’t mean that you need to get in your poshest suit, but at least wear pants and a button-up shirt, maybe with a sweater on top. For women, it’s best not to wear heels. They’re sexy, but some gyms have tiles or flooring that’s terrible for heels.

Do what you Love

The biggest myth you may have heard about going to the gym is that you should never work with weights unless you hate some muscle groups. Instead, you should focus entirely on giving your muscles a ton of attention. For instance, if you want to work your legs, you should be doing squats, lunges, and deep squats.

That being said, the entire idea is to tone your muscle. If you make your muscles bigger and stronger, they will primarily be toned.

As a way to test this, go to the gym for two weeks, and see which exercises you prefer: bodyweight exercises like crunches, or weights. If you can, record your weights/sets/reps and compare the numbers from week one to two. You may find that you prefer a certain style that works for you! Doing what we love is great for making sure we stick with it in the long term!

Go at Your Own Pace

In general, someone who is new to the gym is trying to cram in as much as they can as soon as possible. While they may be trying to get in better shape, they end up short-changing their body in the process.

This initial excitement is a good thing, but they need to also take some time to learn how to do an exercise. Don’t take this to the extreme, but don’t rush to get it done.

Shower and Dress at Home

A lot of people are afraid to step into the gym for the first time, but it can be just as intimidating for fitness instructors. After all, they have to teach you a complete workout in a short period of time! This usually leads to the most common question from first-time gym goers: “How do I avoid embarrassing myself?”

While you can never completely avoid embarrassing yourself (let’s be honest, you’ll be out of your element when you step into the gym), you can take steps to limit the effect.

First things first: before you get to the gym, take a few minutes to go to the bathroom and change into your workout clothes. This way, you won’t be messing around with your clothes in front of other people.

TIP: Most gyms will have a selection of baggy workout T-shirts and shorts that you can borrow. Use these, and you’ll save yourself the hassle of having to go home and change when your clothes get wet.

Next, shower before you leave home. We’re not saying you have to take an hour-long shower, but throwing together a sweaty, half-hearted rinse will probably make for a frustrating experience.

I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

If that’s what you’re thinking right now, then just think of it from this point of view: you have to socialize at the gym. What’s the worst that happens?

Talk to the person next to you while you’re doing exercises. It may come up that she’s taking a spinning class, and you can ask him the instructor’s name.

You feel uncomfortable about doing a certain exercise? Then just choose a different one. You don’t have to exercise in a certain way. The time you keep will be the same and you’ll be safe.

Just don’t be passive. Exercise with good energy. Don’t hide away all workouts.

How Do I Deal with the Noisy People?

If you’re in an exercise class, then you’ll have to deal with other people working out around you. People are free to enjoy the exercise, but some people can really hog the spotlight.

Newbie Tip 1: Timing is Everything

Timing is key. In order to optimize the benefits of your cardio sessions, you should try to schedule them in a way that has the least interference with your daily life. Interruptions in your workout can not only make you train less effectively, but in some cases, can even be detrimental. Leave time for the thinking that you need for answering email or the creative process that happens while writing a blog post, but not while you workout.

Is It Too Hard?

Don’t quit when you’re sweating your butt off! If you make laziness a reason for not exercising, then you’re going about it the wrong way.

Don’t underestimate the power of intervals and resistance training to help you lose weight. Start slow and focus on your routine. Before you know it, you’ll be kicking ass at the gym…ha, get it?

No? Good.

My Body Broke before but now I’m Back

In the last six months, I did more exercise than in the last five years. And I did it without even noticing it. There are four reasons for that:

I didn’t quit. Never give up on yourself.

Newbie Tip 2: Gym Reconnaissance

When you go to the gym for the first time, you’ll forget a lot of things, from the rules to the machines you may need to use.

Admiring the pretty gym bunny may have already gotten the better of you, but you need to stay focused.

You’ll be far more likely to go back to the gym again if you’re not struggling with complex machines.

Know the Gym Rules

Many gyms have rules that you need to follow, such as wearing certain gear when working out in some areas, the appropriate forms of etiquette, and the ways you can use certain pieces of equipment.

Signs announcing the gym rules are usually posted in big, bold letters throughout the gym. If you are ever unsure, just ask a personal trainer or fellow gym-goer.

If you have a club membership, you can usually access their website to access the rules. You’ll also probably get a handbook with your membership, so be sure to read it and study it.

The last thing you want on your first visit is to be stared at by other gym-goers for doing something inappropriate.

What to Bring to the Gym First Time?

The first time you go to the gym, you’re bound to be a little nervous. Don’t let that fear intimidate you, however. Many people get stuck thinking that they need to get in the best shape of their lives before they step into a gym. This isn’t true. Everyone at the gym has something to offer, and you are not competing with anyone but yourself.

In fact, you should hang out by the new person area for a little while and strike up a conversation.

Here is what you should bring to the gym with you the first time you go to use the equipment and work on your cardio strength:

A notebook (to take notes during your first workout and track your progress)

A message stick (whatever motivates you to keep going like choosing a song or a picture on your cell phone. It can be anything from a smiley picture of your best friend to a picture of your dog. Just don’t make it that annoying tinny sound that plays every time you get an iMessage. People will start to avoid you.)

What to Wear to the Gym for the First Time?

For any beginner, the first time they enter the gym can be incredibly daunting and intimidating.

The key to enjoying yourself and making that first gym experience a success is to think of the gym as a fun, exciting experience rather than the scary, awkward situation that it can appear to be. The gym is a space where you can get away from your troubles, exercise, make new friends, and find support.

Therefore, it’s very important to see yourself as a participant in the gym rather than the gym as a place where you are merely an observer or outsider.

Another fear that keeps guilty gym novices in the shadows of the gym instead of acknowledging their presence is that they are afraid of looking ridiculous in front of others. The truth is that everyone has felt the same way at some point, and it’s perfectly normal. Just take comfort in knowing that everyone else may be feeling some of the same anxiety about working out in a new area, as well.

Though you may think that you look silly, the other people in the gym won’t judge you. Instead, they are too busy concentrating on their goals and getting the work done!

On that note, don’t let the fear of judgment by others take you all the way to the couch where you can safely avoid sweating with others.

Shoes Matter!

Alright folks, so you’ve hit your local gym! Just before you run off to your favorite workout, however, you might want to stop and read this bit:

Your shoes are probably the most important thing to invest in along your journey to becoming fit. We cannot stress this enough.

We’re talking serious investment here. While you may be excited to make some cool new friends or to find the perfect spot in the gym to catch a nap, don’t forget to invest in a good pair of workout shoes.

The reason why we’re so adamant about this is because your shoes will affect your whole body in every workout. Whether you’re running, walking, cycling, or lifting, your shoes will be used in an extremely active role.

So, why not choose the best they have to offer?

Not only will they provide some major support for your feet, they’ll also help you push on harder, gain ground over your competition, and prevent unnecessary injuries!

Some common injuries that can be prevented with proper shoes include:

No Curling in the Squat Rack, and Other Unwritten Gym Rules

Wrapping up

So, if you were wondering how to get in shape, what do you think now? If you were looking for an effective way to get fit, then you’ve definitely come to the right place.

Although interval training might sound like the ultimate way to get fit, keep in mind that there are plenty of other effective ways to get yourself in gear, including HIIT, walking, rowing, and cycling as well.

Regardless, the most important thing that you can do when you find yourself looking for the perfect way to get fit is to make sure you stay consistent.

If you keep this in mind, and you stay positive and push yourself, you can expect to find yourself living a healthier, more productive lifestyle in no time.

What fitness routine or workout are you currently using? Which one do you want to try? Let us know! [col-half]

NOTE: A lot of you might be familiar with Tabata Interval Training. It’s the original interval training method introduced back in 1966, but with updated features. So, yes, there is a little bit of Tabata in this interval training guide. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.