We all remember that nervous feeling on your first day – whether you were clutching your Mum’s hand in primary school, or braving your very first day on a brand new job. Joining the gym for the very first time can be very similar if you don’t know what to expect.
We’re here to help.
This is what to expect at the gym when it’s your first time:
- First, you’ll be signing up with a trainer and asking any questions
- Next, you’ll do an initial screening to assess your current health
- Then, you’ll complete an introductory session and tour of the facility
- Finally, you’ll do your first workout!
Today, we’ll be breaking down what it will be like on your very first day at the gym, from the first time you walk in the door, to the aches you will feel the day after.
We hope this will help you feel a little more at ease.
Let’s dive right in.
Here’s what to Expect at the Gym on your First Day
- The majority of the time, joining up and getting started in the gym is a really positive, simple experience. However, you want to go in prepared and knowing what you want beforehand.
- Signing up can take between 15-60 minutes. You will need to provide your basic exercise and medical history and reasons for joining the gym so that your trainer can help you form a clear understanding of your starting point, and plan out a safe and enjoyable journey to your destination.
- Introductory personal training sessions is a FREE service most gym offer. This typically consists of a series of questions followed by a few simple measurements, tests and exercises. Your trainer will then use the information gathered during this session to prescribe and walk you through an exercise program specific to your needs.
- The first step to a positive first day at the gym is preparation. You want to prepare your clothes, food and water the night before to minimise the chance of any surprises ruining your day. This allows you to focus on simply getting to the gym, smashing your session and getting home.
Congrats – You’ve done it!
You have finally done it.
You have pulled the pin and decided to join the gym.
Whether this is the start of the new year and a new you…
Or summer is coming and you are ready to look your best. This is a massive first step to getting to your goals.
Today, we’ll be providing you with a play by play, A-Z manual of what to expect when joining and getting started at the gym.
Just FYI, every gym is different. Commercial, chain gyms will often offer less support than dedicated group fitness gyms. Therefore, this article serves as a general guide and shouldn’t be taken as gospel.
Go in Prepared
The majority of the time, joining up and getting started in the gym is a really positive, simple experience.
However, you want to go in prepared and knowing what you want. And remember you have the power.
So many people go into joining a gym blind and leave themselves vulnerable to salespeople.
Common questions you might want to consider asking when you get there are:
- When is the gym typically busiest and quietest?
- Do you offer personal training and how does it work?
- Do you offer introductory sessions, and can you design and walk me through a program?
- What are all the costs involved in this membership?
- Is there a contract I can look over before I sign up?
If anything feels off about the scenario or you feel pressured, there is nothing wrong with taking some time to think about it.
If the staff member tries to convince you they’re offering you an unbeatable price that’s only available today, it’s definitely not true. You can always take some time to think about it, visit other gyms to weigh up your options to make a final decision at a later date.
Once you’ve made your decision to join, signed, and paid (if applicable), you’ll then have to provide your basic personal details, age, date of birth etc…
Then you will begin to delve deeper into your medical, exercise history and why you decided to join.
Why is this?
Like we have said many times before, you can’t start a journey without knowing where you are starting.
This information allows the gym staff gauge your level of experience and coordination and any possible risk factors which may need to be monitored while you are training in the gym.
It’ll allow trainers to more accurately recommend or prescribe exercises for you and help you establish goals.
This will make your gym experience safer and more beneficial for you, the trainers and other gym members.
This will commonly be followed by a brief tour of the gym facilities and basic functions of the gym, e.g. house rules, location of the toilets, showers, fire exit, how to enter.
More importantly, this is the time where you will be walked around showing off the different exercise equipment.
We recommend using this opportunity to ask if they offer any form of introductory session.
This consists of a trainer helping you identify your goals, writing you an exercise program based on these goals that you can complete while you are at the gym and taking you through your program.
Most gyms do offer basic introductory sessions, so if your gym does, you can read the topic below. If not, skip to ‘what to expect on your first day’.
An introductory personal training session is an excellent way to get your feet wet, without the stress of learning how to swim on your own.
This is typically made up of three parts – Getting to know you, a physical screening & program show.
Depending on your gym, an introductory session may involve some exercise, so make sure you know ahead of time.
Getting to Know You
The trainer will ask you a series of questions about your medical, lifestyle and exercise history.
Then you will begin to delve deeper into the reasoning behind joining the gym.
This is what is commonly referred to in the fitness industry as ‘Finding your why”.
This is an important step to take for the trainer and your trainer to get a clearer understanding in where you want to go with your training and how to keep you motivated throughout.
Understanding what is pushing you forward is the first step to being successful in exercise and at the gym.
What is a physical screening?
Physical screening is series of simple measurements and exercises that trainers can use to identify the strengths, weaknesses and problem areas in your body.
This is a valuable tool because it allows you to see a tangible, measurable starting point in your journey and it allows your trainer to prescribe you specific exercises for you and your needs.
This can be as simple as performing some stretches, and a few basics movements, such as a push up and squat to see how easily you can perform simple movements.
It may also involve body measurements such as limb circumferences and jumping on the scales.
Your trainer will then use this information to write and walk you through an exercise program specific to your needs and capabilities.
This can be during your signing up session or on a separate day, so just in case we recommend you wear light and comfortable clothes and your best runners just in case.
Your First Workout
Plan your first session
The first step to a positive gym experience is preparation.
Taking your first step on your exercise journey can be daunting.
Even the smallest little molehill can seem like a mountain.
So the best thing you can do is focus on what you can control.
You want to be completely prepared for your first workout at the gym, so that all you have to focus on is going in, smashing your first session and going home without distraction or worry.
Firstly, have your workout planned out. A lot of the stress and anxiety of the first day can be figuring out what exercises to do, trying to understand how to work the machines and feeling like everyone in the gym is watching you.
A great way to overcome these hurdles is by trying a class. Or signing up for an introductory session like we previously mentioned. This will help you get a lay of the land. Meet some of your fellow gym members. And help you realise the gym is not quite as scary as it first seemed.
Second, make sure you prepare a balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins and fats prepared to eat before and your session. Recovery is one of the most important parts of exercise. And is often neglected. Take this out of the equation by preparing your food the night before.
Pack Your Bag
Third, pack your gym bag the night before, so that there are no surprises:
- Gym Entry Tag
- Comfortable light clothing
- Your best pair of runners
- Water Bottle
- A small snack for after to kick start your recovery (muesli bar)
Lastly, make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before your first day. To stop you from feeling lethargic. There is nothing worse than getting to the gym and feeling drained before you get started.
You have made it. You have arrived a few minutes early. Giving yourself time to find a parking spot and sit decompress before your session.
Then make your way inside, swiping your gym tag on the way in. You will then be met by service staff with a hello and a smile.
This is the time to check in for your class or if you have any questions you need answering this is the time to do so.
Then walk over find a locker to put your bag. Go to the bathroom. Grab your water bottle and get started.
Taking a Class
Depending on which gym you’ve joined, doing a class on your first day at the gym is an excellent way to take the pressure off.
This is a great way to help you meet the people in your community as well as get some hands-on advice from some of the trainers at your gym.
A class will typically be 30-60 minutes long.
Try and get there a few minutes early to introduce yourself to your trainer, the other class members and ask any questions that you might have about the class or fill you trainer in on any information they might need to know such as injury or illness.
A class will typically consist of a warm up and main workout.
The warm-up is important because it gives you a chance to ease into the session.
The warm-up is also an important time for the trainer. This is because a good trainer can gauge your level of experience, skill and coordination and quickly determine how much extra attention you will need on your first day and how hard they can push you.
The trainer will then go around and explain the class structure and the exercises you will be doing in this class. If you have any questions about technique this is a great time to ask. To avoid getting lost mid-session.
Next comes the main workout.
It is important to remember that this is your first session.
Many people feel out of breath shortly after starting their workout back. Many may take this to mean they are incredibly unfit and need to be ashamed of themselves.
It is easy to look at the other men and women doubling your efforts and feel left behind or inadequate.
However, this is just a natural response to starting exercise.
It is just your body waking up, taking in extra oxygen to supply your muscles with energy.
Remind yourself that they have been coming here for weeks if not more and this is YOUR VERY FIRST DAY!
Find a pace, weight or intensity that is challenging but manageable and stick to it.
There is no point killing yourself trying to keep up and hating it so much you never want to go back.
Congratulations – you have finished your first session.
Training by yourself
Training by yourself. This can be stressful but grab your program and take a seat. You’ve got this.
Look at the different exercise you have to do today.
Then go on a short wonder around the gym having a brief look at what you can use. If all the equipment is being used and you need an alternative or If you don’t know, don’t stress, just ask staff member.
Once you have scouted out your route. Grab a nice bit of space in the open area and start by doing a nice 5-10 RAMP (link) warm up. Use this time to plan your attack on the day.
It is your first day, take it slow.
This first session is more about getting a feel of the movements, building those neural pathways from your brain to your muscles, like switching on the lights after a long time away.
Whether you are taking a stroll on the treadmill or trying your hand at some weights. Start each exercise at a low intensity and high repetitions. This will allow you to focus on learning the movement and mastering the correct technique.
If you find yourself more exhausted then you thought, rest for 2 minutes instead of 1.
Do 2 sets of each exercise instead of 3.
After the workout
Exhausted and relieved, you are finished. Congratulations.
The recovery process begins as soon as you stop working out.
Start by completing the program you have been outlined in your program.
Then you have a 30 minute window after exercising to eat essential nutrients carbs, fats and proteins to effectively recovery. After this 30 minutes your recovery time will be exponentially longer.
An excellent way to do this is a small snack like a protein shake, muesli bar, etc.
Continue to replenish your energy stores by eating that meal you pre-made soon after you get home, with lots of water, and try getting lots of sleep as this is the time when the magic really happens. Giving you body time to heal and grow and get ready for your next session.
The day after you might not be too sore a few aches and pains. Especially if it was a very light session.
Typically first-time gym-goers will be the sorest 2-3 days after their first workout.
The Next Steps
Our 5 steps to your first day(s) at the gym.
Step 1. Sign Up. On your induction day, take notes, a price range and any questions you have make sure you ask them. This is the time to get all your enquiries out of the way.
Step 2. Sign up to a introductory class and get a program that you can complete at the gym and at home. This will equip you with a clear exercise program tailored to your needs and help you establish measurable goals. Getting you started in the right direction.
Step 3. Prepare before your first session. Make sure you have the right clothes, water bottle, towel, questions for your trainer and snack for after training prepared. When you are starting the smallest thing can put you off course. Get ready so that all you have to focus on is working out.
Step 4. Go when it’s quieter and arrive earlier to allow yourself more time to relax and focus on what you are doing without stressing about the people around you or being in a rush., if its classes or training alone this will give you ample time to train, access the machines you need and get help from the trainers. And give yourself plenty of time by arriving early, allowing you to read through your program and ask any questions to your coach before you get started.
Step 5. Ask lots of questions. It is their job to answer questions. Learning is the most important part. It is the only way you will move forward.
Step 6. Eat and drink as soon as you finish. While cooling down. This will help you feel less sick, recovery faster, feel less sore and generally improve your experience and have you ready for round 2. Make sure you get ample sleep and food the following days.