The Beginner’s Guide to the Gym

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Use these handy tips to get the most from your gym and to avoid the most common gym mistakes. From what to wear to locker room etiquette, we’ve got it all covered.

Coronavirus & Gym

The risk of transmitting the virus is greater indoors than in large outdoor spaces where you can safely and effectively social distance. Outdoors you can run, walk, cycle or otherwise exercise for extended periods without coming into close contact with others. However, this is not going to happen at the gym. Furthermore, during exercise, breathing becomes heavier, which may increase the range of infectious droplets and increase the risk of either transmitting or catching Covid-19.

A recent study suggested that it may even be necessary to socially distance between 5 and 20 meters (depending on how fast you’re going and direction of travel) while running, walking, and biking.1

Research also shows that aerosolized droplets containing the COVID-19 virus may remain airborne for up to three hours according or more.2,3 This is problematic for confined indoor spaces with unmasked people and poor or inadequate ventilation.

Follow the guidelines in your area. This may still include wearing a mask, limiting contact with others, social distancing, and keeping a prescribed distance apart.

1. Before you join

Before you sign your name on the dotted line and part with your hard-earned cash, take a good look around the facility you are about to join. Consider this as a pre-mission reconnaissance.

Scope out which locker rooms you should be using, whether you need to bring your own sweat towel or if one is provided, if you need a padlock for your locker and any other useful tidbits of information. Forewarned is forearmed as they say!

2. The right workout gear

You don’t need to spend a fortune on your workout wardrobe (although you can if you want), but make sure you have right clothing for the gym.

Workout clothes should be snug enough not to snag on everything you walk past but not so tight they are restrictive. Layers of clothing are always a good idea so you can vent as you heat up.  Wear proper workout shoes that are right for the activity you are going to be doing.

Remember to launder your workout clothes between gym visits, as gym clothes can get very smelly due to the sweat and bacteria from your body.

Read more: How to choose the right workout clothes

3. Don’t skip orientation

Most gyms offer an introductory session to help familiarize you with the general layout of the gym and a basic explanation of how the gym equipment works. This may be done on a 1-to-1 or as part of a group but, either way don’t skip this appointment.

You’ll get a ton of information, so that next head to the gym you’ll be far more confident and you’ll have a better idea of the lay of the land.

4. Use your free session with the personal trainer

If your new gym offers an introductory workout with a personal trainer or gym instructor then take it! It’s free! This will save you from only using the few machines you actually recognize and will give you purpose.

The personal trainer will probably create a basic workout to get you started and will help get you on your way to becoming a bona fide gym member. Your new instructor will explain how to perform the exercises in your workout but don’t worry if it’s too much to remember – most good gyms provide an exercise program sheet with everything you need written down. Stick with this program for a couple of weeks before branching out on your own.

5. Ask for help

If you don’t know or have forgotten how to perform an exercise or how to use a machine, ask someone for help. Ask a gym instructor and then, if they aren’t available, one of your fellow gym user who looks like they have a couple of minutes to kill.

6. Wipe on, wipe off

Always wipe down benches and seats after you have used them and, better still, sit or lie on a gym towel to prevent leaving a puddle in the first place. Better for you, and better for whoever follows you. In the era of coronavirus, you should also wipe down equipment before using.

7. Share

Try not to monopolize any of the equipment. If you’re doing a lot of sets of a particular exercise, let other people use the same equipment during your rest periods. This is called “working in” i.e. letting someone work in with you.

Keep a look out for people eying your bench, bar or cardio machine enviously. Also, feel free to ask to work in with other users. Don’t reserve a piece of equipment with your gym towel and then wander off and chat at the water cooler for ten-minutes.

8. Peak hours

At peak times some gyms may have restrictions on how long you can use equipment such as the treadmill and elliptical machine.

An one hour workout on popular cardio machinery is generally not a good idea at peak hours, if other folks are waiting to get on.

9. Watch the noise

Shouting may be acceptable on the tennis court, but not so much in the gym. If you are a gym newbie you shouldn’t be doing a workout that tough anyway. Also, don’t forget you’re in public. When your favorite song comes on, it’s easy to forget where you are and start singing along.

10. Clear up

Once you have finished with a piece of workout equipment, put it back where you got it from unless someone else wants to use it straight after you. Also, strip down your barbells and put the plates back on the storage rack.

3 sources

  1. Blocken, B., Malizia, F., van Druenen, T. and Marchal, T., 2020. Towards aerodynamically equivalent COVID19 1.5 m social distancing for walking and running. Questions and Answers. Website Bert Blocken, Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and KU Leuven (Belgium).  http://www. urbanphysics. net/COVID19. html
  2. Van Doremalen N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, Holbrook MG, Gamble A, Williamson BN, et al. Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med. 2020;382:1564-7.
  3. Fears AC, Klimstra WB, Duprex P, Weaver SC, Plante JA, Aguilar PV, et al. Persistence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Aerosol Suspensions. Emerg Infect Dis 2020;26(9).

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