10 The machinery
If you’ve been away from sociable fitness environments for a few years, things have probably changed somewhat. Having used a cross trainer to run backwards for three years, we know the benefit of paying attention at the induction. As the new kid on the block, you can be sure everybody is going to watch your form, and believe us, you don’t want to be known as the person who squats when they should actually be thrusting.
9 Locker room talk
Making new friends with similar fitness goals is one of the peripheral joys of joining a gym. For your fellow gym members, that could be a friendship formed while you’re lying in a broken, sweaty heap, while you’re changing in a locker room or hiding from your trainer in the café. Normal rules of personal boundaries and physical space are not the same in gyms. You have been warned.
8 Buying kit
To blend in and not look like a newbie, it’s advisable to splash out on gym accessories. Irrespective of your body shape, it is obligatory in a gym to wear the kind of tight-fitting, highly reflective activewear made popular by hip-hop backing dancers and Cirque du Soleil gymnasts.
7 Become an expert
It may take a while for you to be able to join in gym conversations at first. Unless, that is, you have the advanced master’s degree in nutritional science and biology required to keep up. Trans fats, glutes, carbs, cardio, burpees, ball crawls, altitude management – it can be confusing. We remember our PE teacher shouting instructions from a megaphone before sitting down on a deckchair to read the newspaper. Modern workouts are more scientific and we’re still not exactly sure what our “core” even is.
6 Brain training
After you’ve worked out a few basics, every action in the gym improves your mind as well as your body. That’s because of the constant calculations running in your head. That five-minute session on the rowing machine earned you a cupcake. You just sprinted 100m at top speed so if you kept that up for around two hours you’d be in with a chance of winning the Olympic marathon. Selecting a treadmill close to the exit means you’ll have less distance to stagger at the end of “legs day”.
5 The group exercise class
If you want to carry on training by yourself, go ahead and do your best. But the motivational boost of working out in a group and making new gym buddies while you’re at it is what’s going to change you from worrier to warrior. Join one of the myriad classes on offer – from T.U.F.F. to TRX – and you’ll find a wobbly newcomer just like you. If you can’t get to grips with the rhythm of the class you can, at least, stand at the back and crack jokes together.
4 Sharing progress
Check the small print of your gym membership contract. We’re not sure about this, but it seems most now have a clause that states you need to share the details of every single workout, stroll and achievement on social media.
3 The competition
You’re training for yourself. It doesn’t matter what other people are doing and, as long as you improve and get healthy, that’s all that matters. Unless you glance at the treadmill next to you and it’s going just a little bit faster than you. In that case, this is a silent battle to the end and you and your neighbouring jogger will keep incrementally increasing your speed by a few clicks until one of you either passes out or falls over. It’s imperative that the competition is never recognised.
2 Exhaustion awaits
Not the I’ve-walked-a-long-way-in-the-mall-today-so-I’m-going-to-sit-in-a-café-and-have-a-coffee exhaustion. More the I-physically-can’t-move-another-muscle-so-will-just-lie-down-on-this-soggy-towel-for-a-while-and-hope-it-stops-aching-every-time-I-blink sort.
1 You’ll love it
Despite all of the above, you’re going to feel terrific. Maybe it’s the endorphins talking, but the newly converted gym member has a twinkle in their eye and a spring in their step. Even when they’re walking backwards.
Will Milner is a regular contributor. He takes a picnic on an exercise bike ride.