Content of the material
- The Minimalist Gym Gear Guide
- 4 things to bring (and what not to bring) to the gym
- Follow gym etiquette
- Don’t hog equipment
- Clean up after yourself
- Wear proper workout attire
- Don’t be a creep
- Give people their personal space
- Wear headphones
- Don’t eat in the training area
- Tips for Going to the Gym for the First Time
- Do what you Love
- Shower and Dress at Home
- I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
- Newbie Tip 1: Timing is Everything
- Newbie Tip 2: Gym Reconnaissance
- How to build the gym habit (and make sure you come back again and again)
- What do I need to know about gym etiquette?
- Tech Equipment for Gym
- Stopwatch – A MUST-HAVE!
- Mp3 Player – Extra Dose of Motivation
- 4) Be the right amount of social
- What do I wear?
- 2) No curling in the squat rack
- What To Do At the Gym
- Cardio Equipment
- Free Weights
- Cable Machine
- Stretch Area
- Recent Posts
The Minimalist Gym Gear Guide
If you really think about it there’s only a few things you really need to get the most out of your workouts in terms of gym gear. Knowing that I still believe that it’s an area worth investing some money into so beside giving the basic guide I’ll put in my recommendations:
This guide is split into:
- Workout Gear
- Tech equipment
4 things to bring (and what not to bring) to the gym
Let’s keep this super simple on your first day.
You don’t need a duffel bag filled to the brim with workout gear.
In most cases, all you really need is:
- A gym bag
- A change of clothes & toiletries, if you’re showering at the gym
- Your workout outfit. Shorts or tights and basic sneakers is fine!
- And headphones
That’s about it, for now.
You don’t need mid-workout protein supplements, complicated weightlifting belts or gloves, resistance bands, or anything like that at first.
As you start to advance and specialize in your training, you might start adding some of that stuff in, but for now it’ll only overwhelm you.
Try this: Pack your gym bag the night before, if possible. If you’re 100% ready to go and don’t need to make any decisions about outfits or gear, you’ll be less likely to flake out.
(And check out my complete guide to gym essentials for beginners hitting the gym for the first time.)
Follow gym etiquette
Gym etiquette is the unspoken set of rules at the gym that makes it a pleasant training environment for everyone.
It involves showing courtesy and avoiding behavior that could be hazardous to someone else’s workout.
Most of these things are based on common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to have some clarity, especially if you’re new to this environment.
There are some main rules that apply regardless of where you’re working out:
Don’t hog equipment
If someone asks to work in with you and you know that you’re going to be another 20 to 30 minutes, then share the space or equipment with them in a way that works for both of you.
If you are almost finished and won’t be more than 5 minutes, then it’s generally okay to let them know you’ll be finished very soon and it’ll be all theirs afterward.
Clean up after yourself
Don’t leave sweat on the equipment, and don’t leave equipment you’ve used lying around after you’re finished
Wear proper workout attire
If you’re a male, then you shouldn’t be falling out of your shorts, and if you’re a woman you shouldn’t be falling out of your sports bra or top.
Don’t be a creep
It’s generally uncomfortable to have someone watch you like a TV show while you’re working out, focus on your workout and not on what everyone else is doing
Give people their personal space
It can be dangerous to invade someone’s space while they’re working out and cause you, the person or others to get injured so pay attention to where you’re walking and be mindful of where you choose to exercise
Please don’t bring speakers to the gym and blast your music for everyone to hear. People like to do their own thing in the gym and this can be extremely disruptive.
Don’t eat in the training area
If you need a snack or a bite of something, don’t do it on the gym floor.
Pulling a protein bar out of your bag and taking a bite in between exercises might be fine, but not a whole meal.
It’s distracting and disruptive. Move to the lobby or another area designated for food.
Tips for Going to the Gym for the First Time
Do what you Love
You should do this.
It is almost a dirty word, filled with guilt, expectation and obligation.
Does “should” sound like a word you want to attach to an activity you plan to engage in 3 or 4 times a week on a regular basis.
Listen. I highly recommend you find and do only those activities you genuinely enjoy.
If you spend a half hour on the treadmill, but hate every minute of it and dread going to the gym because of it, it is probably an activity you should drop.
There are many other things you can do at the gym.
Try as many of them as you are comfortable with, you just might surprise yourself.
Remember: Just because you hate a specific exercise, class, or type of routine, does not mean you hate working out. That is defeatist thinking.
Try new things!
Some people like group classes, while others like to workout alone. Some people like fast paced routines, while others like to take their time.
How can you know what you like until you try?
Shower and Dress at Home
If you are new to the gym, and have social anxiety, the locker room s one of the scariest places to be.
It can be shocking for someone who has never set foot in a gym’s locker room.
You will encounter naked people in the locker room, toweling off, getting dressed…walking around.
The showers may not have doors, depending on the gym.
The locker may be crowded too.
If this seems daunting, it might be best to change into your gym clothes at home, and shower at home after your workout.
I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
Every gym newbie on the planet feels they are being watched and judged.
It is all in your head!
Trust me, people at the gym are more concerned with themselves than you.
They are too occupied with their own routine, form, gains etc to even notice you.
Unless you do something spectacular, like drop a load of weights on your chest while bench pressing or something uncouth, like leaving the bench covered in your sweat, it is likely you will not receive undue attention.
People may briefly notice your presence in the gym and even make eye contact, but they will not be focused on YOUR workout, what time you showed up, how much you lift or any of that minutia.
Newbie Tip 1: Timing is Everything
If you are anxious about going, plan to go during off peak hours. Typically mid to late morning.
Or later in the evening, the crowd starts to thin out.
Newbie Tip 2: Gym Reconnaissance
If it is your first time stepping foot in a new gym, scope it out before getting started.
(Almost) everyone at the gym is there to improve themselves, just like you. Even the most built and in-shape folks are there to get better.
They all started from somewhere, many of them started out of shape, and everyone there had their own “first time” gym experience.
How to build the gym habit (and make sure you come back again and again)
Your main goal for your first day is this:
Have a positive experience so you’ll be eager to come back and do it again.
That’s really it.
Having a small goal you can accomplish and feel good about is a great way of doing this. But if you need to start even smaller, start with just getting a tour, chatting with the staff, or reading your favorite book in the lobby.
Anything you can do to make the gym feel like a comfortabe and enjoyable place to be is a win, at first!
Some things I really enjoy doing at the gym:
- Walking on the treadmill and watching YouTube videos, sports highlights, or listening to podcasts
- Soaking in the hot tub
- Treating myself to a fun (but not overly indulgent!) lunch afterwards
These are little treats that keep me going and make visiting the gym enjoyable for me, outside of the actual act of working out itself.
From there, force yourself (kicking and screaming, if necessary) to commit to a certain number of workouts per week. I prefer a hard number like 3, rather than a range like 2-4, because it doesn’t give you an easy excuse to skip days.
Aim to grit through your first couple of weeks, dragging yourself to the gym on time exactly as you planned, making it as enjoyable as possible, and stacking small wins.
If you can manage that for a few weeks, it’ll become a habit before you know it.
What do I need to know about gym etiquette?
If there are rules about masks, follow them, whether everybody else does or not.
If there are wipes and spray bottles around, wipe down anything you sweated on. This includes benches and the seats and handles of machines. Don’t forget to throw the wipe away afterward.
You can also put your towel down on a bench or machine as a sweat barrier.
Whatever you use, put it back when you’re done.
It’s okay to rest a minute, or even a few minutes between sets. (For example, you just did 10 reps of bench press, and now you’re sitting on the bench for a few minutes before you do your next 10 reps.) But don’t take up space any longer than you need to.
If somebody is using a thing you’d like to use, it’s okay to ask them “how many sets do you have left?” and if the answer is a lot, you can ask “Do you mind if I work in?” which means that you’ll take turns using the equipment. If somebody asks these questions of you, be honest about how many sets you have left (it’s okay to make them wait) and say yes to working in if you feel comfortable doing so.
If somebody offers you advice and you don’t know how to react, just say “okay.” If the advice is about following a gym rule, follow the rule. If it’s about how to properly use equipment, like adjusting a safety setting, take their advice. On the other hand, if it’s about the proper way to do an exercise, it’s 100% up to you whether you want to give their way a try or just go back to what you were doing.(We have a guide to responding to unsolicited advice.)
Tech Equipment for Gym
There’s only 2 things I recommend with tech stuff:
- Mp3 Player
Stopwatch – A MUST-HAVE!
I see a lot of guys using their smart phone as a stopwatch in the gym, that’s also fine I’ve used it myself however there’s a few risks: it can get crushed by heavy weight, stolen, plus it will distract you unless you put it in airplane mode. I recommend all my clients to leave the phone at home or in the gym locker, there’s no need to having it in the gym with you during the workout unless you are expecting a very important life or death call.
Mp3 Player – Extra Dose of MotivationTop 10 Workout Songs
However in terms of equipment I use a standalone Mp3 player in the gym Sansa Clip Zip. For the same reason as the stopwatch I don’t recommend using your smart phone to listen to music in the gym, instead get a nice small Mp3 that can play for hours.
I like Sansa Clip Zip because it also has a Stopwatch app so I don’t need any extra devices, this is the only device I carry with me to the weights. It’s very small and easy to attach so it doesn’t interfere with your workout performance. Battery also lasts for a few days of workout sessions and the songs are very easy to copy onto the device. I highly recommended getting one of these little mp3 players, it’s been serving me flawless for longer than 2 years.
4) Be the right amount of social
People at the gym are mostly super nice people. But they are also ultimately there to work out, not be chummy.
It’s totally fine to chat with people every so often, and more than acceptable to ask for a spot, but try to avoid talking their ears off.
Along the same lines, don’t be gabbing away on your phone in the gym. If there’s an important call, take it in the lobby.
What do I wear?
Anything that feels comfortable, isn’t indecent, and that you don’t mind sweating in. For your upper body, try a T-shirt or tank top. For your legs, wear shorts, sweatpants, or leggings. Again, check the gym rules to see if they have any specific requirements. Some gyms don’t want you to take your shirt off, others don’t care.
For shoes, any kind of sneakers or comfortable athletic shoes should be fine. Chucks, running shoes, that sort of thing. If you get really into this exercise business, you can get picky about shoes later. For your first day, it doesn’t really matter.
Mask policies vary, but it’s a good idea to wear a mask when you’re sharing an indoor space with other people, even when you’re exercising. Under Armour makes a mask that’s comfortable to exercise in, but you can also wear an N95 style to be extra safe, if you prefer.
2) No curling in the squat rack
The bigger rule here is: don’t use equipment unnecessarily. Don’t go hogging multiple pieces of equipment, or (if you’re doing some kind of circuit or superset workout) offer to let people work in.
But especially don’t curl in the squat rack. If the equipment looks like this or this, it’s intended for bigger exercises (squats, overhead press etc.) that really can’t be done at all without them. There are other places to do curls at the gym.
What To Do At the Gym
OK. You made it to the gym? Now what? While every gym is slightly different, here’s a look at what almost all of them have to offer for you.
Cardio equipment at the gym consists of mostly larger machines that will help you work your body on a stationary piece of equipment. Here we’ll go over the most basic pieces of cardio equipment that you’ll find at almost any gym.
The treadmills you’ll find at a gym are heavier duty than those you can buy for your home, but they essentially do the same thing. Some people love spending time on the treadmill, and it’s certainly great for you. Running or walking on a treadmill offers all the cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits as doing the same thing outside, but it also allows you to adjust the incline and pace at your will to get an excellent workout.
An exercise bike is one of the oldest forms of modern gym equipment, but it can still also be one of the most effective. It’s amazing for beginners who are just getting used to the idea of going to the gym. However, modern gym bikes are a lot more than just a stationary version of standard bike, as they also allow you to adjust the pace and incline. Some even have “routes” built in that can help keep you engaged as you “ride”.
Some people get a bit confused about just what an elliptical is and why they should give it a shot. Basically, it’s a machine that simulates walking, running, or stair climbing but with a much smaller impact on the lower body, especially the knees. Running on a treadmill can be rough on bad knees. In contrast, as your feet never leave an elliptical’s pedals, that jarring impact isn’t felt anywhere near as much.
Free weights are usually racked two at a time. They usually start at 3 or 5 lbs. and can go all the way up to 50 lbs. Strength training with weights is something everyone can try as a gym beginner, since strength training offers the advantage that it will keep you burning calories long after you leave the gym!
The cable machine is also known as a functional trainer. It’s that (almost scary-looking) machine with all the wires and pulleys that you’ll see in almost every gym. These are great full body trainers, but if you’ve never used one before, ask a staff member to walk you through it the first time to avoid injuring yourself.
Warming up and cooling down are important parts of any exercise routine, including any visit to the gym. That’s why at most gyms you’ll find a wide open “stretch area” where you can do just that. It’s definitely a must-stop spot every time you visit.
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