4 Steps for a Better Gym Experience (for Beginners)

It’s almost 2016. Which means a lot of you are going to make the same resolution you have made for the past 5 years: to finally put forth the effort of going to the gym. You get a membership, some expensive gym clothes, and a water bottle that says “Beast Gains”. You pat yourself on the back for a week or two until you see me, former Bench Press World Champion Doc Von Derwin, stealing all the free weights in the gym to use as a warm-up set. Confidence destroyed, you refuse to step into the gym again, with the question “Why bother?” rattling around in your head. Well it’s time to shut up those negative thoughts you have about yourself, and start training to get that action hero body you deserve.
Step 1: The hardest part is showing up
After a long day of work, you find yourself home in your glorious fortress of solitude. You want to go to the gym but you just are so exhausted that the only thing you can do is pick up the tv remote and transport Funions from the bag to your dumb face. There is always tomorrow right? NO!
Getting to the gym when already comfortable is the hardest thing I have ever encountered. But sure enough, if you just get your ass to the gym you will work out. I have never seen anyone walk into a gym only to change their mind and go home. The moment you step foot in a gym, you are guaranteed to do something. Then, if you force yourself to go the gym enough, you will eventually get fit. The important thing is that you put forth any amount of effort above your average amount. Even if you aren’t exercising to an extreme degree, you are at least making progress.
Step 2: You cannot worry about what other people think of you
Now that you have entered the gym, you notice that you are not the only one there. On one side, you see a 20-something frat bro with frosted tips, wearing a normal t-shirt with the sides cut out to not only reveal his biceps but also his ribs, stomach, and nipples, and yelling every time he curls a 20lb dumbbell. On the other side is a muscle-bound woman who is training to be a SWAT team member, shadow boxing in the corner, with tattooed marks along her bicep that definitely represent the number of people she has killed.
No matter what you think of other people in the gym, you need to push them out of mind. Both of these fictitious examples have something in common: what they are doing has no direct effect on you and your time in the gym. They also are lifters themselves. Even if they are strange looking or intimidating, they are most likely not worrying about what you think of them and focusing on their workout.
When it comes to people at the gym who are stronger than you are, a lot of people get discouraged because they feel they can’t keep up with other members. I just want to remind you that it doesn’t matter. Anyone who is a real lifter understands that we all have to start somewhere. Personally, I was lucky enough to start when I was 8. You can start at the gym at any time in your life and as long as you keep showing up and putting in the work, you are a lifter. I invite all sorts of people to work out with me, and most refuse because they think I’m somehow intimidating, just because I can deadlift the pickup truck their dad got to compensate for something. I invite them because a good workout routine can be done at any weight. It’s more often about the number of reps you do than the actual weight you lift.
Step 3: Have a plan going in
Now that you don’t care about the other people in the gym, you suddenly realize that you have never seen any of this equipment before. The idea of trying any of it and doing it wrong terrifies you. You think to yourself, “Well, free weights are easy. Let’s start with some squats at about 100lbs.” What you don’t realize is that the gym uses the metric system, so the 20lb weights you thought you loaded on actually weigh 45lbs each. While you attempt to squat, your knees explode.
You can find plenty of information online. You can find workout routines that highlight your desired muscle group, as well as demonstrational videos on how to properly execute and exercise. If you have a predetermined idea of what you want to do and how long you want to do it for, walking into a gym will be less intimidating. All the equipment serves a purpose, but you get to say, “Not today ab machine. It’s leg day.”

Step 4: Go with a friend
As you look to your bloody leg stumps where your knees used to be, you wonder if any of the other people in the gym would be willing to get you to a hospital. You look around to find that everyone has left, and begin to wonder about how good prosthetic leg technology might be these days.
A friend is always a helpful tool. They motivate you, they spot you while you lift, and they reinforce your self-esteem. I find that I always have a better time lifting with a partner. Conversing with someone makes lifting a much more enjoyable experience and becomes therapeutic in certain ways. Having a person spotting you and giving you words of encouragement helps demolish any sense of doubt in yourself and makes you a better lifter.
Now I ask one very important question. Do you even lift?