New to the Gym? Here is What to Expect...
Updated: Sep 21
Joining a new gym can be a daunting task. Family, friends, and health providers constantly encourage those closest to them to get healthy and more active. What is the first place people think about when they want to get healthier and more active? The gym.
On the surface this is a pretty easy task… just join a gym and get in shape. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not exactly how that works. There is often a more challenging mental struggle to overcome more than physical, especially for those unfamiliar with what their new journey may entail.
Hi, I am Coach Corey. I am the 32-year-old gym owner of Catalyst Fitness in Lakewood, Colorado. At the current moment I have successfully trained over 500 of clients over thousands of hours. I was lucky enough to get involved in fitness and sports conditioning at the age of 11, pursuing my dreams to become a major league baseball player. Although that dream did not come to fruition, I am still able to fulfill my dreams and passions around sports and fitness instruction.
With over twenty years of fitness experience on personal and community levels, I have been able to develop an in depth knowledge of the process people go through when joining a gym… especially for those new to fitness.
This article is for all the newbies out there ready to improve their health and fitness levels!
Understand: You Are Not Alone.
First things first, you need to understand: you are not alone! If you are new to the fitness and resistance training in particular and it seems scary or intimidating to you, again you are not alone.
Walking into a gym where everyone appears to be in great shape is scary for people for a variety of reasons; maybe it looks like the class is easy for everyone else, maybe it’s a couple people in the class who seem to be in super good shape (“I want to look like them… ugh.), or maybe it’s something as simple as they are laughing with friends in the class during a warm up. Well I am here to tell you - looks can be deceiving.
Part of becoming successful in your fitness journey is to have a support system in place. A successful gym for all ability levels needs to have a welcoming community. This is essential, because many of the people in this current class were in your shoes once… they understand the feeling. The goal here for the common person is not to have you train like an olympian or contestants on The Biggest Loser™, but rather to make one feel healthy, strong, supported, and confident.
When joining a new gym there is a very common path most people go through, both physically and mentally. With thousands of hours of fitness instruction under my belt, here is what you can realistically expect when joining a new class at a gym…
Stage One: Getting Acclimated
The process you will go through as a new gym goer usually lasts for about the first three weeks. This is the period of time when we as trainers want to get your mind and body acclimated to fitness. This beginning phase is usually the most challenging for people due to all the new physical exertion and mental focus that is required. You are very likely to experience:
Self yourself or frustration.
Prolonged muscle soreness.
Depleted energy levels after the workout.
Confusing exercise movements.
You may not even like how particular the coach is with minor technique differences.
Getting light-headed or sometimes nauseous during the workout
And after all of that…. it may not even be fun because, quite frankly, it's a lot of work (but hopefully not!)
You may not know this, but as the trainer this is a very unique time for new client, and so it is paramount (at least for me...) to make them feel comfortable and supported. I always tell the newbies, “You have nobody to impress. Our goal here is to get you moving and active again, learning the fundamentals, if you need to take a round off… take it."
Remember: Sometimes the hardest part of it all is just getting out the door.
This isn’t just a physical battle, this is also mental... so If you can get through the first three weeks or so at your new gym, you have accomplished a massive hurdle.
[I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel once you get passed this stage.]
Stage 2: Physical and Mental Abilities Improve
Once your mind and body has started becoming acclimated to the gym you will notice some changes begin to occur. These changes typically happen during weeks 4-8. You will likely begin to notice:
Remembering proper form of movements.
Increasing resistance/weight of exercises
Improved confidence in the gym.
Class isn't as intense as it was before.
Less winded during class.
Class becomes a little more enjoyable.
(And hopefully you've made some new friends too!)
Once a client has reached this stage of the game I have noticed time and time again that this is when people start getting more motivated and determined (one of my favorite parts!) This is the time when we start really focusing on proper breathing and refining technique and becoming more efficient with our movements (trainers aren’t always trying to make things harder on you!).
"Try exhaling your breath on the exertion... In through the nose, out through the mouth... Nice! Keep focusing on the breath."
“Try not to exhale like you are blowing out birthday candles, but rather like you are warming up your hands.”
Certain details like proper breathing give you something to focus on and help you last longer in your workout. Understanding how proper breathing works can be confusing at first, but over time it will become second nature.
Stage 3: Becoming Explosive
Once a newbie has an understanding of proper body movements and breath, their physical and mental transformation begins to take a new form. The movements that used to be performed in a highly focused and controlled state begin to subside to an exciting urge to be more explosive. This stage is likely to take place after the second or third month in the gym, depending on the person. You will likely notice:
The muscles are not as as they used to be.
You get a burst of energy after workouts.
You look forward to the gym because you feel accomplished and you get to see new friends.
Physical changes start really taking place.
You understand proper form on most movements allowing the mind to relax.
And many times but not always, questions about nutrition and how to take training to the next level occur.
This would also be the time in your journey when you are no longer a newbie... Now you are officially a gym enthusiast!
One recent example I saw just last week was when a wonderful client of mine started sprinting with the sled during a sled push, rather than walking with it like she did before. There was a look of determination in her eye like I had never seen before. (Fun fact: that moment is what inspired the topic of this article!)
When you start developing the look of determination and actively want to increase your resistance load on an exercise or the intensity you put into it… this is when the magic happens!
You want to burn more calories? A massive amount of calories will be burned when increased intensity and force is applied on a resistance load. The heavier the weight and the more explosiveness that be applied to the weight, the more energy that is required. Calories really are just another word for energy.
Stage 4: Months 6+
After a fairly long period of time you have officially progressed through all the stages and a new fitness habit has been built. By this time you are the one now encouraging others new to the gym. You will be able to share your stories and hear from others about how far you’ve come. The gym has now become a place of stress relief, health, socialization…. happiness.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the journey is never over. Consistency is key when it comes to fitness. It is not possible to always train at 100% physical or mental levels. Some days are going to be more challenging than others. Some weeks will be like that as well. All aspects of your training will experience natural fluctuations on micro and macro levels. Again, consistency is key. If you can simply just show up to the gym, good things are going to happen.
Building a new habit is never easy, but it is paramount for our success. A good rule of thumb for any newbie out there is get at least three workouts in a week. If you can get four that's even better....if you can get to a place where you can get four to five workouts in a week consistently - you’re a gym rockstar.
Be a rockstar.