It’s kind of a funny title, right? How to go to the gym? Maybe you see that and you’re like, um, Rach– I know exactly how to go to the gym: I drive my car on over and head inside. OK, well maybe you know how to go to the gym but there were many years where I didn’t. More than one time I would get all hopped up on my new year’s resolutions and buy a gym membership and four months later I’d barely used it and I’d cancel it having wasted a ton of money.

Have you ever done that? In fact, maybe right now you bought a New Year’s resolution kind of gym membership and you’re already not getting your money’s worth. Well, when I look back on that time in my life I know that the reason I let go of my membership was I felt incredibly intimidated going to the gym which only helped to detour me from working out. Nowadays I go to the gym at least five days a week and I’m not intimidated at all: Musclehead guys? Bring ’em on. Crazy cardio classes? Let’s go! Complicated workout equipment? No problem! Here are my five best pieces of advice for getting the most out of your gym membership.

1️⃣ Do the free training they offer: nearly every gym I’ve ever been to offered something like “three free workouts with one of our trainers” as part of the membership and never once did I take them up on it. I didn’t want a trainer (also intimidating to me) so I never said yes. But those trainers are the ones who will show you how to use every single piece of equipment in the gym to hit your goals. You don’t need to feel obligated to hire them, you paid for the membership and this was your gift with purchase– take advantage of it and ask all the questions so you feel confident!

2️⃣What you wear to the gym matters: I’ve for sure upset people when I’ve said this but for me it’s the truth. Back in the day, I’d wear baggy sweatpants and an oversized t-shirt because I was embarrassed by my body and how unhealthy I was (I LIVED off of fast-food for years and was horribly out of shape). Then I would get to the gym and look in the mirrors and watch myself try and workout in clothing that was far too big for me. It was totally discouraging. Gym clothes that fit well help you check your form (which you learned from your free session with the trainer) and allow you to see your progress. It doesn’t have to be fancy or even knew but your gym clothes should help you feel good about you. Also, I like to treat myself to a new workout tank or a pair of sneakers to celebrate health milestones (like running a 10K) so I can add to my workout wardrobe.

3️⃣The gym will have other people in it: Friends, the gym is going to have other people in it– stop being overwhelmed by this. The other people might be: members of the opposite sex, people who are in better shape than you, people who intimidate the heck out of you with their energy. Push past the discomfort so you can take care of yourself with a great workout. Chances are those other people are not looking at you, they’re looking at themselves and if you’re in the right kind of gym — one where people are focused on health not on hanging out or chatting or finding someone to pick up– then the energy should be one of mutual admiration for anyone willing to do the work.

4️⃣ Understand gym etiquette: It’s totally cool to workout in close proximity to others, here are just a few things to keep in mind: choose a piece of cardio equipment that’s not right next to someone else if that’s an option. It’s always weird when someone picks the treadmill right next to you when there are ten open machines. If you plan to use any of the weight machines or TRX equipment– you know the ones that have four sides and therefore four stations– and someone is already using one of the sides, just politely ask them if they’re using the side you’re going to use. Often people are working through reps and the lat pulldowns you’re about to attempt were their next stop. You can still totally use it, it’s just good gym etiquette to ask. They may say yes, in which case find another option until they’re done. They may say no, that means you get to have at it. They may say you can “work in” which just means the two of you will take turns using that spot. Lastly, if you’re going to work out in front of a mirror (like with free weights) make sure you’re not setting up shop in between someone else and their sightline to the mirror. 

 

5️⃣Push through your discomfort: If going to the gym makes you uncomfortable because it’s new or different or you’re not totally confident yet, push through it! The person you want to be is on the other side of your discomfort. Most insecurities and lack of confidence come from lack of experience or lack of knowledge– you’re about 12 trips to the gym away from feeling right at home there. So suck it up sis, you’ve got this. You can do it— you’ve just got to keep showing up!