Congratulations for joining a gym!  You are making a smart choice to take care of your body and mind.  Starting off on this path can be exciting – yet intimidating and overwhelming – but these tips should get you going in the right direction.

Bigger gyms typically offer a free visit with a personal trainer to show you the ropes when you initially join.  They’ll ask you what your goals are – whether it’s to strengthen, improve your stamina, lose weight, and/or burn off stress.  Then they can point you in the right direction in terms of which exercises and classes you could try.  They typically also show you how to operate some of the most commonly used exercise machines so that you’ll feel comfortable using them on your own.

When you exercise, it’s normal to feel a tightening and/or burning sensation in the muscles you are working.  That feeling is a result of lactic acid building up in your muscles.  Once you stop exercising those muscles, the burning feeling goes away pretty quickly.  That burning feeling is a GOOD thing!  It means that you’re strengthening your muscles.

When you do cardiovascular (CV) exercise (exercises that elevate your heart rate – such as walking at a brisk pace, biking or swimming), you will likely start breathing faster than you usually do.  If you have a heart issue, you should consult with your doctor before starting any new CV exercise.  If you have a healthy heart, breathing more heavily and working up a sweat is great!  Working your heart is so important in terms of staving off heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.   It also improves your overall endurance for daily tasks.

As with any exercise that you haven’t done before, be sure to ease into it.  Start with shorter amounts of time on CV machines and gradually build up.  Start with lighter resistances when lifting weights (on machines or with free weights), and do more reps until you’re fatigued.  Slowly increase the weights by small increments as you become stronger.  If taking a class, don’t expect to keep up perfectly with the instructor or others in class right away; it’s quite possible they’ve been working at it a lot longer than you have.  Good, attentive instructors will give ideas for modifications that can be made to simplify some of the exercises.

As always, feel free to consult a PDR physician, occupational or physical therapist if you have any questions about starting out at the gym.  We’re here to help!