If you’re not used to going to the gym, merely opening the doors to the hot, sweat-heavy air can be felt as tangibly as a punch to the nostrils and soul of all the poor, defenceless, unprepared beings who dare to step through.
The clanging of beefy dudes dropping their weights and whatever EDM tunes are setting airwaves a-frenzy melds to become an almighty overwhelming racket of intimidation and noise.
But wait, curious stranger, because the gym is not such a daunting place. All ye who seek to enter, be not afraid. There’s definitely a bunch of strategies you can employ to turn your gym experience from that of a hazy electronic sweat-fest into a productive and healthy (even welcoming) environment.
1. Go at the right time of day
Going to the gym in the middle of peak hour is a recipe for feeling like a slimy sardine packed among a bunch of louder, sweat-dripping fish. It’s packed and can be super intimidating if you’re just starting out. And hey, maybe that gets you hyped – but if you’re the type who enjoys working out without feeling a bit anxious, choose your times wisely.
If you’ve got the flexibility in your schedule, aim for an off-peak time like 10.30am or 3pm. If you’re a night owl and your gym is open 24 hours, go after 9-10pm when it’s significantly less people-y. ‘Coz who wants humans around you while you’re working out anyway?
2. Wear some proper headphones
Let’s be real, unless you’re particularly into music that will make you feel like you’ve been plopped in the middle of an EDM festival (and no shade if that’s your kinda thing), you’ll probably want to bring along your headphones and a fully charged phone so you can get through your workout with the help of your fave tunes or podcasts.
Most cardio equipment will come with a headphone jack to plug in, but even if you’re using free weights, music and podcasts can take your workout to the next level. Just pick the right playlist coz there’s nothing adrenaline pumping about listening to Birdy’s cover of Skinny Love when you’re trying to hit a new PB.
We’ve got a few workout-length poddys below if you’re on the lookout.
3. Bring a change of clothes
This one is for the sake of every human, animal and mineral that has to come into contact with your grimy post-workout self. It’s super important to have a shower straight after your workout to avoid marinating in your own juices – your skin will get down on its metaphorical knees and thank you for it.
Plus you’ll honestly feel so much better once you’re in something a little more comfortable, and trust me when I say that the world will thank you for showering off your lingering B.O. – and don’t tell us you don’t stink, because you do.
4. Pop a lil’ flavour in your water
Hydration is so, so important when you’re exercising, so unless you want to wind up resembling the dude who chose the wrong chalice and shrivelled up into dust in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you’re gonna wanna make sure you’re sippin’ something good for you.
And if you’re the type who hates water with a passion (I do not understand this personally, but my grandma swears she can’t drink any water sooo), you can always infuse it with some fruit or herbs the night before so you’ve got a lil’ zesty tang in your bottle.
5. Plan your workout beforehand
It’s going to make your life a heck of a lot easier if you go in with a game plan. We’re talking planning out which exercises you wanna do, which machines you wanna do, how long you want to spend on cardio. If it means you go out and drop some coins on a structured workout plan, go for it.
Alternatively, when you start at a new gym you should at least do a personal training session to orient yourself around (often new members will get a complimentary session). That way you won’t be wandering around aimlessly, wondering what to do.
6. Sort out a skincare routine
One thing that you’ll read all over the internet is how much your skin will glow if you start exercising regularly. It will, but what they don’t tell you is that sometimes it’ll hate you before it loves you, turning you into a spotty lil’ goblin as it purges all the gross stuff from your skin.
Figuring out a post-workout skincare regime will help ensure your skin is in tip-top shape and won’t render you a walking trypophobia horror. Cleanse thoroughly and don’t forget to moisturise – you’ll glow like Janelle Monae in no time.
7. Have your food prepared beforehand
Whether you’re working out before brekkie, lunch or dinner, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that cooking will seem like a massive effort after you’ve run yourself ragged at the gym. You’ll either end up giving in and making something dodgy (or ordering Uber Eats while you’re in the shower – ahem) or just not eating at all, which is not good for you.
You don’t have to go ahead and do the whole week’s meal prep if that’s too much for you, but at least set up your next meal so it’s one thing off your mind and you can just enjoy those exercise endorphins which, in the words of Elle Woods, make you happy.
8. Know when not to go
Sometimes the biggest thing with making the gym a place of excitement and enthusiasm is to actually not go. It might sound counterproductive but consider this. If you’re sick, overtired or your muscles are sore, going to the gym may exacerbate your symptoms and make you feel worse. Go to the gym when you’re healthy and have the energy to.
And hey, to all those folks with vaginas out there – friendly reminder that you’re allowed to cut yourself some slack and not exercise if you’ve got severe menstrual pain or even a UTI. Whether you need to grab a heat pack or keep downing the Ural, you’ll be in gym-ready condition soon enough and it’ll be all the more satisfying.
9. Make friends with the staff
If you’re stressing big time about going to the gym then the best people to talk to are the staff. Whether you get along really well with one of the office folk or you’re best buds with a PT, having someone there as a support person to go to when you need, that helps massively.
It’s literally what they’re there for, so they’re absolutely gonna be keen to keep you feeling happy and safe in your gym. And look, if you’ll allow me one thirsty moment here folks, they’re usually bangin’.
Nothing like a bit of eye candy to motivate you to do your best.Image: Instagram / @karliekloss