“I welcome you to the community of people who have decided Easy will not suffice”

The upcoming week will likely be the busiest one every gym sees the entire year. With New Year’s Resolutions still shiny, new and exciting, many gym newbs will boldly go where they have never gone before – and, as a result, stir up some irritation for regular gymgoers.

It’s not that regulars will be irritated by the sheer presence of newcomers (okay, that’s part of it but not all of it). Rather, the gym is its own little world. A community that’s separate from the outside world, with its own set of rules and guidelines; a place where there’s proper etiquette and a code of conduct which to follow. Those who are new to it understandably don’t know all the guidelines right off the bat but if they plan to become part of the community on a regular basis, it’s something they need to learn quickly to ensure a harmonious society.

With many about to take their first steps into this new world, I’d like to offer a bit of an inside peek into the community and advice to make the transition smooth for all parties involved. Presenting the 10 Commandments of the Gym.

Dressed and ready to work out

Dressed and ready to work out

1. Thou shalt dress appropriately
Athletic shorts, pants or capris= good. Jeans or dress pants= bad.
Sports bra=good. Regular or no bra=bad.
Athletic shoes=good. Dress shoes, slip-ons or sandals (yes, I’ve actually seen people work out in sandals)=bad.

In basic terms, dress the part. You’ll put yourself in a much better position to have a comfortable, injury-free workout.
2. Thou shalt not be a loudmouth
Whether it’s to the person next to you or on your cell phone, there’s nothing quite as irritating and rude than a person who won’t shut up.

First of all, it’s disrespectful to others. Many people are very focused on what they’re doing, whether intervals or counting reps. Others are just trying to enjoy the workout, relax, zone out to their music. Your chatter disrupts everyone around you. Second, you’re disrupting yourself. In a world of disruptive emails, phone calls, a million other distractions – the gym is YOUR time. Focus and you’re likely to have a better workout and better form. Plus, you’ll reap the stress-relief benefits of a workout.

Worst of all is being the person taking up equipment but not actually doing anything. If you’re sitting on a bench, chatting on your phone or standing on a treadmill, talking to the person next to you (yes, I have actually seen someone do this, and for a solid 10 minutes) you’re giving the double middle finger to everyone else there. So don’t be THAT guy or girl.
3. Thou shalt respect the equipment and fellow residents
Don’t do calf-raises in the squat racks. Don’t sit on a recumbent bike to simply watch the TV in front of it (it’s not a recliner in disguise).

Use the equipment for what it’s intended and nothing else. This shows that you have respect for it but most of all, you have respect for others – especially the person who wants to do squats or burn off some calories.
4. Thou shalt not avoid the freeweights
A common trap most newbs fall into is cardio, cardio, cardio. I’m not trying to put down cardio, I love it. It’s good for the heart, weight management, stress relief and has about a million other benefits. But you’re doing yourself a major disservice by forgoing weight training. It’s

Part of this may be weights don’t have calorie-burning displayers on them so people don’t “see” the immediate benefits. Or maybe it’s that the weight room is more intimidating than the cardio area. Much of it likely has to do with uncertainty of where to start. While I can’t really help you overcome either of the first two hesitations, I can offer two pieces of advice for the third:

a. Take advantage of the free orientation offered by most gyms. A knowledgeable staff member will show you all the machines and how they work, and answer any questions you may have.
b. Look around. Look through fitness magazines or search online for some free weight workouts. Watch others lifting (in a non-creepy way) to see what exercises are commonly performed. You’ll have no trouble finding a few things you can try.
5. Thou shalt not throw or drop said freeweights
Speaking of freeweights, now that you’ve decided to brave them, do not ever intentionally drop or throw the weights. It’s obnoxious, bad for the weights and you’ll look like an asshole.
6. Thou shalt clean up after thyself
Wipe down the equipment when you’re done. Put away your yoga mat or foam roller. Rerack your weights. This is not a frat house where it’s okay to leave shit everywhere or your parent’s basement where someone else will pick up after you.
7. Thou shalt not weigh thyself
Most gym newbs are looking to lose weight. That’s fine but it’s not the only factor to track and it’s certainly not something that’s going to happen within the first few workouts. Weight is a funny thing too, in that it doesn’t always make sense or reflect the work you’re putting in.

Rather than become discouraged by not seeing a 15-pound weight loss in your first week at the gym (thank you, Biggest Loser), stay away from the scale, and focus on making the gym a habit and how good you feel after a workout.
8. Thou shalt stretch
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – you need to stretch after a workout. Rather than repeat the past, here’s a blog I wrote last year on the importance of stretching and some good stretches to incorporate post-sweat sesh.

And remember, stretch after a workout, not before.
9. Thou shalt not bite off more than thy can chew
When starting a workout routine, it’s easy to go overboard. You’re excited, you’re still motivated, why not push as hard as you can for as long as you can? The answer: It has to be sustainable in the long run. That excitement is going to wear off. That motivation is going to dwindle. And treating every workout as an opportunity to push so hard you puke or pass out? That’s going to take the enjoyment and stress-relief out of it, fast. Not to mention you’ll be so sore the first week, you may only manage one workout.

Do yourself a favor and start slow, allowing yourself room to improve and make gains. Push yourself enough that your heart rate increases and you break a sweat.

Post-workout and I'm happy!

Post-workout – yep, I’m happy!

10. Thou shalt enjoy thy workout
The gym is not a chore. It’s not a torture chamber or a pain in your ass. It’s a place to invest in your health, feel good about yourself and reap a ton of benefits. Looking at it as a negative, something you “have to do” only makes it less enjoyable and less likely you’ll want to keep going back everyday. Try changing your mindset and learn to enjoy it.

Working out isn’t something you can do every now and again, in short bursts when you feel a kick of motivation. Working out is something that’s part of every day life, like showering or your daily stop at Starbucks. The faster you can understand that, the faster it will turn into part of your lifestyle.
Regular gym rats, do you have any commandments that should be added to the list? Newcomers, do you have any questions about the gym world before you enter? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.


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