I’ve been training consistently for over 15 years which makes me ancient in the gym years. I’m so old I remember when there were no TV’s on treadmills and the internet came through the phone line.
I can smell a gym newbie from a dumbbell rack away. The men (usually) make a beeline to the dumbbells to do biceps curls while the women head to the cardio machines to work up a sweat because they still believe lifting weights will make them bulky.
No matter what Gwyneth Paltrow and Jillian Michaels say, it’s just not true. There’s nothing to fear from those dumbbell and barbells in the free weight section. They will not turn you into the Hulk.
Some of the common mistakes people make when starting out or coming back from a long layoff are
- Doing too much too soon
- Taking advice from every Tom, Dick and Harry
- Chasing to many goals at once
- Starting with complex exercises instead of simple ones
This leads to muscle soreness in the short term and disappointment in the long term when you don’t end up looking like your favorite movie star. You may think ‘screw it’ and end up in the start-stop-start cycle of exercise which can culminate in regret and weight gain.
However, you’re better than that.
Instead, use the tips below to help establish a safe and healthy routine that will have you crushing every goal instead of crushing all the bags of chips in your pantry.
1. Start with the fundamentals
Walk into any gym and they will have machines and other wiz bang exercise tools lined from wall to wall. These will attempt to dazzle and confuse you, however, you can walk the past them all if they don’t do the following movements.
- Carrying something heavy
Have no idea what I’m talking about? Watch the exercise videos below to jog your memory.
Carrying something heavy
These exercises and their variations can be set up in various ways. For example,
- Timed sets
2. Pick a goal, any goal
Having an exercise related goal will prevent you from being pulled in ten different directions by well-intentioned advice from others and from the bright lights and razzle dazzle of the fancy exercise machines.
One of the biggest mistakes people make in the gym is chasing too many goals simultaneously. You’re more likely to have success if you stick to one goal. So, decide if your goal is
- Fat loss
- Muscle gain
- Getting back into shape
- Running a marathon
- Getting on The Bachelor
Once you have a goal in mind, think about the answers to the following questions.
How many days a week can you exercise?
How much time can you dedicate to each training session?
How are you going to remain dedicated and consistent?
All this will go a long way to keeping you in the gym and off the couch.
3. Focus on progress not perfection
It’s been a few weeks and the scale, and the barbell haven’t budged. At this stage you’re probably a little pissed off and ready to take a sledgehammer to the scale. But before you do that, please hear me out.
During the first 4-6 weeks of resistance training your body is getting stronger as the nervous system is building stronger links to your muscles. This happens before you see any changes in your muscle size because you’re getting better on the inside before you see results on the outside.
However, during that period, instead of focusing on the scale and the mirror, notice how you have more energy and better stamina. And take note on how you’re sleeping better, moving better and the exercises that were once difficult are now easier.
When you focus on your health and on the process of being consistent, your results will come.
4. Or if all else fails…..
You can hire yours truly and I can help navigate you through this confusing time.
It’s natural to be overwhelmed when walking into a gym for the first time or after a layoff. However, if you focus on keeping it simple, being consistent and on small progressions, you’ll be a stronger and healthier human being.
And I promise, you will not turn green.