What you need to do before hitting the gym

A girl doing exercise

Some of us are slow burners. As tired as the ‘I’ll go tomorrow’ cliché is, there are those who will go tomorrow, just after they’ve done a bit more reading, a bit more research, and have decided that, yes, the gym is a good place for them to work on some health goals.

Joining and going to the gym aren’t complex activities, but working out is. If you’re entering a gym for the first time or haven’t been in years, the physical landscape can be intimidating. What’s with the fake grass? Why are there mirrors on every available surface? What's with the ropes and giant elastic bands everywhere? What exactly is a foam roller?

Everyone must start somewhere, so there’s no shame, none, when it comes to learning your way around the gym.

First, we have to ask ourselves the most important question:

Why do you want to go to the gym?

A simple question for which there are many answers, and programs and techniques.

You might want to

  • Work on fitness
  • Get faster
  • Become stronger
  • Work on power
  • Be more flexible
  • Work on a look or aesthetic

Each one of these goals, and all the sub-goals within them, require different styles of training. For instance, you might want to become ‘fitter’. If you’re looking to have more endurance, maybe get your breath under control when climbing a particularly nasty flight of stairs, your program will have more of a focus on running, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and a little on strength development.

Other goals might be more nuanced – say you want to be stronger. Do you simply want to be able to lift heavy objects? Or do you want to be powerful – a combination of speed and strength? The former will involve a few core exercises (like squatting and deadlifts). Power, on the other hand, involves more dynamic movements, like lunges and snatches.

Deciding what you want to achieve at the gym gives you a goal, and as we’ll keep stressing, health goals are good and beneficial.

Should I see a professional before starting?

In short: yes. Absolutely.

Seeing someone who’s specialised in health, like a personal trainer or a physio, is almost always going to be a good thing. They’ve studied extensively to know the human body, how it works, how it can move, and how it can be improved. They’ll find specific goals for you to work on and things to watch out for.

Some professionals you might want to check out:

  • Personal trainer
  • Physio
  • Osteo

What equipment do I need?

Somewhat unfortunately, this isn’t ancient Greece where it would have been perfectly acceptable to turn up wearing nothing but a light lathering of oil. Plus, the Greeks then didn’t have access to podcasts or shoes so intelligently designed that you realise there’s a laboratory of foot scientists working diligently somewhere.

There are three principles to keep in mind when kitting yourself out for the gym:

Is it useful?
Your soft, spongy runners aren’t going to be great for lifting, and a power lifting belt isn’t going to aid your fitness.

After you’ve figured out what you’re looking to get out of the gym, aim to get the equipment you need for the exercises. If your confused about what’s useful, you might try googling for some answers, asking people in dedicated forums, or simply go in to your local gym and as a professional there.

Is it comfortable?
It’s ok to not like the feel of tights. It’s fine if you prefer to wear gloves while dealing with weights and bars.

Being comfortable keeps you safe and focused. If you’re pants are restricting your movement, then your technique will suffer, and poor technique is a recipe for injury. This goes the same for focus: if you’re not concentrating because your shirt is too tight around the collar, you’re not going to be dedicating all your mental resources to the task at hand, and you’re not going to have a fun time.

Does it make my gym trip more enjoyable?

If you’re dreading going into the gym, or finding yourself thinking of home while you’re pumping iron or cascading sweat on the elliptical, you’re not going to last.

So why not splurge a little on the extras? It might be headphones to boost whatever aural accompaniment you need, or nice work out gear that makes you look good. Whatever you need to give yourself a little extra happiness at the gym is going to be worthwhile.

How often should I go?

This depends on your goals, how much time you have and how you like to exercise. For some, going in every day and doing light work for 30-45 minutes might be satisfying. Others might like an hour and a half where they feel like they’ve just come out of a savage beating.

There seems to be an ever-changing consensus on how much exercise we need or should be doing – if you’re just starting, simply ensuring you can get to the gym regularly is a great step forward.

Remember – any exercise is better than none.

What benefits can you claim with a CBHS membership?

If you hold hospital or package coverage with CBHS, you might qualify for our Chronic Disease Management Program. This program gives you access to expert guidance, advice and a personalised health and wellness plan! To find out more, contact the CBHS Wellness Team at wellness@cbhs.com.au


Health Direct, 2017 Tips for Getting Active


Better Health Channel, 2017 Getting Active

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.

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