5 Tips to Tackle Your First Visit to the Gym

by Bryce Hoffman

Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to a healthier you by joining a gym!

Now what?

If this is your first time going to the gym it can be an understandably daunting experience; you may not know where to go, what all the equipment does, who to go to for information, or where to get changed. As a matter of fact, the fear of being uninformed or trying something new can even be enough to drive people away from the gym for good.

But you won’t be one of those people! Today you’re going to get the rundown on how gyms work and how you can stay committed and hit the ground running in your first few visits.

What to Bring

Getting in the right mindset to have a productive workout often starts with making sure you have everything you need when you hop in the car to drive over:

  • Your key tag for check-in
  • Your phone and earbuds to enjoy music and power through your workouts
  • Clothing choices will vary quite a bit – some prefer tight and bright, others prefer baggy and dark, often paired with running shoes or other types of sneakers.
  • If you’re coming to the gym from work, it might be a smart investment to have a gym bag for a change of clothes as well as a lock to keep your belongings protected in the locker rooms.

Who to Ask

The best person to ask almost any question will likely be the front desk attendant that checks you in. These employees are very knowledgeable of the club due to the nature of their position and will have the resources to find the answer to most questions. They’ll know things like where the nearest bathroom is, how to get to the locker room, the facility hours, among many other things. If you have specific questions, about how to reach your fitness goals, which foods to eat, or which exercises to perform, you’ll likely want to speak to a personal trainer or a registered dietitian. Another great avenue is your fellow members! Most gym-goers are pretty friendly, will have a general knowledge of the club, and would be happy to point you in the right direction.

How to Exercise

The big question on everybody’s mind the first time they step foot in a gym; how does all this stuff work? Thankfully we live in a day and age where information is available at our fingertips in the form of a smartphone. Most equipment pieces will have stickers adorning them with names of the exercises they’re designed to perform, along with visuals of the exercise motion and the muscles being stressed.

Cardio equipment is often a little different – but commonly used enough that simply watching and waiting to see somebody else use it will usually be enough to demonstrate how it works.

Free weights will probably end up being the most foreign for a newcomer; they range from dumbbells to kettlebells to empty racked bars flanked by varying weight plates. Unlike weight machines or cardio equipment, free weights are used in many different exercises and motions with very few pieces having only a singular function. For example, a pair of dumbbells can be used to do bicep curls, chest presses, lunges, or shoulder presses – it all comes down to the position and movement by the user. Beyond that, there are specialized bands, handles, and multi-use machines that can all be learned in a similar fashion.

You can watch others or YouTube to learn these exercises, but it’s better to ask a Personal Trainer how to use a piece of equipment to make sure you are performing the movements with proper form.

You can also try a Group Fitness class that has an instructor to help you learn the moves and to make sure you are using proper form. We offer more than 175 group fitness and aqua fitness classes weekly so there is bound to be a class for you!

Looking for some personal guidance on where to begin?

Set a date for your Fitness Health Appraisal! In the first session of your appraisal, you establish baseline metrics, receive an InBody analysis, perform a Functional Movement Screening, and set goals that work for you. In the second session of your appraisal, you get a tailored personal training session with a personal trainer. Completing both sessions will give you valuable knowledge about your current fitness, making SMART goals, learning some exercises, and how to use gym equipment. It will also give you another person you can reach out to for questions! Contact Garrett Powell, gpowell@hachealthclub.com, about getting set up for a Fitness Health Appraisal.

How to REALLY Exercise

If you’re new to the gym you might be inclined to use every machine, do every exercise, go as heavy as possible for as long as possible, or maybe you’re working out every day of the week. The risk you take is injury from overtraining. It is important to know that the progress you make in the gym won’t be sustainable unless you give your body rest periods after working specific muscle groups. A common strategy is to exercise a certain body part 1-2 times per week, several days apart, then repeat week-by-week. This allows you to get a framework for what your body can handle while still allowing you to make progress without being held back by soreness and injury. As an example, maybe you work chest and arms on Monday, back, and legs on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday and Thursday, and complete a full-body circuit on Friday, repeating the same grouping each week.

What to Do When You Leave

Good job! You’ve survived your first workout at the gym. Working out is just the first step in meeting your goals, whether you are working to losing weight, trying to gain muscle, or looking to train for a specific event. You might think working out by itself will be enough, but much more is going to be necessary if this investment in yourself is going to pay dividends. As mentioned earlier, rest is an important part of your growth – allowing muscles time to recover will help to avoid injury. However, the most intense exercise routine in the world won’t change your body if you aren’t willing to also change your diet. It is important to find healthy foods and a balanced diet that you can sustain along with a healthy exercise routine that you can maintain long-term. This is important to not just change you physically, but also change your lifestyle.

So there it is, your 5-step guide to surviving your first gym visit and getting on the fast track to living a happier, healthier life! Just remember that if you have any questions that weren’t answered here to feel free to ask a Personal Trainer, Registered Dietitian, the Front Desk Staff, another staff member, or even your fellow members. We were all new once, and we’re all here for the same reason – to better ourselves!


Hockessin Athletic Club opened its doors on June 10 2007. Boasting over 100,000 sq. ft., a 5-pool aquatics complex, and over 200+ weekly group and aqua fitness classes, it is Delaware's premier fitness destination. 100 Fitness Way, Hockessin, DE · HAChealthclub.com

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