5 Easy Steps to Get Started at the Gym

Whether you’re looking to start exercising after an extended hiatus or begin for the very first time, it can be difficult to get started at the gym. Yet, exercise has so many scientifically proven physical and mental benefits that can really enhance your life.

One great way to get on track toward reaching your health and wellness goals is to assess your current fitness level and set realistic and reach goals. By getting real with yourself about where you are and where you would like to go, you’ll light up a path that makes it easier to get started at the gym.

In this article, we offer five easy steps that can kickstart your fitness journey and help you keep up with it long term. Are you ready to start looking and feeling amazing? Do you want to boost your confidence and improve your life overall? Let’s get started!

1. Assess Your Personal Fitness Level

To get started at the gym, begin by assessing your current fitness level. You will want to break this down into four key areas of focus: cardio, strength, flexibility and body composition. We’ll go into a little more detail about each to help you understand why this process is so important. 

Cardio

You can assess your cardio by recording your pulse immediately before and after you walk or run a mile. These are your baseline cardio numbers. You can also gauge your cardio by doing another aerobic activity for a set amount of time, such as jumping jacks or jogging in place for 60 seconds, and recording your pulse immediately before and after you do the activity. This will help you understand where your current heart rate is during cardio so that you can see where you need to improve based on your target heart rate.

A trick to find your target heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. Generally speaking, the lower your heart rate is at resting the more efficiently your heart is working. If you find that your resting heart rate is not optimal and you’re way off your target heart rate, you’ll have motivation to improve your cardiovascular health.

Strength

Calisthenic exercises, such as pushups, use your own body weight and gravity to build muscle. These are the easiest way to assess your strength because they only require one piece of equipment: you.

Pushups (standard or modified), situps, squats, and lunges (alternating, single leg) are a great combo because they can help you determine the strength of your upper, middle, and lower body. To complete your strength assessment, simply do as many of each exercise as you can at one time before failure. When you’re done, write those numbers down so you have a foundation to build upon. If you can only do two pushups, not to worry! That’s a great motivator to get started at the gym. After a consistent exercise regimen, you’ll look back at those numbers and feel proud of the progress you’ve made. 

Flexibility

To assess your flexibility, first select one or two standard stretching exercises, such as bending over to touch your toes from either a seated or standing position. Write down in detail how far you were able to comfortably reach your arms, lean forward, extend your body and stretch your limbs. This will show you which of your muscles are tight and serve as your baseline flexibility record.

Body Composition

Notice we didn’t just say body “weight.” That’s because what your scale weight says is only one slice of a much bigger, more informative picture. Sure, feeling overweight can be a motivator alone to get started at the gym. But your body is composed of fat, bone, and muscle, the latter two of which are even heavier than fat. Therefore, percentages of each are much more telling when it comes to determining your current fitness level.  

Unfortunately, assessing your body composition can be challenging because standard tests, like the Body Mass Index (BMI), can be misleading. The best way to establish a general baseline is to record your body weight and then use a measuring tape to track the size of specific areas of your body, such as your waist, chest and thighs (as though you’re getting fitted for an outfit at the tailor). With these measurements of weight and composition, you’ll have a solid base of understanding of where you currently are so that you can more accurately track your progress when you get started at the gym. 

2. Set Your Long-Term Fitness Goals

Fitness goals are one of the biggest tools to help you get started at the gym. However, it’s important that you make them specific and measurable. Instead of generically jotting down “weight loss,” for example, detail the amount you’d like to lose. Instead of “improve my cardio,” go with “run a 10k with my family.” In addition to providing you with a specific target, you’ll have a better understanding of when you’ve reached a goal, which helps to release feel-good chemicals in your brain and gets you excited about moving on to your next fitness goal. 

Be sure to set goals that will inspire, not overwhelm, you. For example, if you’ve never been a runner, but your goal is to complete a marathon, start by aiming for small goals (like running a 5k) that will get you there. To get started at the gym, it’s important to have reachable milestones.

3. Lean on Tools at the Gym to Stay Motivated

When looking to get started at the gym and form a consistent practice, lean heavily on all the tools available to you at the gym. These tools can include personal trainers, who can provide you with targeted exercises based on your specific fitness goals and hold you accountable, to cardio equipment and group classes. It’s always helpful to incorporate yourself within the gym community so you feel motivated and inspired. 

For many, becoming part of a fitness community, like X3 Sports, is a great way to stay motivated. Experiment to see if you like exercising alone, with a friend, in a small group or larger class. Oftentimes, you’ll find the energy that you receive from your interactions in a group or one-on-one with a trainer will give you the support you need to keep your fitness journey on track.

While not gym-provided, fitness apps and activity monitoring devices can vastly aid in your process. These not only log your activity, but also display and record stats like heart rate, duration and calories burned, so that you can better track your short- and long-term progress based on actual data. It’s much easier to get started at the gym when you are able to see the results in number form. 

4. Create a Fitness Plan

The best way to get started at the gym and to hold yourself accountable is to create a fitness plan, which is a roadmap that helps you set and achieve goals along your fitness journey. When creating this plan, it’s important to be both thoughtful and thorough, realistic and goals-oriented, if you want to fast track achieving your fitness goals.

Write down the specific types of exercise that you want to include in your plan, whether it’s hiking, jogging, biking, taking group glasses or lifting weights. Maybe you’re interested in learning a new sport, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,  muay thai, boxing, kickboxing, or mixed martial arts (MMA). Get creative so you have a variety of activities to choose from. This will help you stay motivated, interested, and engaged.

Once you know what workouts you want to do, it’s time to make a training schedule. Take an objective look at your schedule and determine where they fit into your weekly routine. If you’re particularly busy, you may need to do some rearranging to create space for exercise. If this feels overwhelming, start small. Remember, the most effective way to get started at the gym is to create reachable goals that you can hit and then keep hitting – baby steps style – until you’re finally summiting the mountain. 

To begin, it’s helpful to carve out dedicated time each day for even just a 10- to 15-minute workout. For days when you can’t get out and about, consider doing an online class at home, such as those offered through X3 Sport’s Virtual Studio.

Remember, the important thing is to just get started. Once you build some momentum and get to know your “exercising” self better, you’ll be able to continue to make adjustments until exercise becomes part of your everyday life.

5. Track Your Fitness Goals and Progress

About six weeks after you set your fitness plan in motion, repeat the assessment you did in step one. Compare your new results to your initial ones. Then, based on what you see, make any adjustments you need. 

Continue to check in like this every few months. And, as you do, you may want or need to repeat steps 2 through 4. Remember, your fitness plan will evolve as you do, in terms of the goals you have, the workouts you enjoy, and the milestones you achieve. 

Now if you’ve read all of this and thought, “This is great but is there an even easier way to get started?” The answer is yes. Working with certified personal trainers is one of the easiest ways to establish, begin, and maintain a fitness plan. 

Not only are they there to help you through every step, their expert knowledge of health and fitness is hugely beneficial. 

Dive Into a Fitness Routine at X3 Sports

Are you ready to get started at the gym and begin working toward the body of your dreams? At X3 Sports, we specialize in helping people at every fitness level develop personalized training programs to help them stay focused, motivated and committed. With five convenient locations in Atlanta, Marietta and Athens, as well as an assortment of class times and gym hours, you’ll have every reason to get started on the path toward a newer, more confident, and healthy you. 

Book your first class with X3 Sports for free today to see if a membership is right for you!

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