Part III. Using the Gym

Now that you’ve joined the gym, you need to know what to wear, what to bring and what to do once you get there. Since most all studio situations will give you detailed, personalized instruction, this section is mainly for the commercial gym, though parts can be applicable no matter where you work out.
What to wear: You will almost always be most comfortable in loose fitting, cotton fiber clothing, e.g. T-shirts, sweatpants, shorts, etc. Some of you may be more comfortable in tights or leggings. Simply be comfortable and avoid wearing clothes that are too revealing. You don’t want to have to worry about what may be exposed when you are trying a new exercise or class. However, you may want to wear clothing that exposes the body-part you are working that day; e.g. wear a sleeveless shirt when working the arms or shoulders, or shorts when working the lower body. Many times being able to see the muscle that is being worked will facilitate learning the proper form and aid in developing a good “mind-muscle” link. Also, wear socks and tennis shoes (yoga and Pilates may allow bare feet). Open toed shoes and sandals are definite safety hazards in the gym. Socks will help prevent blisters, as well as control sweating and foot odor.

What to bring: Most facilities will have locker areas for you to change and/or store your belongings. Some will have keyed locks built-in to the lockers, which you can use for free or a nominal fee. Many will require that you bring your own lock. Keyed or combination locks are both acceptable. Just be sure to take your lock and belongings with you when you leave. Most facilities do not have enough lockers for everyone to have their own permanent locker; therefore you should take your things with you when you go. You should also bring a small hand towel to wipe your sweat off of the equipment. Nothing is worse than having to use a machine after someone else has perspired on it. Respect others and bring a towel! You may also want to bring your own water bottle, Walkman, and/or toiletries if you plan on showering at the facility. Finally, it is crucial that you bring some sort of small notebook or journal to keep track of your workouts with. Some facilities may provide this, but either way, it’s a good idea to keep a record of what you’ve done so you’ll be able to chart the effectiveness of your progress. Write down what body-parts you worked and with what exercises. Note how many sets of each exercise you did and how many repetitions were done each set, and of course, how much weight you used for each set. You may also wish to jot down any pertinent notes such as if you have been ill or had any pain when performing an exercise. In future articles, we’ll discuss how to set up an effective program.

What to do: You’ll probably want some type of instruction on how to use the equipment. While this is a given at the private studios, not all commercial gyms will offer this. Many will offer one or two free sessions with a staff trainer, many others still will leave you to your own devices. You may find it necessary to hire a personal trainer, or read the various workout magazines or books, or even scour the Internet (how about FitnessHeaven.com!) to get some type of learned instruction.

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