I didn't step inside a gym for the first time until my mid 20s. Dancing or yoga was always my first choice for movement, or I would just pop outside and take a jog or a walk. But when I moved to New York and my life got really busy, joining a gym seemed to be the most logical and cost-effective way to be able to exercise whenever I could fit it in my schedule. This also meant figuring out some gym hacks for beginners that helped me to feel a little less intimidated when I walked into Planet Fitness with no clue what I was actually doing.
While I've been a gym-goer for a while now, I still have plenty of days where I go into a workout feeling low on confidence for one reason or another, or, when I start a new routine or fitness class, it's just hard not to feel like a noob all over again, you know? Everyone has these days. But for real, it's been super helpful to keep a little bag of tricks and tips on-hand to make it as simple as possible to feel good — and at least a little badass — while I'm working out. Because that is, after all, why I'm doing it in the first place.
If you're en route to the gym as a beginner, try out some of these little hacks for yourself to help you get the most out of your workout routine.
Now, I am the first to say "screw it" and go to the gym in whatever I can scrape together.
But trust me, you don't have to break the bank to find something you genuinely feel good wearing. And in my experience, I've found that it does make a noticeably positive difference in my confidence level when I wear a tank top that adds a cool pop of color, or a pair of pants I feel flatters my booty.
And here's another little tip: Don't feel like you need to stick to strictly "workout gear." Sometimes I show up to the gym in my favorite Robert Downey Jr. t-shirt I got on Etsy, simply because it makes me smile when I see it in those gym mirrors.
Maybe this seems like a "duh" kind of point, but seriously, it took me a hot minute to realize I should just bring my own water bottle instead of breaking every five minutes to try and drink the gym's water fountain dry.
As you're getting used to working out, you might find yourself feeling thirstier than usual. Studies show it's important to be properly hydrated when you work out, but also not to overdo it.
Remember to listen to your body's needs, and if you need a break, take one!
Who says you have to get fancy with your workout?
It can be kind of intimidating to walk into a gym, surveying a sea of contraptions and machines you might not understand how to use, and with no game plan in mind.
Before you leave your house, take a bit of time to look up some quick stretches, tips, or workouts, and review the movements you plan on doing. This should eliminate some of the discomfort or anxiety you might feel walking into a gym the first few times.
The first time I ever went to the gym, I was wearing a pair of high-top Reeboks, and I actually had a stranger say to me, "Oh god, you can't work out in those."
So, yeah, eventually, I got myself some big girl gym sneakers. And yes, it made a huge difference. Saucony's sneaks are currently my favorite, because they don't feel clunky on my feet, but they still feel substantial.
I find it's worth investing a little extra cash into a pair of shoes that fit really well and feel supportive for your body. Take the time to try on more than just one pair, and don't be afraid to ask for help at the store! It is their job, after all, right?
Some gyms have towels available for everyone, and some gyms don't. But trust me when I say this: Bringing your own little hand towel or wash cloth for your sweat really helps prevent things from getting, you know, gross. And is there anything more uncomfortable than being drenched in sweat with nothing to dry you off?
By the way, it's worth the reminder that sweating waterfalls and looking like you've been on a harrowing trek through the desert (yes, I am describing myself) is totally fine, and it simply shows how freakin' hard you're working. GET IT GIRL.
Oh, the wonders of a good playlist. I can't tell you how many times I've been on the treadmill feeling totally off and self-conscious when all of a sudden the right song comes on, and I become a supernaturally gifted, athletic heroine who can fly and run up walls.
When that good jam comes in, everyone and everything else in the gym seems to simply slip away.
Do I smell after I workout? Yes, you guys, I absolutely do. And you probably don't need me to tell you that that's completely normal.
Still, just because it's normal doesn't mean we're all immune to the self-consciousness that comes with some sweaty B.O. If you can't, or simply don't like to shower at the gym, having a nice body spritz on-hand to cool down is always a pleasant and lovely way to freshen up.
Whether you decide to work through the same routine together, or you guys do your own thing and meet up in the locker room after and decide to go get some food together, having someone come along to the gym with you always makes the experience at least a little better overall.
May I say though, if you choose to do the same workouts together, getting gross and working hard is always, always better when you can giggle about it with a pal.