No More Gym Intimidation
Fitness centers work to help beginners feel at ease.
Redefining the Market continued...
Still not convinced? Experts say the benefits of going to a gym can far
outweigh the initial discomfort.
At a good gym, you will get guidance about the proper way to exercise to
prevent injury. You'll also get a comprehensive program -- combining strength
training, aerobics, and stretching -- for maximum health and fitness benefits.
And you may see quicker progress toward your goals.
"One thing they teach people is the importance of resistance
training," says Bryant. "We know it helps preserve and increase lean
muscle mass, so you become a better calorie burner. People who are overweight
will see quick success."
The gym is also a great place to meet people who will support you. Staff and
fellow exercisers can lend motivation and encouragement that you won't get
working out alone at home with an exercise video or treadmill.
Experts say that you should choose a gym and exercise programs based on your
goals, motivation, and needs. What may work for your spouse or best friend
isn't necessarily for you.
Whatever gym you join, here are some tips for achieving workout success:
- Ease into it. "If you haven't exercised for 25 years, and you
think you'll just walk into a gym and be successful, you're setting yourself up
for failure," says Sally White, PhD, a professor and dean at Lehigh
University who researches motivation. "Before going to the gym, commit to
20 minutes of walking each day with a group or in a mall. That will increase
your cardiovascular capacity, so when you go into the gym you'll feel you can
use the treadmill."
- Watch videos. Before going to the gym, get familiar with exercise
movements, language, and gym culture by watching videos.
- Try out several gyms, and then select one that matches your needs.
Most gyms offer trial programs. "A quality facility will take you through a
good orientation," says Bryant. "They should also find out about your
health and activity history, any underlying problems, your likes and dislikes,
and prior experiences with physical activity. Then they can assist you in
meeting your goals."
- Hire a personal trainer. Get off to a good start by working for the
first month or so with a personal trainer, certified by a professional
organization such as the American Council on Exercise. Trainers charge from $35
to $50 an hour, but if a trainer helps you make this important lifestyle
change, it's worth it. If you need continued support, a less costly option is
an online trainer.
- Reward yourself. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get to the
gym. White advises setting a realistic initial goal -- maybe going to the gym
three times a week for three weeks, and four times the fourth week. "Reward
yourself for meeting your goal each week, and if you do an extra day, give
yourself something extra."
- Commit to 30 days, then 6 months. "If you will commit to 30 days
of exercise, you'll experience significant benefits in how you feel and
function," says Bryant. "Activities of daily living will become easier
to perform, and you'll have more energy. To cement the new habit, commit to six
- Get and give support. Hit a plateau? Got a gripe about a gym policy?
Have a great tip for strengthening abs? Get a gym "buddy" -- be it a
friend, co-worker, spouse, or new acquaintance from the fitness center -- to
share your setbacks and successes with. Or visit the Weight Loss Clinic's
Exercise and Fitness message board to discuss the issues and get expert advice.
The camaraderie can help you over the rough spots and reinforce your new