February is Heart and Stroke month and 'tis-still-the-season of new resolutions and new gym memberships. The benefits of physical activity on heart health are numerous, from lowering your risk of a heart attack or stroke, to helping with stress and energy levels.

But even when we’re motivated by the benefits of an active lifestyle, starting out with a new fitness routine or at a new facility can be scary. If you’re feeling inspired but overwhelmed, don't worry. That's completely normal. You don’t have to let your nerves around getting started at the gym add to your stress. With the right mindset, you can enjoy the rewards of a fitness routine – and become part of one of the great gym communities in your city! 

Here are some key tips for how to start at a new gym, with confidence!

1. Set Realistic Goals... and Track Them!

The first question you need to ask yourself when getting started at the gym is, what do you hope to accomplish? Are you embarking on this new lifestyle to benefit your overall fitness? Lose weight? Build some muscle? Hit a specific health target? Having a set goal in mind will help you stay motivated and keep on track, no matter the location. Decide whether you will be working with a trainer or setting up your schedule yourself. Find as many resources as you can to keep yourself accountable. There are many fitness trackers (free and paid) that can help.

Keeping track of your progress is also essential for staying motivated and seeing how far you've come. Progress will come at its own pace for everyone, but sometimes it takes some help to see it – and to stick to your routine. Use a workout journal or mobile app to record your exercises, weights, and reps. Take measurements and progress photos to visually track your changes. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small they might seem! Your goals and focus will be the backbone of your confidence when starting with a new gym.

2. Choose the Right Facility for Your Needs.

One of the first steps to kick-start your new routine is to choose where you should work out. Do you have a set-up of equipment in your own home, and you can keep yourself accountable? If so, great! But many people need a studio or gym to help get into their fitness mindset and spark inspiration. Maybe you’ll enjoy group fitness and the motivation that a community-focused boutique fitness club can provide. Often these studios have a variety of class types, including cardio (such as cycling), circuit, strength and yoga classes to round out all your potential needs. Or maybe you’re looking to join a typical gym where you can work your program at your own pace while using the machines and classes. Choose the environment that best motivates you and will support your fitness goals.

3. Outfit Yourself!

Make sure you show up in (proper) style when you are getting started at the gym. The basics – that you can jazz up to fit your personality if you so choose – are: 

  1. Appropriate athletic shoes: Invest in a good pair of athletic shoes that provide proper support for your feet and the activities you will be engaging in at the gym.
  2. Comfortable clothing: Choose breathable materials that allow for unrestricted movement. Opt for clothing that makes you feel confident and motivated to work out.
  3. Water bottle: Staying hydrated is important during your workout sessions. Carry a reusable water bottle to the gym and keep it close by to sip water regularly. Be mindful of the size – will it fit the cup holders on bikes or cardio machines?
  4. Personal towel: Bring a small towel to wipe off sweat and to lay on equipment to maintain cleanliness.
  5. Shower items: Pack essentials such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and a change of clothes for after your workout, if you aren’t heading straight home after your session.
  6. Lock: Many gyms provide lockers for you to store your belongings. Some have key-code style locks. Check with your facility before going. You may need your own lock to ensure that your valuables are safe while you focus on your workout.

4. Get to Know the Gym

Once you enter the gym, take some time to explore and familiarize yourself with the layout, programs, and the flow of things. Locate the different sections and equipment, such as cardio machines, weightlifting area, and group exercise studios. Don’t hesitate to approach the gym staff and ask for assistance or a tour. That’s what they are there for! Let them know that you are new and would appreciate some guidance on using the equipment, understanding the gym or studio rules, and learning about any fitness classes or programs they offer. Their expertise and support will ensure a smooth transition into your new gym routine.

Knowing where everything is will save you from feeling lost and help you plan your workouts more efficiently.

5. Embrace the Community of Fitness

Gyms are not just places for physical exercise; they often become a supportive community. Take advantage of this by engaging with other gym-goers, whether it's through conversations, asking for advice, or even participating in the gym-related events or challenges, which happen seasonally at many studios. Building connections will make your gym experience more enjoyable and encourage you to stay committed to your fitness goals.

Or, consider engaging a workout buddy. Having a friend with you can make a difference; it can make your gym experience more enjoyable and create accountability. It's always easier to stay motivated when you have someone cheering you on or sweating it out beside you. Plus, working out with a friend can add some friendly competition and make your sessions more fun.

6. Listen to your Body.

It's essential to listen to your body and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts. Pushing yourself too hard in the beginning can lead to injuries and burnout. Begin with lighter weights, shorter cardio sessions, and shorter workout durations. As your stamina and strength improve, you can gradually progress to more challenging workouts.

Pay attention to your body and listen to its signals. Push yourself—but know when to take a break. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and injuries, so it's important to give yourself enough rest and recovery time. If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop what you're doing and consult with a healthcare professional.

And, whatever you do, don’t forget to hydrate! Your body loses fluids through sweat, so it's crucial to stay hydrated when you’re working out. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your gym sessions. If you prefer something with flavour, opt for sports drinks or electrolyte-enhanced water. Remember, proper hydration is key to maintaining performance and preventing dehydration.

7. Have Patience

It’s cliché, but remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Consistency is key when it comes to achieving your fitness goals. Be patient with yourself and trust the process. Results will come with time as long as you stay dedicated and committed to your gym routine.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Remember, everyone's fitness journey is unique. Avoid comparing yourself to others when you are getting started at the gym, as it can be demotivating and hinder your progress. Everyone has an equal right to be there! Focus on your own goals and celebrate your achievements, regardless of what others are doing (they have their hills to climb, as well). The gym is a place for personal growth, so stay dedicated to your improvement and enjoy the process.