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You’ve made the first step in your weight loss journey and joined the gym. That’s great, but where do you go now? The budget doesn’t stretch to hiring a trainer, so you’ll have to go it alone. Here’s what you need to know.

You walk through the sliding double glass doors, into the pristine, shiny lobby, with crisp white towels on the counter and the gentle buzz of the vending machine selling sports drinks, vaguely registering in your senses.

You swipe your card, get a smile from the receptionist and walk up the stairs, eager to get started on your new path to a fitter, healthier lifestyle. You hit the gym floor and are confronted by row upon row of treadmills, exercise machines that look more like torture racks, dumbbells and barbells the like of which could easily crush you and more men and women clad in spandex than you’ve ever seen in your life.

Welcome to the gym.

The color drains from your face and you feel your vim, vigor and anticipation leaving your body. Suddenly getting slim doesn’t seem so appealing.

There’s no doubt about it, starting out at the gym can be a seriously scary experience. Whether you’ve been a gym member in the past, or never set foot in one in your life, the gym is a different world.

Fear not though, for your gym newbie status, along with the fear factor, will perish almost instantaneously if you know what you’re doing.

Gym Etiquette 101

Before you even think about exercises, training times and treadmills, or engage in discussions on sets, reps and everything in between, you need to know the gym laws. The dos and don’ts of your health and fitness club.

What to Wear

It may sound mad, but you’d be surprised how many people freak out over gym attire. Here’s the thing though – you don’t need to spend a fortune.

Get yourself some comfortable trainers first off. If you’re planning on doing some weight training (and you should be) then thin, flat soled shoes are best. For those looking only at weight training, something like a Converse All Star or some sort of pump or plimsoll-like shoe works best. If you’re planning to incorporate cardio too, look at a minimalist style running shoe.

A loose-fitting tee shirt is a must. Forget the tight fitting lycra job, or the sleeveless tank top – guys and girls in these are generally posers. Besides, you don’t need clothes to make it look like you know what you’re doing. People will know you’re the real deal when they see you training, not from the clothes you wear.

Finally, shorts or track pants. Generally you’ll be working hard and sweating enough that you’ll probably want to go with shorts, but if your gym’s a concrete dungeon, you live within the vicinity of the Arctic circle, or you just plain hate your legs, go with pants.

The Lay of the Land

Familiarize yourself with what’s what in the gym. Equipment falls into two general categories – weights and cardio. Surprisingly, even as a beginner, you’ll be using mainly free weights (that’s if you want the best results, and you do want the best results, right?) and bypassing resistance machines altogether.

Have a quick glance over the cardio equipment – ellipticals, bikes, rowers and so on, then make your way to the free-weights section.

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