Contrary to popular belief, your gym induction isn’t a tedious tick-box exercise that you don’t really need to bother with.
It’s actually a pivotal first step on your fitness journey. Miss it at your peril.
The thought of being taken around your new facilities by an instructor - as burly men in low-hanging vests stare at you while they’re in between sets on the squat rack (you'll find out shortly that it's not actually like this!) - may not appeal, but always remember that the induction process is there for your benefit.
We asked some athletes and qualified personal trainers to explain how you can get more out of your first day at a new gym.
Here is your eight-point gym-induction checklist.
1) BE SAFE - ESPECIALLY IF IT’S YOUR FIRST TIME AT THE GYM
The induction is crucial if you’re a gym beginner.
Although most of the machines have instructions on them, it’s still worth having a demonstration from somebody who knows what they’re doing.
Even more importantly, you should get an expert to assess your form. Poor technique, especially over a prolonged period of time, can lead to some pretty serious injuries, so it pays to get things right from the off.
Leon Williams - an Optimum Nutrition athlete and Men’s Health cover model finalist (pictured above) - gave a specific example of a common mistake that gym-goers make when using machinery.
“Machines are more advanced than ever before, so it’s important that every gym-goer understands the range of motion and ideal positioning. [They need to learn] how to sit and execute the movement correctly,” he commented.
“Far too often I see people sit on the Lat Pulldown machine and pull the bar to their waist just because they can. This completely misses the point of the exercise and by pulling the bar down to the waist it goes straight past the muscle that is supposed to be hit.”
DW is always on hand to help you perfect your form. Our recent post on how to do bicep curls properly is a good starting point for you.
2) DON’T BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT BEING NEW - EVEN THE PROS NEED A REFRESHER
Emma Williams - a Sport and Exercise Nutritionist since 2011 - says that a first-time gym-goer will naturally feel a little apprehensive. The key is to remember that everyone had to start somewhere.
“Don’t assume everyone is looking at you thinking ‘what is he/she doing here’ or ‘they don’t know what they are doing’,” Emma commented.
“Nobody knows what they are doing to begin with and I feel the same when I step into a new gym and the layout is unfamiliar. It pushes you right out of your comfort zone. Experienced gym members will be too busy concentrating on themselves to worry about anyone else. So just enjoy yourself.”
3) WHAT TO WEAR FOR YOUR GYM INDUCTION - TURN UP READY TO WORK!
A lot of people turn up to their gym induction wearing their everyday clothes with no intention of breaking a sweat.
While this is okay - your instructor will take you around the complex and show you how everything works - it’s a huge missed opportunity. Take your kit with you and give your instructor a better idea of what you are capable of.
“Inductions are seen as a quick review of the gym, but I prefer to see them as a training session, so dress as such. The inductee should be dressed in their gym kit and the trainer should use the opportunity to engage with the person [and assess] how good they are,” Leon remarked.
You don’t have to go all out with brand new Ivy Park gear, but make sure you’re wearing comfortable training attire (it’s perhaps best to leave the muscle vest at home for now!)
4) TREAT YOUR GYM INDUCTION LIKE YOUR FIRST TRIP TO A NEW HAIRDRESSERS
“My biggest piece of advice would be to prepare for your induction. Think of it as your first time at a hairdressers. You wouldn't just turn up and expect the stylist to 'do whatever'. You'd be specific, perhaps take a photo and talk through the colour and cut you want. Think about what you want from the gym and communicate it so that you get the best out of the session and your overall experience in general,” she remarked.
5) WHAT TO EAT BEFORE YOUR GYM INDUCTION AND WHEN
If you’ve rushed to the gym after work and haven’t eaten anything for a while, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
Emma advises that you eat a meal TWO HOURS BEFORE your inaugural session, which will give you enough fuel to perform.
Leon, meanwhile, suggests that you keep things nice and light - don’t gorge on a takeaway before your induction. You’re probably going to have to do some work!
“Before the session, the inductee should have a light meal. This is something to fuel the session and should not sit on the stomach, so a cheeseburger or Nando’s platter would not be ideal! Instead something like a protein shake is great, or I like to have an egg salad or chicken wrap,” he remarked.
Carly added: “I'm always surprised at the number of people who don't take a drink to the gym. You absolutely need to be prepared with a bottle of water.
“Dehydration can be dangerous and seriously affect your performance. I'd advise eating a meal like porridge and nuts or chicken and rice 1.5 hours before training, or a snack like a banana or some rice cakes and honey 30 minutes beforehand.”
6) DON’T BE A STRANGER - REFRESH YOUR PLAN REGULARLY
If you stick to the original plan that was drawn up in your induction, you’ll start to notice results fairly quickly (everyone is different and some will develop faster than others).
However, a point will inevitably come where you hit a metaphorical brick wall. This is called an exercise plateau and you can read more about this here.
You need to shake your workout up and figure out how you can get to the next level on your fitness journey. We discussed in a recent Blog post that in order to build muscle, you should aim to switch your routine every six weeks.
Leon suggested that you might want to make certain little tweaks as regularly as every month.
He advised: “Programmes should be reviewed every four weeks. This will ensure that you are always reviewing your progress and setting new targets and goals. It’s easy for a programme to go stale - you become too familiar with the routine and you already know that you can hit all the desired weights.
“Before it becomes boring, at the four-week mark switch things around by introducing new exercises and rep ranges, keeping your body and muscles guessing.”
Carly also suggested that quite often, one induction isn’t always enough.
“No matter how much you think you know, there's always more to learn. If you want to keep progressing, you're going to need to change the exercises and intensity that you work at on a regular basis. Our bodies are clever and adapt to the way that we train. What worked on day one won't be as effective on day 101.”
7) ASK QUESTIONS - GYM-GOERS ARE FRIENDLY!
If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
You’ll find all kinds of different people at the gym. Some will have been going for years and will know how to use every piece of equipment blindfolded, whereas others might have only started one or two weeks before you - try to learn from them all.
Leon continued: “Never be scared to ask questions. The biggest guy in the gym tends to be the friendliest, so if you see someone doing something and you have a question, wait for them to finish and ask. Fitness is one of the best communities to be part of, and you'll always find someone willing to help.”
Carly echoed these thoughts.
She added: “You wouldn't drive a new car away from the dealership without a demo, so why would you guess and risk doing things wrong with your body? Your induction is free. Use it!”
Better still, have you got a mate who uses your Fitness First centre? Here's why it's best to get fit with a friend.
8) LEARN ABOUT ‘GYM ETIQUETTE’
Is this your first time in the gym? Your induction is a good opportunity to learn about certain rules - some of them unwritten. This knowledge will serve you well in the future.
• WIPE DOWN THE MACHINES AFTER YOU’VE USED THEM - The next member doesn’t want to be swamped in puddles of your sweat.
• DON’T SIT ON THE MACHINES USING YOUR PHONE - This is really frustrating if others want to use the equipment.
• TRY NOT TO “LURK” - Fair enough, you’re desperate to get those three sets of assisted pull-ups in - they’re a crucial part of your programme after all. But if someone else is using the machine, don’t stand three inches behind them until they’re finished. It’s very off-putting!
• DON’T BE A MIRROR HOG - The mirrors are there to help you monitor and correct your form. They’re not there for you to perfect your Instagram-bound selfies.
• ALLOW OTHER GYM USERS TO “WORK IN” - Circuit training can be really beneficial, but refusing to let other members use a weights machine because you’re trying to use five at once isn’t really on. If someone asks if they can “work in”, figure out a system whereby you share a piece of equipment between sets.
• PUT YOUR FREE WEIGHTS BACK - If you’re strong enough to lift weights off the rack, you’re strong enough to put them back. Remember that the next person to come along might not be able to lift anywhere near as much as you.
• CHOOSE YOUR TREADMILL WISELY - If there’s a number of treadmills free, it’s good etiquette to pick one that isn’t directly next to somebody who is already merrily jogging away.
A lot of the aforementioned tips boil down to common sense. Bear them in mind and you can exercise safe in the knowledge that you’re an exemplary gym-goer - a darn considerate one at that!