If you’d told me a year ago that I would actually go and buy a gym membership, I would have laughed myself silly. Me? At the gym? Sure, I like cycling and the occasional walk, but anything that could make me break into a serious sweat was too much for me.
So what changed? Well, there were a number of factors. Throughout my first two years at university I continually said that I wanted to get fitter, but never did anything about it. So when I got to the start of my third year I knew it was now or never. I also found myself with a seriously fit boyfriend, and I wanted to be able to keep up with him for once.
After the general chaos of the start of term, I found myself in the Gannochy Sports Centre in October forking out £99.90 for a membership. Eek! It was expensive, but I reckoned if I used it enough, I would be able to justify the cost.
Don’t get me wrong, it was hard at first. Motivating yourself to get up and work out before class is tough. I even found working out how to use the different machines difficult, let along actually exercising on them. But six months later I’m almost ashamed to say that I love it!
If you are debating whether to buy that gym membership, I would encourage you to go for it. Here are ten things I have learned from my time at the gym…
1) Don’t worry, you’re not going to get massive
With words like gains and swole being banded about in fitness circles, you may fear that you will start to look like a bodybuilder before too long. This will not be the case, I promise you. By starting off small and building up, you will start to see changes to your body as it becomes more toned, but these will be gradual and slow. That’s why it’s important to keep at it in order to see some real changes to your fitness.
2) Start small
Don’t grab the biggest weights straight away – you don’t want to injure yourself! Don’t be embarrassed to start at the lowest level and work up. We all need to start somewhere, and you’ll be building up your fitness and tolerance before too long.
3) Nobody else knows what they’re doing either
When you first start, you may feel you don’t know what you’re doing, but so does everyone else. Seriously, I mean it – some people look like they’re about to injure themselves! Don’t be that person – if you’re unsure, ask a fitness officer for help so you can be confident in what you’re doing.
4) Eat to succeed
Complement your exercise by eating in a way which will keep you healthy and strong. I’ve never had a problem with my weight thanks to good genes and an instilled sense of healthy eating (cheers Mum and Dad!), but I still find it important to eat a diet which will help me at the gym. Just eat a balanced amount of protein, carbs and fat – it’s not as difficult as you may think, and it will help you in the long run.
5) Pick a time to suit you
I have found that getting up early to work out sets me up for the day, and puts me in a good frame of mind. It seems that as your body becomes more fatigued, your mind becomes more alert. Funny that. But exercising in the afternoon or evening may work out better for you. Having a gym on campus is handy, as it means that you fit in a quick session around your classes.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The fitness officers are trained, and their job is to help you. If you’re unsure how to use something, or just looking for some advice, they’ll be happy to guide you. You’ll getting expert tips from people who use the gym every day.
7) Be confident
Don’t be scared when going to the gym! This may seem like an odd statement, but at first I was terrified at the prospect of exercising in front of strangers. Believe me, nobody is looking at what you’re doing – they’re probably just trying to get their breath back.
8) Go to classes
Your gym membership also gives you a wide range of free exercise classes you can attend. From spin to HIIT (that’s High Intensity Interval Training to us mere mortals), there will be a class at your fitness level at a time that suits you. Make the most of it!
9) Mix it up
Make sure that you don’t stick to the same fitness routine for too long, as your body will get used to it. Change it up every eight weeks or so. The gym gives you so many options for work outs – spin bikes, treadmills, resistance machines, weights – that there’s no excuse not to try out everything.
10) Do it for yourself
My final piece of advice would be to exercise for yourself. I like going to the gym because it makes me feel relaxed and healthy, but it has also made me feel more toned and confident in myself. There’s no point going to the gym if you absolutely hate it, but sometimes all you need is a little push to encourage yourself to go further.