Weight loss journey: Tips for going to the gym for the first time and things I wish I had known beforehand

Hello! Today I want to reminisce about the first time I went to the gym and how I wish I had known some things beforehand. I also want to talk about how I am using these things that I have learned into my full return to the gym that is occurring tonight! I have been going lately, but not for long or working as hard as I probably should. That’s on me and tonight I will fix that.

This is almost a companion piece to Fridays running piece, but more gym centric as I am a firm believer of running and the gym give you the best start for weight loss… If you can guess what the third thing in that trifecta is, then come back on Wednesday to read it! 

The Essentials

Bring these things with you… You will need them!

A towel – Some gyms will offer blue roll or it’s equivalent for you to use to wipe yourself and more importantly the machines down with. But I feel it is better to use your own towel. You can use it on yourself at any time, it won’t run out if you are in for a particularly long session. Plus it is softer, it took me a few weeks before I brought a towel with me. Now I always do, except for those days that I forget it and then cry for the entire session.

Your headphones – If you are working out on a machine or area without a friend with you, then bring headphones. Gyms, in my personal opinion, play some of the worst music known to man. Some gyms just play the radio and that can be worse. There you are pushing as hard as possible on that last mile or last set and all you can hear is either One Direction or some woman complaining about how an ice cream van ran out of ice cream and how this upset her child is… Distracting, to say the least…

A water bottle – I have seen a surprising amount of people forget their water bottle and then have to splurge £1.70 on a bottle of water from the vending machine. I have been guilty of this myself to be fair. Which makes it more apt to add this in! A good water bottle will last a long while, make sure it is one that holds more than a 330ml, as you will get thirsty and you don’t want to join the 4-mile long queue at the water station to refill your bottle. Trust me, that is how most people spend their time at the gym, doing body squats, push ups and lunges as they wait in the queue for their turn at the fountain of cold wonderment.

Your manners – Yep… You would be amazed to learn that there are rude people at the gym. Simple things you need to remember, if it is a busy day, don’t plonk yourself down for an hour on the bike. There might not be any and everyone needs to use it. Try to limit yourself to 25-30 minutes… Up that tempo to get more of a workout done. Unless you are doing an endurance session, just pick the right time to go for it. This more counts towards any weight machines as a number of times I have gone down to the weights and seen a gym literally use a bench to out his dumbells on as he goes over to talk to a mate is amazing. Be respectful to others and then they will respect you. Or you will get some good karma for that night or the next day. Whichever!

I feel the last point is the most important during busy times. I don’t usually have to worry about that too much as I attend the gym at quieter times of the day, but I do go long on some times and I hope to try and cut that down and become more succinct with my workouts. Plus I will have my massive waterbottle with me as I plan to get my water intake up and sometimes having the larger bottles helps to this as you know you have to finish the thing!


Workouts on your own aren’t all what they are cracked up to be…


Go to a class

I am guilty of not going to the classes that the gyms (yes I go to two) have for their customers. It is my own fault. To begin with, I was too nervous to go and then I just never got the confidence to go. What I was doing was working, why go?

Well, my friends, I am here to tell you that you should go because you get to chat to people, and maybe even gain new friends, you get to see it just isn’t you struggling. You get a rush of energy from seeing everyone putting the effort in and it makes you push and work harder. Plus they are just fun!

I used to regularly attend a circuit training class in Stranmillis and it was great fun. My friend introduced it to me and I would go with her and we would almost finish those classes wanting to throw up. It was great, simpler times. I got an injury from one of the summer outdoor sessions and sadly haven’t been back in a while.

I intend to get a little bit fitter and go there again. As I said, it was great fun and circuit training is awesome. Sprinting around a room and then going straight into another exercise every 30 seconds is a great shock to the system and I can’t think of many ways that are better than to do so in a big room. When I can’t get to a class like that I will be doing my own little circuits… Sometimes they aren’t so little. But I kind of enjoy running myself ragged for a little bit. Release all that pent up energy that I have inside!


Don’t be afraid to ask a personal trainer for advice… Or someone who looks like a gym vet for that matter!

I have spoken before about personal trainers but one thing they are is helpful. They are employed to help you. If you are on your own, ask them for advice, they will give it. They might try and get you to be a client and you might want that! But don’t fret over asking someone for advice or help. Gym people are friendly and if someone who knows what they are doing has finished their set then ask if they can assist you. Most will! Strangers are often caught in spotting others, and some gym vets, especially the older folk will jump at the chance to offer advice on form and movements! Use them, they are looking good (hopefully) for the right reasons. Take advantage of the years of experience at your finger tips.

But also, prepare for getting unwanted advice and this brings us to a nice return to manners, they will talk and talk (especially in the weight room) and give advice, be polite, and listen. You don’t have to do what they say, but it is always good to be nice and listen to them.

I remember when I crossed the line into the weights section of my gym, there would be an older gent there who was well built for someone in their 70’s and he would always talk to me and recommend certain moves to do and even helped me with my first plan. People are great, even the big scary ones who smash the weights around like they are flowers.

Now I am pretty confident in knowing the moves I need to know. Though there are one or two I want to learn and I know which gym I will go to get those done right as there will be the right type of people there to help me out to get those moves down!


Don’t let your only friend be the TV’s…


Go with a friend

Let’s face it, one of the reasons you probably chose this gym is because you know someone who already goes there and they have given you a referral code or just bigged up the gym to high heaven and persuaded you to go.

There is no shame in it, I first went to the gym with my dad at 7am every morning because I knew he went. One of the greatest decisions I ever made funnily enough. I got to lose serious weight and also help my dad lose some weight too. Now, I am confident enough to join a gym without knowing people who go there. I would seek recommendations, of course, but I would now be confident enough to bounce in on my own for that induction.

Going with a friend/someone you know is great, they can advise you on some things, you can chat and laugh as each other slowly becomes a ball of sweat and can’t move. It can also be a bit soul destroying, you think you are doing okay in your general fitness and then you see your gym companion bust out crazy moves, last longer on the machines, go to mental inclines. But that’s okay because you will get there, just don’t let your face give away your shame. Never let them know they are better!

Nowadays I go with my girlfriend and those workouts are great for a quick blast, but for some reason I do like to go twice if I can and I think that is because I like cardio and weights so much that I want to get a lot in during a day and I need to pick up my workouts a bit more and get my ass into gear at the gym equally as much as on the road running. I have July workout plan and it will keep me in good stead. Also, it is fun to make Victoria do some of the things I do as it helps mix things up for her too!

Don’t over do it

Well done for getting yourself to the gym! It is a great first step! Just be careful and take your time and try not to go for 4 hours at a time. Yes, you might get great results right away, but you will eventually get injured too. Your body has just had a shock of going or returning to the gym and it will not appreciate all the stress you are putting on it with that much exercise. Work yourself up and listen to your body, if it feels sore and not just a muscle ache type of sore, then stop and rest. Rest days are expected and actually welcome. Use them!


A ‘fun’ sample



One of the most important things to do is research what you want to do. The first time you go to the gym, you might be wandering around like a lost puppy and looking and reading the machines and how they work. A simple assist to you is research. Look on the website of the gym, they will have a list of the machines, and then just do some research on different types of exercises, such as an HIIT workout, endurance, hill etc. Try out these workouts in the first few months. Just read up about them all first and this is more important in the weights area. Research what moves you should do. The easiest thing to do is to work on your compound moves. These are the bread and butter of weights. Get those right and then move to something else. Watch others, look at Youtube videos etc. Get a good notion of what to do and how to do it.

Just read up about them all first and this is more important in the weights area. Research what moves you should do. The easiest thing to do is to work on your compound moves. These are the bread and butter of weights. Get those right and then move to something else. Watch others, look at Youtube videos etc. Get a good notion of what to do and how to do it. Or remember to ask someone! Just don’t wing it, I did this on a certain move and felt my shoulder give me a loud warning sign. So I asked an older guy at the gym for help and I got the move sorted that day.

There are also so many apps now that have either video or animations on the correct movement and form. They exist for a reason, use them!


Sweat for me, sweat for you!


Bring extra t-shirt for when you leave…

I learnt this the hard way… Oh boy did I learn this the hard way. Back then I decided that I would just workout until I physically couldn’t anymore. This would mean 2 or 3 hour long sessions. I was massive back then and I must have had a lot of stored energy to use up! Anyway! I would workout for so long my dad would head back home and I would walk home. It was the summer so I didn’t need a hoodie or jacket etc. So I walked home in what I wore. This meant I was walking home in a t-shirt that was stuck to me from sweat and had a number of dark sweat patches.

I would get a number of looks from passers by as I did this. I never realised how I looked until I had gotten home and my dad would tell me off. I never thought of using the shower at the gym. Why would I? My house is 5 minutes walk away. I can have a nice shower in my own home!

Remember that extra t-shirt if you don’t shower at the gym. Spare yourself the looks!

With that said, now that I am a runner and regular gym goer, I take pride in seeing my top sweaty and stuck to me and wear my sweat material with pride now. With running you can’t hide the sweat as it happens after all.


Oh God, I have been going on for a million years and I need to apologise for that. I just had a lot of stuff to chat about and I didn’t really think it was a two-parter type of post! If you survived this then well done and thank you for reading!

What things did I miss? Message me on the old social media that is twitter and let me know!



2 thoughts on “Weight loss journey: Tips for going to the gym for the first time and things I wish I had known beforehand

Add yours

  1. Its nice to know other people struggle with getting back to the gym. I have been avoiding it since my surgery for my Plantar fasciitis (my foot was going numb even just at work). Well there has been pain ever since, it was hard to go from training for triathlons to being a couch potato willing my foot to heal properly (which it didn’t). Now I have gotten a little more use to the pain, I feel like I can go back. I just feel so embarrassed at how big I have become to make that leap. Any words of advice?


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