What All Women Need to Know Before Going to the Gym

So you’ve finally decided to get in shape. You’ve set some fitness or weight loss goals and even managed to drag yourself to the gym only to find yourself completely lost. Do you head to the cardio machines? Lift weights? Do you have any idea how to use the giant metal machines? When you walk into a gym for the first time (or after a long hiatus) it will feel like everyone’s a pro. The gym world is full of people marching from one machine to the next with a set workout plan in place, making you feel out of your element and clueless. Don’t let the initial shock scare you away. Even total newbies can march in the gym and own the place; you just need to know a few things before you go.

Wear the right gear

woman stretching

Make sure you have the right gear. | iStock.com

It goes without saying you shouldn’t show up at the gym in denim cutoffs and a sweater, but what exactly should you wear? For starters, invest in a supportive sports bra. Whether you’re lifting weights or putting in miles of cardio, you’ll want more support than your everyday bra provides. Purchase form-fitting tops and workout shorts or pants that are made from performance materials with sweat wicking capabilities. Leave your cotton T-shirts and bulky sweatpants at home.

Pack a gym bag

a gym bag

Have a gym bag with all the essentials. | iStock.com

If you have to travel between work and the gym or have a social event later on, make sure you bring along a bag full of essentials. Pack a reusable water bottle, a nutrition bar to beat post-workout hunger, and a towel to keep sweat at bay. If you don’t want to spend an extra 15 to 30 minutes sweating, bring along a mini bottle of face wash or face wipes, deodorant, and some dry shampoo. You’ll leave smelling like you showered in half the time it takes to bathe, blow dry, and reapply makeup. Don’t forget your headphones and an upbeat playlist (which experts claim helps you work out harder).

Make a plan

man and woman doing plank exercises

Have a plan in place before you get there. | iStock.com/gzorgz

If you show up to work out with no plan in place, you’ll find yourself aimlessly wandering from one thing to the next rather than getting in the sweat-filled workout you imagined. Before you show up, spend some time online finding a workout routine you like. Great resources are the printable guides available from Women’s Health or Livestrong’s beginner guide. If you want to focus on strength training, BodyBuilding.com has a great overall workout plan. You can also check out free apps like Gain Fitness, which generates a workout for you based on your time constraints and what muscle groups you want to target.

Follow the rules

young woman stands in front of a weight rack holding dumbbells at gym

Get to know the rules and culture of your gym. | iStock.com

Like anywhere else, a gym has both concrete and unspoken rules. It may take some time to understand the complete culture of your particular gym, but as a general rule make it a point to put things back where they belong. Don’t abandon those eight-pound weights on the bench and move on. Re-rack everything you use neatly and in the proper order. Bring a towel with you, to wipe down the machine after you’re done so it’s dry for the next user. In addition, be mindful of other gym-goers. Don’t talk on your phone, blast your music, or interrupt someone in the middle of a workout.

Know the lingo

Young women doing sports training or workout

Know what you’re talking about to fit in. | iStock.com/kzenon

Believe it or not, the gym sub-culture even has its own language. You’ll hear things like burpee, set, failure, clean and jerk, snatch, and interval training. After some time spent at the gym, you’ll go from newbie to pro as you begin to naturally adopt terms like these into your gym lingo, but when you’re just starting out, someone asking if they can “work in” may be extremely confusing. Take some time googling the basics or check out this comprehensive guide from Greatist.