fitness

New to the gym? The rookie's guide to nailing your first day.

Remember the emotional rollercoaster that was the first day at a new school or job? You didn’t recognise a soul, had no idea where to find anything, and couldn’t wait to get settled in and find your place.

The first day at a new gym, in a new fitness class or with a new personal trainer is similar — and playing your cards right on that first day (and leading up to it) can turn a sometimes daunting experience into a positive and constructive one. Here are the smart steps to take.

In the leadup

Read reviews

Sydney-based personal trainer Nadine Veverka says a little research can go a long way when you’re about to sign up, or turn up, to a new gym. “If there are any hidden nasties, i.e. filthy change rooms or foul smells, you will be sure to find them online with a simple search of reviews,” she says.

Make sure it’s the right one for you

“You need your gym to be conducive to your goals. If you are a post-natal woman looking to ease back in to gentle exercise, you want to ensure you don’t unwittingly sign yourself up to a male-dominant weightlifting cross-fit gym,” Veverka says.

The easiest way to do this is to visit the gym and ask staff for a quick tour before you go there for a session.

Watch: A true core workout as demonstrated by Paper Tiger. (Post continues after video.)

Find out about your trainer

The same goes for the person instructing you. If you’re investing in one-on-one training, make sure your money is going to someone who’s experienced, qualified in your fitness goals, and will suit your personality. Veverka recommends reading client testimonials or asking the trainer to put you in touch with any of their current clients.

Be certain you’re choosing the right class

Finding out exactly what class you’ve signed up, by asking your gym for a class guide, for will prevent any unpleasant surprises on the day.

“If you are totally uncoordinated, you don’t want to innocently wander in to a super complicated dance class. And similarly, if you enjoy jumping around busting out complicated moves, you don’t want to find yourself bored to tears in a zen-style yoga,” Veverka says.

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This woman wouldn't look so bored if she'd done some research about her class.

Ask questions

The right questions will help you pick the right gym. Here are some areas Veverka suggests you ask about:

1. How many members they have: "You want to choose a gym that has a mid-size clientele. You don’t want to find you're using most of your time at the gym standing around waiting for machines because the gym is too full. It is also a bad sign if the gym has very few members – there must be a reason for this and it’s usually not a good one," she says.

2. Whether they cap class numbers: "Good gyms will cap the number of participants per class to allow the trainer to focus adequately on all participants and their technique. This keeps members safe and helps to accelerate your progression."

3. Staff qualifications: It's important to ensure anyone who's guiding you has the correct level of training, which will vary. A [class] trainer should be qualified to at least fitness instructor (certificate 3 in fitness), a personal trainer requires a certificate 3 and 4 in fitness and for any specific goals extra certification in that specialisation is required," Veverka says.

Also, although it's common to feel pressured to sign up to a gym, there's no obligation to do so. "Gyms often pay a very low base salary and reception staff/advisors/trainers are reliant on commission to earn a living... Politely advise that you aren’t ready to sign up yet but appreciate their help, they will know what this means," Veverka says. (Post continues after gallery.)

What to expect on the day

A one-off introductory offer

Veverka says on the first visit most gyms will offer you a free session, a discounted rate for the visit or a special price for a certain number of days. "The industry is so competitive that if a gym is proud of what they offer, they won’t be worried about losing out on a few dollars to offer you this. They should be confident that you will sign up immediately as a result of your trial," she explains.

An orientation process

You should receive a quick guided tour to learn where your gym's toilets, change rooms and other facilities are, along with the equipment and class studios. You should also be briefed on safety procedures. "Either a receptionist, trainer or sales rep should give you a full guide of the gym to include where emergency exits, first aid equipment and fire extinguishers are located," Veverka adds.

Watch: Bright, colourful gym gear never hurts. Here are our picks for summer. (Post continues after video.)

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What you should do

Introduce yourself to everyone

"It pays to be friendly and you can guarantee if you are friends with all of the staff you will have a far more pleasant experience on the gym floor," Veverka says. Added bonus — if you ever find yourself in need of a trainer, you'll already have an idea of who you like and who you think will be able to help you the best.

Ask for guidance

If you don't know how to use a machine, don't just wing it — ask a member of staff to show you how it's done. Not only will this prevent you looking a bit awkward and potentially injuring yourself, but it means you won't inadvertently damage the equipment. Similarly, if you're starting with a new trainer, don't be shy — asking questions will ensure you're on the right track and getting your money's worth.

Staff are there to help.

 Be mindful of gym etiquette

To avoid the wrath of your fellow gym-goers, observe the basic courtesies: bring a sweat towel with you, diligently wipe off and clean the equipment after you've used it, don't drop weights, and if there's a huge line of people waiting for the equipment you're using, it might be time to move on to something else.

If you're going to a class, it's always better to be early. Not only because you can secure a bike or station in a position you're comfortable with, but because it gives you a chance to meet your instructor and fellow classmates.

Signs it's right for you

It feels like a positive fit

"If you feel comfortable in the gym and are looking forward to your next visit before you even leave the first, go for it," Veverka says.

The same applies if you've just got yourself a new PT —  look for a genuine interest in you and your goals. "They should make you feel empowered, confident and as if achieving your goals is within near reach."

You have fun

"Whether it was a gym session, a class or a training session you should walk away on a high. Make exercise enjoyable and you will remain consistent with it," Veverka says.

Think of the endorphins.

You're excited by your options

If you're thrilled by the number of classes your gym has on offer, and they're at times that suit you, that can only be a good thing.

Do you have any tips for someone starting at a new gym?

Nadine Veverka is a personal trainer, pre- and postnatal specialist, beauty therapist, and the founder of Her Master Plan – a bespoke approach to wellness.