6.5 Things I Wish I Knew About the Gym!

Do you struggle with gym anxiety or not sure what to do when you’re there? I used to be terrified of going to the gym. I knew nothing about equipment or how to structure workouts (which I’m still new to). I was worried about what the gym rats would think about a fresh, clueless member, especially during the new year. I hired a personal trainer in December so I could learn all of these things and not be so lost. I wanted to be ready to be released into the wild by the time my contract was over. Here are some things I have learned so far about the gym. These are things I wish I knew years ago, I may have walked into a gym much sooner.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Are people watching me? What will they think? In my experience, people will see and acknowledge you, but no one is staring at you. They don’t care, they just want to work out and go home. People at the gym typically mind their own business, and are sometimes willing to help when asked. There may be communication in situations where you and someone else need the same piece of equipment, just be polite like you would in any other situation; they will be polite back.
  • Weight machines are your friend. I used to be intimidated by the weight machines. I had no idea how to use them, and what if I had bad form while using them? I was told by a personal trainer to not worry about form, because a machine is supposed to assist you with proper form (as long as the settings are proportionate for your height).
  • Plan accordingly. If you have a strength and cardio regimen, you may want to look into the cardio classes at your local gym and plan do to them both in one trip. I have a spin class that I go to three times a week, and I will do my strength training before the class. Its easier for me to go to the gym three times than four or five. I like cardio after strength because you use up glycogen (fuel) stored in the muscles while strength training; after glycogen is used up, your body will burn fat as energy when you do the cardio. So, when you put these two together, you’re getting more bang for your buck.
    • Getting to the gym on time and early enough to get my full workout in required some changes. It’s not simply “Go to gym, workout, go home,” there’s a couple more steps. The night before my gym session, I will pack my necessities. The contents of my bag depend on what I’m doing at the gym the next day. I will always pack two 32oz water bottles, a protein shake or BCAAs, earbuds, a pack of LastTissues (perfect for the stationary bike), and a sweat towel. If I am going to yoga or doing cardio that’s not cycling, I will bring my big gym bag that can hold a yoga mat and a spare pair of shoes. Speaking of shoes, you’re going to want to use different shoes for different activities. For strength training, or exercises that your feet need to feel grounded, go for shoes with a more flat sole. Think of skate shoes. For cardio, you will need a shoe that has arch support and some type of shock absorption. I use running shoes because that’s the only other cardio I do. For something like Zumba, there are special shoes for it with an anatomy that can withstand the dance-like moves. You make lateral movements (side to side), pivot on the ball of your foot, etc. Please look into the equipment needed before starting a workout to avoid injury!
    • After my bag is packed and everything is ready to go, I will go to bed early so I make it there on time in the morning. When I have a 1/2 hour workout planned, I try to get there an hour before cycle class starts. I take into account the time it takes to get there, warm up, complete each set, time between sets, cleaning off equipment when I’m done and be there early for class so I can adjust my bike to my preferred settings. It is always a good idea to show up early to a cardio class, especially if its your first time. You can get to know the instructor, the equipment being used, and get a quick rundown of what you’ll be doing.
  • Check out the classes they offer, if any! Fitness classes are great because they are a welcoming and supportive environment. They are a fun way to get a great workout in, the instructor may have a bangin’ playlist and a variety of challenging sequences! They also go by faster than doing cardio by yourself. 50 minutes in cycle class does not feel like a long time compared to 30 minutes on a treadmill by yourself.
Not only do you need to look into shoes for Zumba, but there are also special cycling shoes. They attach to the pedal of a spin bike! They’re not mandatory, but they’re pretty cool.Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
  • Your strength workout does not to be a complicated one hour event. I used to think that I had to perform 32 exercises that worked exactly 47 muscles all the way to failure for two hours to get a good strength building workout. A workout doesn’t have to take forever, and you can do anything from eight to ten exercises with 10-12 reps per workout. An effective workout is one that helps you get to your goal, and it doesn’t take that much to build muscle when you’re brand new to the game. When I started to workout “properly,” I felt a bit of culture shock because I was used to doing 30 reps of something per set. When I work out now, I feel like it goes by fast and like I’m not doing much, but I will feel just as sore as when I would overdo it. I have noticed that I’m getting stronger, and I’m doing less reps than before! If you want a little extra in your workout, you can always do the move slowly and increase the amount of time muscles spend under tension. “Pulsing” is also an option.
  • Your split does not have to be complicated. Your split is how you split up your exercises for the week. I used to guess, I would plan out 4-5 days to workout and made a YouTube playlist for that day. I collected so many videos and I was so overwhelmed. I would get sore, rest for two days and get confused on which workout to do next. If I did an arm and ab workout two days ago, should I do the full body scheduled for today, or the leg workout I had planned right after? I would get decision fatigue and fall off the wagon. Now, I typically do a push day, pull day, and body weight day. You can keep it this simple without much guesswork because of push and pull. Each muscle has one job, to flex and move your bone in the direction you need it to. Your “pushing” and “pulling” muscles are usually opposing on the same ligament (biceps pull, triceps push). This method has been effective for me so far.
  • If possible, get a personal trainer. They are very helpful for not only learning how to use the equipment, but some may offer nutrition advice. When working out by myself at home, I never pushed myself as hard as my trainer has, which is why I never saw results on my own. They can also act as a “gym buddy” if you’re scared to go to the gym alone, its make a great training wheel for others who are scared to go. A personal trainer will have the tools to help you expedite your results. If you can’t get a personal trainer, YouTube has a lot of videos showing how to use equipment and example workouts. Some gyms will have employees who are qualified to show you how to use equipment too!

If you are still intimidated by going to the gym, keep in mind that it is filled with likeminded individuals who most likely have similar goals. They, too, have faced their worries and doubts about going for the first or second time. Remember to have fun with it! I hope these little tidbits help you feel more prepared for the gym, whether its your first, second, fifth, tenth or hundredth time. [The exercise tips will be the depth of my fitness “advice,” I am not a professional, I am not qualified to assist with working out.]

Photo by Leon Ardho on Pexels.com

What is your experience with gyms? Are you just starting out, pretty experienced? Is there anything that is holding you back after reading this? Let me know!

Defining Health

I throw around the word “health” often. It’s in my title and the foundation of my content. What does it mean, though? There are many different facets of health; physical, mental, spiritual, financial, etc. It is very different for everyone. I won’t go too much into mental and spiritual health. With that being said, mental health is one of the higher priority items and is very individualized. If your mental health is not where it should be, or you suffer from a condition or illness, please seek professional help and treatment. Once mental health is in line, the other types of health will be more achievable. Nothing is impossible, but we must fill our own cup. Filling our cup without taking care of mental health is kind of like filling our “strainer.”

Now, when I’m talking about “health,” I’m mostly referring to physical and financial. These aspects of health are easier to cut and paste into your daily routine. One of the most important topics in physical health is sleep. Your body needs sleep to get all of the “behind the scenes” work done. Muscle repair, digestion, memory building, and many other processes occur during sleep. Professionals will recommend 7-8 hours of sleep. Getting the same amount of sleep every night is a great starting point. Physical health means to eat foods you love to nourish yourself with in the quantities you like it in. Using food for self-love (not emotional eating.) Using food to power through your workouts and work days. Physical health is also being able to move your body to the best of its ability and working on improving. Its not being able to run x miles, or lift x pounds for y reps. Its putting effort into yourself to enhance your abilities. Its believing in yourself and your future. Beginner-level nutrition and fitness are much healthier than continuing negative thought and behavior patterns and doing nothing about them.

Health is putting yourself first. Performing every action as an act of self-love. That’s what I think of when I think of health. Its fertilizing and growing your potential to be able to give yourself the best quality of life. Obviously it gets much more complex when you think about mental, spiritual and financial health, but its easier to break them down and master bits and pieces of them at a time.

What about you? What comes to mind when you think about health? Do you measure health based on statistics or more abstract ideas?

3 Habits That Don’t Help Weight Loss; and Smaller Habits to Break Them

A lot of people struggle with aligning their actions with their ideal thoughts or words. The struggle between how a person believes they should act versus how they truly act can cause internal discomfort, which does not help the external body at all. Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand; conquering both are daily battles. I have struggled with mental health, especially when it comes to thinking about my physical health. One of my main issues is that I posses cognitive dissonance when it comes to my physical health. I was eating healthy and exercising, so why didn’t I feel any better? Despite being familiar with the logistics of losing weight, I make unfavorable decisions almost daily. I thought I was eating healthy, but in reality I would have had a veggie burger and fries for lunch, and a frozen microwave dinner. I thought I was working out, but in reality I was at the gym once a week. I had to take a look at the smaller, daily pictures. The daily habits and the decisions that required cognition. I realized that I will see results if I break a few of my bad habits. I will be outlining these bad habits and ways to break them, if I have not already.

1.Eating too much.
One cause for my over eating is the fact that I was not familiar with proper portion sizes to begin with. So, if I’m eating too much to begin with, then my body would most likely be used to those quantities of foods. I started tracking my food intake and realized I was eating way more than the recommended servings of… everything. I could eat a whole avocado, when I only needed 1/2; I would use way more than 2 tablespoons of oil to cook my food; I would snack on my food while cooking it, and still eat a “full” helping of that dish; I would eat while watching TV or playing on my phone and forget that I ate, I would go back for seconds because I didn’t remember thoroughly enjoying my food. This one bad habit had many faces, but it all stemmed from my own ignorance. A lot of the foods I would eat too much of are calorie dense, which only compounded the issue. I learned about proper portion control when I started logging my daily intake. When I saw how many nutrients the food I was eating gave me, it really put into perspective how much I was over eating. I would also binge out of habit and comfort.
I have recently turned my eating habits around after gathering information from reading books and articles, and watching professionals in the field on YouTube. These worked for me. I started with increasing my water intake. When I’m hungry and under stimulated, I’m probably thirsty. Water also makes me feel “full.” I have started drinking water before and after meals to prevent additional eating. I don’t need more food when the meal I just ate had enough macros, micros and made me feel good. I recently traded in calorie-dense foods for nutrient-dense ones. I’ll have spinach instead of lettuce, I’ll make my own burrito bowl instead of buying a pre-made or frozen one. I also try to make half of my plate veggies. A good habit that I’ve also started to practice is making only enough food for one portion. If there is only one serving available, I won’t be able to grab seconds. If there is any food left over, I will put it in Tupperware before I start eating. If I am still absolutely hungry after eating and drinking some water, I will find a high-fiber and/or water snack (apple, banana, something with oats, celery and peanut butter, popcorn, etc.) I will either meal or ingredient prep to prevent supersized portions. I’m also getting into the habit of planning out my meals and snacks ahead of time, so I don’t stray away from the good stuff.

2. Not Exercising Enough.
I a.) underestimate how much exercise I really need (“If weight loss is 80% food, I don’t need to work out that often.” No. Wrong. Fake news.) and b.) overestimate how much work is being put in. Based on my stats, I should be active for 3 hours per week, and have at least two sessions of strength-building activities. In reality, I’m only active for 1.5 hours per week, which is my weekly gym session.
I have been working on these bad habits by trying to get in some power yoga in addition to my weekly gym session. I have also signed up to participate in my first cycle class. My goal is attending two cardio classes per week, and two sessions of strength training per week. It will be easier for me to come in half an hour before the cardio class to do my strength sessions than to go to the gym 4 times a week. When it gets warmer, I will be taking my dog out for a daily walk. I will also start incorporating at-home workouts in my new routine.

3. Focusing on the goals from the wrong angle.
My main goal is to lose weight. It used to be my only one. I used to think that losing the weight would solve all of my problems. My health would instantly be better! Little did I know, I also needed to take care of myself in the process. I started out with meal prepping bland lunches and would get sick of them by the second day. I would follow YouTube workouts that made me so sore, I ended up falling off the wagon after a day of rest.
For my body to be able to do what I need it to, I had to nurture it. All other bodily processes will fall into line. I switched my goal from weight loss to health gain. I tend to think of food as fuel, not entertainment; exercise as medicine, not a punishment; rest as necessary, not as “laziness”. I base my goals on health by finding healthy habits I enjoy. I will seek out physical activities I like (yoga, walking, lifting, stair climbing, running), and healthy meals that taste good. I have started to use recipes that require foods I like, not something I bought because it was stamped with the superfood/weight loss seal of approval.

I also focus more on health related goals:

❤ How are my bowel movements changing as I eat better? ❤

❤ How am I sleeping when I don’t binge before bed? ❤

❤ How amazing do I feel after cardio? ❤

❤ This shirt fits better! ❤

❤ I can do 5 pushups consecutively! ❤

These behavioral changes may not work for everyone. These are changes I have made and am in the process of making to reach my health goals. I did not implement them all overnight, I have collected the good habits over the last two months.

Let me know what you think of these changes! Don’t be afraid to let me know if they are unclear, or veer off topic; I’m new to writing!


Do you have any bad habits you indulge in? What are some ways you can break those bad habits?