Would you show up to a first date in a wedding dress? Of course not. That would be silly (albeit, funny). But sometimes – when starting the gym – we approach it with a similarly premature enthusiasm. We drop everything, buy the best gym gear, and waste money on the sexiest looking bottle of protein powder. Then we show up to the gym 5 nights a week to tackle a get shredded routine from Jim Stoppani of bodybuilding.com.
Enthusiasm is important – don’t get me wrong. Enthusiasm is what prompts the desire to get fit in the first place. But, as is the case with BIG feelings, they don’t tend to last very long. When starting the gym, you’ll likely experience a honeymoon period, which will inevitably wane over time. When that happens, it’s a solid foundational relationship with fitness that you’ll fall back on.
When starting the gym, don’t get swept off your feet by get-fit-quick bootcamps.
The Internets is flooded with quick, intense solutions for starting the gym and getting fit quick. Getting fit is presented as something you can arrive at in two or three weeks, just in time for that Mexican all-inclusive you’re going on with your besty. These bootcamps are the whirlwind romances of the fitness world: those instant, lust-filled, intense emotional connections we feel with a person we meet at the right place and time.
While whirlwind romances and fitness bootcamps can be fun, memorable, and useful, the reality is that they are temporary situations that we can’t sustain for a very long time.
Starting the gym to get fit – truly fit – is something we achieve over a longer period of time by making small changes in our routines. It’s also never something we necessarily arrive at; rather, it’s something we need to work at every day for a lifetime.
A loud, busy nightclub is not the best space to get to know someone.
Peak hours in gyms are like a busy nightclud: overcrowded, competitive, and anxiety-inducing. Since you’re just starting the gym and getting to know him (or her), I’d recommend choosing non-peak times for your workouts.
Here’s the typical peak/non-peak hours of most gyms:
- 6am-9am: Moderately busy, but with a nice buzz, like a cool coffee shop.
- 9am-4:30pm: Not busy and constructively calm, like a library.
- 4:30pm-8pm: Insanely busy, like a nightclub!
- 8:00pm-close: Busyness tapers off every hour, like a beach as the sun sets.
- 6am-11am: Not busy and relaxed, like a morning stroll through city streets.
- 11am-3pm: Very busy, like brunch restaurants on the weekend.
- 3pm-close: Busyness tapers off every hour, like a pub on Sunday night.
Bonus tip: Friday night after 8pm – the gym is a ghost town!
Before starting the gym, shop around online.
Online dating has come a long way. While it’s by no means perfect, you can generally get a feel for what a gym is like by digging around online.
Here’s a few to consider:
GoodLife is a convenient gym to date because there is probably one nearby (because let’s be honest: long distance relationships rarely work). It’s also not clingy – you’re allowed to date other GoodLife locations at the same time. GoodLife tends to be busier because it’s a convenient choice, but they have a lot of perks like fitness programs and all the equipment you’ll need in a gym.
The YMCA is like dating someone who grew up in the community and knows everyone and their kids (there are a lot of younger kids and teenagers at the Y, which can make it a bit loud and annoying). But the Y usually has more advanced amenities, like swimming pools and squash courts. There’s a misconception the Y is cheaper, because it isn’t (unless you qualify for the reduced rate based on your income, which still isn’t really that cheap).
Finding the perfect, private gym is a rare and special find – like meeting the ideal mate in the poetry section of a quiet library. Private gyms are becoming less and less common, as GoodLife – the Tinder app of gyms – slowly takes over. But if you have the patience to find the perfect one, by all means, I’d recommend it.
School gyms might be fun to look at, but since you’re looking for something more long-term, I’d steer clear. They are filled primarily with younger athletes and juice monkeys, most of whom are men aged 18-24. However, if you go to school, access to the gym will likely be included in your tuition – so for that reason it may be the most practical choice.
When starting the gym, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on your first few dates.
Most gyms offer free trials, which will allow you to try the place out first before committing to a year-long relationship with it. Sign up for the free trial in person and get a tour of the gym. This can be a safe first date, just to gauge whether the gym is actually as nice-looking as it claims to be in its online profile.
For the first few weeks or months of starting the gym, make getting comfortable your focus.
You don’t need to come guns blazing when you’re starting the gym with a full-fledged program, fancy gym outfit, and all the supplements you can buy. That would be like showing up to a first date in a wedding dress. Take the first few weeks or even months to get comfortable in the space.
You also don’t want to drop everything in your life when starting the gym – that places too much pressure on the relationship. Commit to 1, 2 or 3 sessions per week at first. Try the cardio machines for now, where you can comfortably observe what gym behaviour is all about and become accustomed to the bright, noisy space, which can feel a bit like a stage at first.
Afraid of the cardio machines? Simply ask the person at the front desk, as you’re signing in, to give you a tour of the machine.
Progressively, over time, start spending more time with the gym.
Rearranging your life because you’re infatuated with the gym can be problematic. The most successful gym relationships happen when you slowly integrate fitness into your pre-established routine.
After a month or so, continue with your cardio 2 – 3 a week, but add in one extra day where you’ll complete something stationary. Try an equipment-free 30-minute ab workout, or go for a walk around the gym with some walking lunges.
When starting the gym, you don’t need to fall in love right away.
Starting the gym is a lot of trial and error, really – kind of like dating. There’s no exact template you need to follow because it happens differently for everyone, at different times in their lives, for different reasons. Have patience. Be kind to yourself. You might not love it at first, or you might not be sure if what you’re doing is the right thing. All you really need to do is be curious, be open to possibilities, and most importantly, want to challenge yourself to become stronger, healthier, and more confident.