The Beginner's Guide to the Gym

The gym can be an intimidating place for first-timers. Whether it's a long wait to use cardio equipment or the testosterone-filled free weights section, it's common for a beginner to feel uncomfortable.

To get an effective workout, it's important for newcomers to know how to navigate the gym, follow the correct etiquette and understand what they're doing.

Don't Become a Hamster on a Wheel

It's tempting to head straight to the cardio equipment, plug in your headphones and crank out 30 minutes of moderate aerobic bliss while watching some television. You certainly wouldn't be the only one doing that.

There are days when this may be the only way you can relieve stress. And if you're going to watch your favorite show, you might as well be on a treadmill or exercise bike instead of the couch.

However, if you're crunched for time, you're better off doing a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout or a full-body strength training circuit. These types of workouts are especially preferred if weight loss is your goal.

More: 7 Indoor Fitness Classes to Try

Have a Plan

Most gyms offer a free personal training session for new members. Use this. Even if you can't afford future sessions, make the most of the free one you'll receive. If you do get the opportunity to work with a trainer, ask for a beginner-friendly workout that you can build upon as you get stronger.

Be honest with the trainer, too. If you can only get to the gym two days a week, they'll likely give you a different type of plan than they would if you could commit to more. You can still see results with twice-a-week gym sessions, as it really just depends on the efficiency and intensity of the workouts.

If you don't have access to a trainer, use the Internet as resource. There are thousands of workout plans on various websites and phone apps. Spend five minutes browsing the Web before you start working out to plan your routine.

More: Your 6-Week Plan to a 6-Pack

Take a Buddy

If the thought of stepping foot inside a gym intimidates you (you're not alone), try going the first few times with a friend. It helps if the friend is a fitness buff, but even if they aren't, working out with someone else is a great way to stay accountable while you're adapting to a fitness routine.

With a workout buddy, there's also a great chance you'll workout harder, have more fun and set goals for each other. Another benefit is affordability: If a one-on-one personal training session is too expensive, you may be able to split the cost.

More: How to Find Friends With (Fitness) Benefits

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About the Author

Susan Grant Legacki

Susan Grant Legacki is the founding editor of LAVA Magazine, and currently serves as the magazine's features and online editor. Prior to joining LAVA, she worked as a Senior Editor at Inside Triathlon and Triathlete Magazine. She is an Ironman finisher, Boston-qualifying marathoner, certified Pilates instructor—and a fitness and nutrition enthusiast. You can read more about her on Susanegrant.com and follow her on Twitter at @susanglegacki.

Susan Grant Legacki is the founding editor of LAVA Magazine, and currently serves as the magazine's features and online editor. Prior to joining LAVA, she worked as a Senior Editor at Inside Triathlon and Triathlete Magazine. She is an Ironman finisher, Boston-qualifying marathoner, certified Pilates instructor—and a fitness and nutrition enthusiast. You can read more about her on Susanegrant.com and follow her on Twitter at @susanglegacki.

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