If you've never lifted weights before, it can be intimidating. And when you consider the many different types of exercises, the amount of weight to lift, the number of repetitions and sets, and the amount of rest between sets, you might think you need a PhD to understand it all.
Gyms have changed and are more welcoming than ever. Once the place where only athletes and hardcore fitness enthusiasts with big muscles went to show off their bodies, gyms are now filled with everyone from Mr. Olympia to the grandma next door.
So why not you too? Here are six reasons why you should join a gym.
Variety of Equipment1 of 7
From barbells to bikes, pulley machines to pools, gyms provide many options, including those that will help you see results. Some of the equipment, like weight machines, allow you to isolate specific muscle groups for definition or to rehab muscles following an injury.
Weight machines use variable resistance—changing resistance throughout the joint's range of motion—which places more stress on your muscles at the angles at which they are stronger.
Dumbbells and barbells, on the other hand, offer constant resistance on the muscle throughout the joint's range of motion. You can use a greater variety of movements that are more specific to the movements performed in daily life.
In addition to free weights, gyms have a variety of cardiovascular equipment to get your heart strong, including treadmills, elliptical trainers, bikes, rowing machines, and Stairmasters. Ask if you can use a guest pass (or use one from a friend who's already a member) so you can try out the equipment in the gym for yourself before purchasing a membership.
Knowledgeable Instructors2 of 7
Even though fitness center instructors don't have PhDs, they still know a lot about how to get you results.
Knowledgeable instructors can give you fitness advice, write a training program for you, administer and explain the results of fitness tests, and demonstrate the correct ways to do strength exercises so you don't hurt yourself. It's much better than being left on your own to figure it all out by yourself.
If you want one-on-one attention, you can hire one of the personal trainers at the gym to work with you, or you can take a myriad of group exercise classes, from spinning to cardio kickboxing, led by energetic group fitness instructors. When looking for a personal trainer, make sure you hire someone who has a degree in the field, experience working with other people with similar goals and has a nationally-recognized personal trainer certification. Many gyms also employ nutritionists or registered dietitians who can give you nutrition advice and write a meal plan for you to accompany your exercise program.
Fitness Assessments3 of 7
Many gyms offer a complimentary fitness assessment administered by a personal trainer when you first join. Depending on the gym, the fitness assessment may include measurements of percent body fat, blood pressure, flexibility and resting heart rate. Some gyms go as far as testing your muscular strength, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
The fitness assessment is a great opportunity to acquire objective data on your current fitness level so you can set realistic goals. Following the assessment, you'll typically receive one or two complimentary sessions with a personal trainer to familiarize you with the equipment and set you up on an exercise program.
While personal trainers often use these complimentary sessions to convince you to purchase personal training sessions, they can be valuable for you to learn how to use the equipment as you begin a new exercise program. Take advantage of these sessions by asking the personal trainer lots of questions.
Motivation and Goals4 of 7
Want to lose 10 pounds? Want to get bigger muscles? Want to reduce your blood pressure?
Joining a gym can help you set goals and motivate you to reach them. Paying for a gym membership can often be a motivator in itself, since you'll be wasting money if you don't go to the gym.
Having a standing appointment with some friends to work out with at the gym or hiring a personal trainer to meet with you on a regular basis can also be big motivators. By surrounding yourself with people who have similar fitness interests and goals, you'll find that the energy and motivation inside a gym is contagious.
Self Confidence5 of 7
Ever notice that people with nice bodies tend to exude self-confidence?
While we can't control our genetics, joining a gym can help you to build a better-looking body. Just the act of exercising leads to greater self-confidence. Think of a gym as the place you go to gain self-confidence that you can take with you when you're back home and showered and ready for society.
Socialization6 of 7
While most people go to gyms simply to work out, they can also be great places to meet people. After all, humans are social animals.
You know you already have something in common with other people there. Maybe you'll find a new workout partner. And who knows? Maybe the man or woman of your dreams will be running on a nearby treadmill or sipping a protein shake next to you at the juice bar.
Before joining a gym, check out a few different ones near where you live. Not all gyms are the same. Here's a list of things you should find out:
• If you have young children, does the gym have childcare services?
• Does it have the kinds of group exercise classes that interest you? Are the classes offered at times that are convenient for you?
• Is the gym clean?
• How old is the equipment?
• What are the qualifications of the personal trainers?
• Does the gym require a contract? If so, are there any ways to get out of the contract?
• How much does it cost per month and is there an initiation fee when you first join?
• How much does it cost to work one-on-one with a personal trainer?
• What do the locker rooms look like?
• What other amenities does the gym have? Sauna? Steam room? Massage?