Whoa, hold it right there. If it's been a few years since you've held a dumbbell, or you've never even seen the inside of a gym, you might need a little bit of preparation before you charge the dumbbell rack. Without some pre-gym prep, you might find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed, and unlikely to return.

Preparation for the gym doesn't mean killing yourself at home before you sign up for a membership; it means laying a foundation. If you can walk into a gym knowing you're capable of 15 minutes of walking and a few push-ups, then you'll at least know where to start.

The Starting Line

It's wonderful that you've made the decision to get healthier. Let's start by doing everything we can to make sure you stay happy and motivated.

Before you go to the gym, schedule a general physical check-up with your doctor, try the workout below, and follow my healthy eating tips. Once you feel ready, you can lift with wild abandon—and strict form, of course.

Pre-Gym Prep Workout

If you haven't trained in ages, even walking on the treadmill can seem difficult. This two-week gym-prep program is meant to help kick start your strength and cardiovascular endurance before you walk into a gym.

You can do it at home while you're finding the right gym and gathering a comfortable workout wardrobe.

Workout 1
Trail Running/Walking
1 set, 15 mins
3 sets, 12-20 reps
Bent-Knee Hip Raise
3 sets, 12-20 reps
Workout 2
Bodyweight Walking Lunge
3 sets, 20 reps
3 sets, 8-10 reps
Bench Dips
3 sets, 8-10 reps

Repeat these alternating days for six days of the week; use one day as a rest and mental health day. Your week will look like this:

Week 1 Schedule

  • Day 1: Workout 1 - Cardio and Core
  • Day 2: Workout 2 - Strength and Stretch
  • Day 3: Repeat Day 1 - Cardio and Core
  • Day 4: Repeat Day 2 - Strength and Stretch
  • Day 5: Repeat Day 1 - Cardio and Core
  • Day 6: Repeat Day 2 - Strength and Stretch
  • Day 7: Rest!

Pre-gym Nutrition

If you start eating better now, it will become a habit sooner. Clean eating and smart training are the two keys to fitness and physique success. For energy, healthy body functions, and a faster metabolism, follow these tips.

  • Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day.

  • Cut out fast and packaged food.

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently.

  • Get 3-4 servings of protein per day. Chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, and protein powder are all good choices.

  • Eat 2-3 servings of complex carbohydrates like yams, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, corn, oats, whole grains, or legumes.

  • Try limiting your wheat intake to 1-2 servings per day, and make sure you opt for whole grains.

  • Get one low-fat serving of dairy and one serving of fruit each day.

  • Eat as many green veggies as you want.

  • Snacking should consist of low-fat, low-salt popcorn, rice cakes, and nuts.

  • Add healthy fats to your diet by using olive, grape seed, or coconut oils. Cut out vegetable oil.

  • Try using salsa, low-sodium soy sauce, mustard, low-sugar ketchup, non-fat salad dressings, herbs, and spices as your condiments. Don't go crazy with butter, gravy, and other high-calorie extras.

What to Wear

For many people, their wardrobe is a big part of working out. As you get ready to hit the gym, remember that fashionable gym attire is optional, not mandatory.

You don't have to look good or dress up to work out. Start with simple wardrobe basics and build from there. You will need:

  • Cross-training tennis shoes.

  • Two pair of breathable sports socks.

  • Two full sets of fitness clothes, tops, and bottoms. Cotton blends and natural fibers are good and there are new fabrics that have sweat wicking bonuses. Nothing tight.

  • Sports bras for the ladies.

  • Lifting gloves. You will be glad you have them.

  • A gym bag for your every day shoes and clothes if you change at the gym.

  • Gym towel.

  • Padlock or combo lock for gym locker.

  • Shower essentials, like travel-size soaps and a pair of flip flops.

To the Gym!

After you've followed the plan above and collected your necessary supplies it's time to choose a gym. Take your time to figure out your fitness interests along with your budget.

Swimming pools, Jacuzzis, tennis, racquetball, basketball courts, group classes, and other amenities are great, but only if you use them. Remember, the two most important sections in the gym are the weight room(s) and cardio areas.

Many people look at class schedules, number of trainers, and other gym add-ons, but the really important stuff is the selection of machines and free weights. A good gym will have a wide range of dumbbells, and duplicate sets at lower weights.

A good gym will also have a diverse array of machines and multiple cable stations. Don't get sucked in by fancy headlines. It's the equipment that counts.

About the Author

Brenda Kelly

Brenda Kelly

Brenda Kelly is 43 years old and still looks like a 25-year-old! Find out how she keeps in such great shape and how she wins contests.

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