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Navigating the Fitness Jungle

January 6, 2016 1 Comment

Jungle-personal-training-phuketIt’s the most wonderful time of the year! I’m not speaking of the holidays which have just passed. I’m talking about the fitness industry’s most wonderful time of the year when the masses jump on health club memberships and fitness programs in the hopes that this year will be different. Like clockwork it happens every time at this time of year and the industry is counting on it, all to the dismay however of the regulars who keep their fitness membership active throughout the year. A parody video went viral recently about the phenomenon of the “newbies” (aka resolutioners) abruptly entering the hallowed grounds of the gyms where the regulars take exception, albeit jokingly, to sharing their workspace. While there’s humor to be found in it, it does create a sort of cloud of uncomfortableness and frustration on both sides (a whole fitness franchise was built on this phenomenon) that isn’t necessary and is counterproductive to the common goal of fitness. As someone who has spent a great deal of my life in gyms and health clubs of all types, I’m here to provide a map of sorts to both sides to getting along and striving to reach unprecedented goals together.

To The Newbies:

  • Congratulations on your commitment to start a new. You will find that there are many more just like you who are entering the gym for the very first time or for the first time in a long while.
  • Get familiar with what’s available to you. Most health clubs/gyms give what I call the “museum tour” pointing out things that you may or may not know how they can help you. If there was an introductory lesson offered, take it, even if it seems remedial. (If you drive and just bought a new car, you would want to be showed all the features and how they work, wouldn’t you?)
  • If working with a personal trainer is available, use it, even if it means paying a few extra dollars. Fitness is not a thing to do for a few short weeks. It is a lifestyle and mentality. Learn the basics first from a qualified professional before you start deciding on how much you think you know how and what to do.
  • Don’t try to do too much at first. Easier said than done but trying to do it all at once will 100% of the time lead to burn out, possibly injury, and a negative perception of exercise – all of which could have been a factor in your past.
  • Practice gym etiquette, which is just a fancy way of saying be a decent human being. Treat others as you want to be treated and leave the equipment the way you would want to find it for your use.
  • Learn to share, not hog, equipment. Don’t sit on a piece of equipment that you’re not using for a single rep. If you need a rest, get up and move away or find a place to sit that’s not part of any exercise routine. It is a gym by the way. The goal is to move.
  • Get involved with a group, whether it be a class or a program but beware the instructor who is only in it for their own benefit. Trust me; you’ll recognize who they are right away.
  • There’s no need for a “judgement free zone”. Newsflash: most of the people working out are into their workout and could care less about what you’re doing. There’s no need to form a low opinion of yourself. You’re here and still doing more than the person who’s still sitting at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to hold your head up, smile, say hello, etc. I’ve seen many friendships, relationships, even marriages form from being social with those surrounding you with common goals. Make the gym/health club an extended family of sorts.
  • Leave your phone in your locker, or better yet in your car. If you can’t put aside the time to exercise for yourself (emergency reasons excluded) it’s going to a short and frustrating journey or a long and fruitless one. The gym is where you work out, not work

To The Regulars:

  • I know the gym is more crowded than usual and you’re already looking forward to that second week in February when it normally falls back but let me remind you – you may have been one of those newbies at one time. Welcome them, and help them out if you can. Be a mentor or role model.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. No one knows the walk that person has taken but they’re here now. Be an inspiration and/or encourage them to embrace the journey.
  • Proper gym etiquette applies to you too. Don’t be that guy/girl that others learn to despise, new or old. This is everyone’s gym. Use it the way you expect it to be used and shared by others.
  • Don’t be so unidimensional. You’re the experienced one. Space a little crowded for your chest day? Don’t tell me you don’t have a hundred other exercises to utilize that same muscle group a different way! Perhaps you might benefit from working with a qualified professional. Real growth comes from change.
  • Same as with the newbies. Leave your phone in your locker, or better yet in your car. The gym is where you work out, not work or hold photo sessions.

The gym/health club is not a mythical place. It’s a real, live place where real, live people can gather and work towards their individual fitness goals together. Like a community, it will only be as strong as its weakest link.


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

Comments (1)

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  1. Bob R. says:

    Great article Jeff. Everyone needs to play nice! Remember it’s not your personal gym and learn to share with everyone .

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