1. It’s not just about the gym
When you first sign up for a gym membership, the normal intention is to head there a couple of times a week to get some pretty attainable results. The reality is that the more you get drawn into the training culture, the more you become invested in your results; healthy living starts to creep into every facet of your lifestyle. You start planning what you eat, counting the calories, and refusing that last drink on a night out because you know you have a training session the next day.
As sad as it sounds, what happens in the gym doesn’t stay in the gym.
2. You get to really know people, but you never learn their names
It’s inevitable that your training schedule will coincide with others’; the more you work out, the more you see them. Sooner or later, you start talking to these people. You share conversations about training to begin with, and then, as your gym-buddy relationship develops, you start to learn about each other’s lives outside the gym. But you never actually shake hands and introduce yourself.
I think the semi-anonymous aspect of these relationships helps guys unload with honesty. I’ve seen guys speak about relationships, divorces, investments, parenting tips and life plans, only to come over to me shortly afterwards and ask ‘what’s that guy’s name again?’
3. Big Guys will unload The Knowledge on you
Big Guys like to think they know their stuff. Join a gym as a newbie and it’s a fair bet that within the first week you’ll be on the free-weight floor when a Big Guy will sidle over and offer some advice. Sometimes it’ll be great advice, sometimes it’ll be old rhetoric from the 70s.
Correct protocol is always to listen to the Big Guy. You don’t have to take his advice on board, but you do have to look like you will. He’s a big dude, and that’s just the way it is.
4. Approach the sauna with an open mind
Never assume that the sauna rules of your local gym are transferable to sweat boxes elsewhere.
Sauna culture is always fascinating: it’s fairly common knowledge that on the continent they bath in the buff, but did you know that in LA it’s not uncommon for gym members to take fitness equipment into the sauna and continue their workouts?
I’ve seen extensive phone conversations and even fully dressed guys who want to get a sweat on before they start training. Be prepared for the unexpected.
5. You learn how to read a personal trainer’s behaviour
Many of the chain gyms are packed with personal trainers, who compete against each other for clients with ferocious tenacity. Learning how to parry or embrace their advances is crucial to your first weeks at the gym.
Later down the line, it’s a pretty fair sign that you are training well and looking good when all the PTs acknowledge you, but never try to sell you personal training.
6. To succeed, you have to check your ‘cool’ in at the door
Gyms can seem like intimidating places, filled with people with amazing bodies who seem to know exactly what they are doing. The worst thing you can do when you join a gym is to try to maintain your sense of ‘cool’ in the face of such a sea of experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, so forget about how you compare to others and throw yourself into your training.
7. You don’t need to go to every class
Gyms will try any means necessary to get you through the doors of their exercise classes to fill numbers. Of course, any exercise is better than no exercise – but don’t fall into the habit of having your whole schedule and training program determined for you by a class timetable.
Cherry pick the classes that will help you towards your particular goal, and never be afraid to interrogate instructors on whether a class is actually useful for you.
8. Personal space and hygiene rules aren’t universal
There is always That Guy in any gym who wants to have an entire changing room conversation stark b****** naked. So, while you may habitually wrap a towel around your bits and pieces out of social awareness, don’t assume that everyone else does. This also applies to the amount of space you consider your own when changing. I’ve seen some people take up half the changing room all to themselves, while others seem keen to get changed right on top of your toes.
You’ll come across the everyday shavers and the toe clippers – both of which are tolerable. It’s the body hair shavers that you’ll learn to truly fear.
9. Your induction will be about the gym, not you
Most gyms have a set induction program and whilst you may get a generic workout program for someone of your exercise experience and goals, essentially the talk is going to be about using the equipment safely. I recommend requesting a more thorough assessment with one of the trainers of the gym before really diving into your workouts: you should know that what you’ve been instructed to do is actually right for your body and aims.
10. No matter how much gym kit you buy, your T-shirts are always in the wash when you need them
An irrefutable law of gym-going is that you never have enough clean training clothes. You’ll be surprised how little time it takes before you happily wear the same dank and mank kit all week long.