Introvert guide: getting started at the gym

CrossfitI wrote a previous post titled 10 tips for an introvert at the gym. I wanted to follow up with some tips for those who may be considering a gym membership. But before I start, I want to state that going to the gym isn’t for everyone. The most important thing about exercise is finding something you love. However, if you want to find a gym or switch to a new one, here are a few helpful tips.

1. Figure out your personal goals.

I didn’t have any clear goals at the beginning of my fitness journey. I knew I wanted to get healthier but I didn’t have anything specific to strive towards. As a result, I wasted a lot of time and became frustrated because I couldn’t see myself improving.

Take time to assess what you want to accomplish. Is your goal building strength, weight loss, increased cardio and recovery, or something else entirely? Once you’ve figured that out, write down goals that will help you achieve this. Create specific, short, medium, and long-term goals. Decide what kind of equipment will be necessary. Don’t worry, this can change as time goes on but it’s good to have a starting point. Are you more interested in machines, cardio equipment, or free weights? Not all gyms will carry everything. If you have an idea of what you want to use, it’ll be easier to find a place that fits your needs.

2. Do your research ahead of time.

As an introvert, I need to have as much information as possible before making a decision. Whether its grocery shopping, buying a car, or picking out a gym, I need to know what my options are. Only then can I narrow down my decision.

Do a google search for gyms in your area and see what’s nearby. Decide if you’re interested in a big box gym, one that only offers classes, a power-lifting gym, a crossfit gym, etc. Search their websites for information. You can usually get a lot of info via email too which is perfect for avoiding phone calls. Decide what your budget is (monthly and overall). Also note that a lot of gyms charge an initial sign-up fee separate from the monthly payments.

I usually make a spreadsheet which includes the gym’s name, distance from work, distance from home, contract or no contract, monthly fee options, cancellation fees, what’s included (classes), and anything additional (first month free or discounts at other stores). Then I figure out my priorities. For example, I’m willing to drive a little farther if the monthly fees are lower (as long as they have the equipment I need).

Decide whether you want something close to work, close to home, or both. If you have to travel too much out of the way, you’re less likely to go. A larger gym franchise might offer access to multiple locations which is great if you travel frequently, but may be more expensive. They may have a cheaper option if you only use one location.  Be sure to ask, as they’re less likely to offer you the cheaper option without prompting.

3. Write down your questions.

You’ve probably been here before. Someone asks you if you have any questions. Your mind goes totally blank and you stare at them. Then later that day, you start thinking of questions. It’s a frustrating experience to say the least.

Before you even contact the gym to request a visit or pass, write down all the questions you have. If you’re like me, all my questions disappear during the interview, then reappear on the drive home. A few sample questions could include asking about the different monthly rate options, as they usually try to sell you the most expensive one. I was able to get a monthly fee that was 50% less than the quoted price, simply because I asked. Question them about the cancellation fees, special offers, how much personal training is, can you bring a friend in, discounts, etc.

4. Go in with a game plan.

Once you’ve scheduled your first visit, figure out exactly what you want to do. You’ll likely be taken through a short interview by the associate. But after the questions, you’ll usually get the chance to do an actual workout. Make sure you have a game plan. Do you want to do a cardio session or check out the free weights? Write out what you want to do that day in a notebook or on your phone. A great option is to grab some cardio equipment for the first few minutes. It’s a great warm up and you can survey the rest of the gym and slowly get used to the environment. Bring your headphones to block out distractions and you’re all set. Also, if you pretend you’re totally comfortable, no one looking at you will be able to tell any different.

If I don’t go in with a solid plan, I end up drifting around the equipment, unable to decide on an exercise. I’m far more productive if I can purposefully move through a pre-determined set of movements.

5. Try it out!

Most gyms offer a 3 day trial, a free week, or something similar. Take them up on it and try them out, you’re not obligated to sign up for any of them. Check out multiple gyms to get a feel for the difference in atmosphere and clientele. Pick a time when you would usually work out to get an accurate idea of how busy they’ll be. I tried three different gyms before deciding on my current one. It was the one I felt most comfortable in as soon as I walked in. Write down your reactions and feelings about each location and how you felt during your workout.

This will probably feel a bit uncomfortable and get you out of your comfort zone, but it’s very important to check out the gym yourself. After all, you’re going to be the one going there.

6. Sleep on your decision.

Or take as much time as you need. If you’re checking out several gyms, wait until you’ve experienced them all and give yourself time to compare them and mull over your decision. Be prepared for the sales associate to push you to sign up right away. However, you’re the one that holds the power in that situation. You don’t need to sign up until you’re 100% certain of your decision. As an introvert, we need to process things before making a decision. Honour your personality by giving yourself time to weigh the pros and cons.

Do you have any other helpful tips?

Image credit: “Crossfit” by Wei Han Frank Lin is licensed under CC by 2.0

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