A Beginner’s Guide to the Gym: How to Feel Confident from Day 1

The convenience of working out at home is hard to beat, but sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Plus, going to a brick-and-mortar gym comes with unique benefits—especially if you’re a beginner embarking on a new fitness routine. But with so many options, figuring out which one to join (and what to do once you get there) can feel like a challenge in itself. That’s why we created this beginner-friendly guide to the gym.

Below, you’ll find experts’ advice on selecting the best gym for you, navigating beginner-friendly equipment, following unspoken gym etiquette, and so much more.

Why Gyms Are Great for Beginners

Joining a gym is a great step to take if you’re trying to build an exercise routine, and it might even help you stick to your goals. Of course, you can stay consistent and make progress without joining a gym, but if your efforts to maintain a regular exercise routine have fallen short in the past, signing up for a membership could be worth a shot.

Some of the perks of belonging to a gym include:

  • Access to equipment. Most gyms are stocked with a wide array of strength machines, free weights, and cardio equipment. Having these machines and props expands your workout options, says Peloton instructor Logan Aldridge. At a gym, you’re able to try different types of machines and see which ones you like. The ability to mix up your workouts and try new things also helps prevent exercise boredom, adds Ava Fagin, the assistant director of sports performance at Cleveland State University.

  • Built-in motivation. Exercising alongside other people may help you get excited about your workout and give you a sense of camaraderie. “The atmosphere in a gym, where you’re surrounded by others who are also working toward fitness goals, can be motivating and help you maintain consistency,” Logan says.

  • Social connection. Gyms are a great place to meet people with shared or similar interests, Logan says. Plus, you can even learn about new exercises and workouts from fellow members. “Most of the gym community is really willing to talk to you about what they’re doing if you approach them in a polite way,” says Brendan Overlid, a Colorado-based physical therapist at UCHealth.

How to Find a Good Gym for Beginners

There’s not one specific type of gym that’s best for beginners. It’s more about finding one that’s a good fit for you. Here’s what to consider while exploring different options:

  • Proximity. Joining a gym that’s close to where you live and work is “huge,” says Fagin. The proximity makes it easier to get to the gym consistently and make it a regular part of your routine.

  • Price. Monthly memberships can range from budget-friendly ($10 or less) to pricey (several hundred dollars or more). Consider how much you’re able and willing to spend, and watch out for additional charges, such as initiation fees. Some gyms also charge extra for classes or amenities.

  • Additional amenities. Most gyms have a variety of equipment and classes, but some offer extras—like a run club, small group training sessions, steam rooms, saunas, and more. Think through which offerings, if any, are a priority for you.

Hesitant to commit? Try to get a free trial or take a guided tour (ideally during the hours you’d work out so you can scope out the crowds and energy). Here are two additional questions to mull over during a tour:

  • Is the facility clean and well-kept? For example, you might want to avoid a gym with machines that squeak and rattle, as Overlid says this could signal a safety concern.

  • Is the gym’s layout conducive to your workout routine? If you follow an online workout program or use the Peloton App for guidance, evaluate whether there’s space for you to set up the equipment you need, position your phone, and complete your workout without getting in other people’s way.

What’s the Best Gym Equipment for Beginners?

The gym equipment you should use is dependent on your fitness level, goals, and preferences. However, there are certain options in the weightroom and cardio area that experts find especially useful for beginners.

  • Stationary bike. Fagin says she likes the bike as a cardio option since the risk for injury during a ride is pretty low (though you should still make sure you have proper form). Bonus: You can use the Peloton App to take a cycling class led by a Peloton instructor on any stationary bike.

  • Free weights, particularly dumbbells and kettlebells since they’re easier to handle than a barbell. Using free weights is a great way to challenge your balance, posture, and core strength, Fagin says. And as Logan points out, they’re highly versatile and helpful for strength training and muscle development.

  • Weight bench. Using a weight bench for support during moves like dumbbell bench presses, chest flies, and dumbbell rows can lower your risk for injury while improving your body awareness, Overlid says. These benefits are especially important as you get comfortable in the gym and work on developing proper form.

  • Treadmill. You can get a great workout on the treadmill by walking at an incline or taking an instructor-led class on the App. If you’re an App+ member, you can also view your metrics from Peloton running, walking, and Tread Bootcamp classes in the App by pairing it to the gym’s third-party treadmill using Bluetooth.

  • Rowing machine. This piece of equipment is another great option for a low-impact cardio workout, Fagin says, but it’s crucial to have proper rowing form. Luckily, App members can take a Form & Drills Row Classes on any rowing machine.

  • Cable machine. Cable machines are great for beginner-friendly exercises such as pull-downs and reverse lunges with a single-arm row, Fagin says. They’re easy to use and relatively low risk; If a weight is too heavy, you physically won’t be able to lift it on this machine, helping to protect you from injury.

Gym Tips for Beginners

Gym intimidation is real. Feeling nervous about working out in a new space, especially a public one, is completely normal, but it shouldn’t stop you from showing up for yourself. And regardless of whether someone is completely new to the gym or they’ve been a regular for years, they should always treat the people around them with respect.

Here are some tips on how to feel calm, stay focused, and follow standard gym etiquette from the time you walk through the doors.

  • Remember to re-rack your weights. Always put free weights away once you’re finished using them so that others can easily access them, Overlid advises.

  • Keep it clean. Wipe down equipment and machines, regardless of how little or how much you used them. Also, avoid leaving items, such as bags and water bottles, on the floor around you. Clutter can infringe on others’ workouts and even pose tripping hazards. Consider storing your personal belongings in a locker room instead.

  • Don’t sweat and scroll. Be thoughtful about when and where you take breaks. If you’re sitting on a weight bench checking your email or scrolling on social media, it prevents someone else from using it, Fagin says. Remember: You’re sharing this equipment, so you have to be considerate of others.

  • Be mindful about where you move. Doing exercises on a mat? Make sure you’re positioned out of other people’s way and set up in a clear space.

In addition to basic gym etiquette, keep the following tips in mind to make your experience safe, effective, and enjoyable:

  • Bring a friend. “Having a workout buddy can make the experience more enjoyable and provide mutual support,” Logan says.  https://kopetnews.id/

  • Focus on yourself. It’s normal to feel self-conscious, but most people aren’t thinking about you. Instead, they’re focused on themselves and their workouts, Overlid says.

  • Leave your ego at the door. If you’re unsure how to use a piece of equipment or do an exercise properly, ask for help. And don’t push yourself beyond what your body is capable of. You can always work your way up to more reps or heavier weights in the future—there’s no need to rush.

  • Start small. You don’t need to hit the gym every day to make progress. Two visits per week is a “manageable yet still effective” cadence for a beginner, Fagin says. Once you’ve maintained that routine for six to eight weeks, feel free to add a third day, she says. You can also set personalized Activity Goals in the Peloton App, meaning you can monitor weekly stats including number of active days, number of workouts, and workout time.

  • Remember this simple workout formula. Don’t know what to do for your first gym workout? Hop on a cardio machine and alternate between 30 seconds of hard effort and 30 seconds of easy effort for a total of 25 to 30 minutes, Fagin recommends. This format is straightforward and “very effective.” You can also use the Peloton Gym’s built-in timer to measure and slowly increase the duration of your workouts.

Gym Workouts for Beginners

Now that you know how to pick a gym, navigate the equipment, and follow basic gym etiquette, you’re ready to tackle a gym-specific workout. Enter: the Peloton App, which allows you to do an expert-led workout on your own schedule.

You’ll find a wide variety of beginner-friendly classes (rowing, running, biking, walking, and more) on the App, along with strength training workouts demoed by Peloton instructors in the Peloton Gym. You can explore the options on your own (look under the App’s “Workouts” tab to find step-by-step instructions on how to do moves), or consider these beginner-friendly strength training classes.