The No Bullshit Guide To Getting Into The Gym (From Someone Who Hates It)
For the 28 years I’ve been on this earth going to the gym has never, ever appealed to me.
While I was studying and friends were hitting up Body Pump classes nearby with student discounts, I was politely ignoring them and making do with just “walking” as a form of exercise. Walking to the pub, walking to the hamburger shop by the beach, walking to uni bar… you know how it is.
As I hit my mid-twenties and full time work took over, I relied on sporadic exercise sessions with my (way more fit) sisters when I felt myself succumb to the societal pressure of a summer body.
And then when I decided I should probably start at least TRYING a bit more, I dabbled with online courses: most notably Sam Wood’s 28 program which I used religiously for about three months before giving it half-hearted attempts every few weeks or so. As it turns out, once a routine is broken, it’s an absolute bitch to get back.
After spending the start of this year dabbling with 3-week trials at various Pilates studios, I decided I finally needed to bite the bullet.
It was time I committed to a 12-month membership to get into a brand new gym routine.
My reasons this time felt a little more genuine then the BS of feeling pressured by the “wellness” industry. After trying out the Pilates/Yoga studios, I found that going 3-4 times a week was something I actually enjoyed and something that improved my mood drastically. And when my trials were up, the loss of the endorphins in my life was like going through a breakup, so it seemed fitting to finally sign up for something more permanent.
The last time I tried to commit to a gym was about 8 years ago: I paid $13/week at Anytime Fitness and I think I managed to go to the gym maybe 6 times in those 12 months. Nailed it.
So I signed up to Virgin Active in Sydney and decided it was time to push myself with trialling a whole bunch of classes for my first month there.
Tips & Tricks: Going from Gym Noob to Gym Dude
1. Make a plan and stick to it: For the month of June my goal was to attend 4-5 classes a week in order to get my body into a new routine.
2. Find out what suits your body/routine best: I alternated between morning and afternoon classes, before settling on mainly mornings to get it done and dusted before work so I’d have no excuses to back out later in the day.
3. Book your classes in advance: Virgin has an online booking system which makes this super easy and classes like reformer book out FAST. Sometimes I’d be booking my reformer classes nearly a week in advance to guarantee my spot, which helped me plan out my week in general anyway.
4. Test yourself with new classes: Sure, I’d love to do Pilates a few times a week and leave it at that. But I knew I had to challenge myself in this month with a variety of classes to figure out what else I could grow to love, because that was going to help me stick to my routine in the long run.
5. Get a gym buddy: This has been the KEY to my gym success so far. Sure, it’s easy to let yourself down but if you’re booked in and you’re going to the gym with a friend you can’t let THEM down. Except for that one morning I slept through my alarm, sorry Anna.
Here’s a rundown of some of the gym classes I grew to love (and loathe a little).
“I can ride a bike to music,” I thought to myself. In fact, I was somewhat arrogant about it. “How hard can it be?” I said when I told friends I was going to do spin and saw their tormented eyes staring back at me.
Turns out for 45-minutes you don’t own the bike, the bike owns YOU. Every time the instructor cheerfully shouted at us to “add some more resistance” I saw my life flash before my eyes.
Pros of spin: It’s in a dark room so no one can see you mouthing “fuck you” every time you need to turn your dial up again. And the music is so loud no one can hear you gasping for your last breath. (What I need though is a spin class set to emo bangers, then I’d 100% be ready for those uphill rides.)
Also while 30 minutes in you may have regrets about everything that lead you to this moment, at the end of 45 minutes the endorphin rush is truly like no other.
Plus, if you go to one of the more ~deluxe~ Virgin Active gyms (like the one I went to in Bligh street) you get these sweet clip-on shoes, so you there’s no way you can back out of the session. Seriously you are strapped into that bike and not moving.
Cons of spin: All the sweat. And look, sitting on a bike for 45 minutes is not always fun for your genitals.
It’s important to note there WILL be people in the class that are obviously pros and live their life by spin, but it’s better to just hide at the back so no one can see you take a breather or pass out or whatever.
A group workout class that often starts with lying down? Yes please.
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I never thought I’d say this about any form of exercise, but in case you can’t tell already, I fucking love Pilates. Like, if Pilates asked me to stay faithful to it and date no one else in the group class world, I’d weep with relief and agree. It’s low-intensity but you still get shit done. My core has never felt better. I think I actually know where my pelvis is now. And to think people say you don’t learn anything later in life.
If you want to up the ante a bit, alternate between reformer and mat for a different kind of workout. The reformer machine may seem scary at first, but you’ll soon grow to love its versatility. I promise.
Pros of Pilates: It’s low impact and good if you’re recovering from an injury. You also get a great workout while barely breaking a sweat.
Cons of Pilates: If you’re not flexible (like me) it’s easy to pit yourself against the other ladies and gents in the room who can do beyond ridiculous things with their bodies. But, hey, maybe it’ll all just come down to practice. Check in with me in six months.
#3. Body Pump
I liken my relationship with Body Pump to that of a semi-regular fuckboi. It seems like a good idea at the time, you question it while you’re with them, but ultimately it can be a self-esteem boost.
But boy oh boy, is the first class confusing AF. So many weight changes (what weights was I meant to even have in the first place?!) and it moves at such a fast pace that it might leave you a little intimidated. Stick with it though, or come join me in a class because I guarantee you won’t be as bad at trying to get the weights off the bar as I am.
And trust me, you’ll feel the full extent of your hard work the next day.
Pros of Body Pump: If you’re looking for some muscle tone this is the class for you. You’ll work all areas of your body and the fast pace means it feels like the class is over in no time. You can also go at your own pace, so start on the lighter weights and work your way up. And the high of learning your body really is that bitch and getting stronger every day is like no other.
the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and seeing firmer muscles in just 4 weeks
— lawblob (@lawblob) September 13, 2013
Cons of Body Pump: The first couple of classes will be super intimidating if you go to a bigger gym like Virgin, where you can have up to 40 people in the class with you. Just remember no one is watching you fumble around if you’re confused, they’re busy focusing on their own technique. Stay close to the instructor and mirrors for the first few classes until you get the hang of it.
#4. Power Plate
What’s a better way to wake up then standing on a vibrating plate for 30 minutes doing squats, arm work and mountain climbers as sweat slowly drips into your eyes and blurs your vision so you’re no longer sure if you’re sweating or crying?
Welcome to Power Plate.
While it sounds tough, it’s all over in 30 minutes and time flies when you’re… vibrating. The vibrating plate can be a very weird sensation to start with but the class itself is relatively low impact so I just assume the vibrations are burning ALL the calories for me.
Pros of Power Plate: It’s all done and dusted in 30 minutes. What more could you want?!
Cons of Power Plate: If there’s a sequence that involves being on the plate a lot, the vibration aspect can be a bit off-putting. Generally, your instructor will diversify it enough though, so that you’re taking breaks from standing on the plate full time. Because let’s be real, no one wants to feel like their brain is just rattling around in their head aimlessly — I just call that a normal workday. 🙂
I’m actually still not convinced, even a month later, if I love Barre or if I hate it. It incorporates a lot of Pilates techniques with some dance and if I’m being honest, the only time you’re ever going to catch me dancing is after numerous shots of Fireball.
Nevertheless, it’s a good, intense workout and you feel like you’re toning and working on muscles you never knew existed, even when you don’t feel like you’re following the instructions that well.
Pros: It’s a full body workout and sometimes they even blast a Spice Girls playlist.
Cons: Your body is gonna be all sorts of sore the next day when you’re getting used to doing Barre. Like, to the point you might try to work it out on the foam roller and nearly cry… not speaking from experience or anything.
Me walking home after my first barre class today… pic.twitter.com/QLcGCpbyVB
— Hannah Rose (@hannahrose0666) June 27, 2019
#6. Personal Training
I figured if I was doing this gym thing, I’d also get a PT once a week to teach me how to use all the confusing equipment and make sure my technique was alright. Having been haunted by a niggling hamstring injury for a good 8 months last year, I wasn’t taking any risks this time.
And who doesn’t want to part with your hard-earned cash by paying someone to yell at you until you can no longer move your arms?
Anyway, I 10/10 recommend it. Sure it can be hard to part with your cash when you’re already paying for a membership but I just cut other things like joy and social activities out of my life during this time period.
(vomits while dioing pushups at the gym and resists every attempt from professional trainers to stop me from continuing)
— wint (@dril) August 28, 2015
But in all seriousness, it’s super helpful to have someone guiding and motivating you through a routine, especially when you’re just starting out.
Pros of PT: Expert guidance, nutritional advice and someone to understand your body scan when you sure AF can’t.
Cons of PT: The extra cost.