Getting to know your gym

Maybe you frequent your gym daily or just drop in every now and then. Perhaps you have a gym membership that you’re still trying to justify. If you are on the search for a new place to get your sweat on, or are looking to become comfortable with your gym so it doesn’t seem like literal hell on earth, I have a few tips for you. Wherever you’re at, getting acquainted with where you work out is important. 

Joining a gym is like getting into a serious relationship – usually one that’s costing you a considerable amount of money. Even if you decide to put zero effort into your part of the relationship, you’re still paying out of your pocket, so it’s best to be aware of the contract you’re signing. 

Before I joined the gym I go to now, I definitely dated around for a while. I felt out the market, and was sure of the commitment I was making when I made it. I had just ended a membership at a big chain gym, and did not renew because I was looking for a different experience. 

Photo by: Kourtney Meldrum

In the process of searching, I rebounded to the facilities at my university which, while amazing, were too crowded and took away from the exercise experience because I ran into too many people that I knew. So the gym search began. I think I did pretty much every trial for every gym in Calgary before I decided on the gym that I am at now. 

When I came upon my final destination, it was pretty much love at first sight. The gym fit all my needs (a very lengthy grocery list of needs) and when I signed my name on the dotted line, I swear I could hear the bells of heaven ringing above me. 

Though I found my perfect match, I have spent so much time in many different gyms and I can say that no two gyms will do exactly the same thing for you. If you’re new to the gym its really easy to be intimidated by a lot of the machines or weights. I found it helped that I explored a small section of the gym each time I went. Before I knew it, the entire place felt like my playground! 

Many gyms also offer free classes that are included in your membership fees. These classes can be a great way to change up your workout and maybe even make a couple new friends. Definitely take advantage of this perk.

Most of the cardio machines are pretty self explanatory: you push a few buttons and you’re on your way. You may just need to push a few more to adjust to the levels you want. Beyond that, there are a lot of aspects of the gym that can be pretty confusing if you don’t have someone showing you the ropes. 

Any weight machine will usually have diagrams (albeit they are often extremely confusing and won’t help you at all) and a lot of the staff at gyms are always willing to show you how a machine works if you ask. But if you’re shy and unsure, you can always wait for someone else to use the machine and see how they work it (and hope they use it properly). 

There are usually always studio sections at most gyms (always one of my favorite parts) that have beautiful wooden floors, stacks of yoga mats against the wall, a big mirror and are almost always empty! Take advantage of this space if you have it in your gym. Take out your equipment, blast your tunes, and make sure you snap a gym selfie in the mirror. Enjoy the calm space, it can be rare to find in a gym setting. 

Now, one of the most intimidating parts of the gym for many people: the free-weight area and squat rack. The first time I walked over, I could taste the testosterone in the air. Large men grunted as they lifted weight after weight. If I were to walk too close, I’m sure one of them could have picked me up and thrown me across the room pretty easily. Not only did I feel unwelcome in the free-weight area, I wasn’t sure where to start, and I didn’t want to look stupid or get seriously hurt. 

It took time (and a lot of Instagram fitness videos) to actually feel like I could try some exercises without making a fool of myself. Now, the free-weight area is where I spend the majority of my time at the gym – and I practically live at the squat racks some days. 

So next time you’re getting your sweat on, take some time to venture into new areas of your gym. Whether you pick up some small weights for the first time, or try adding yoga to the end of your workout, it can be extremely rewarding to try something new and get to know your gym just a little bit better.