Working out indoors for the first time can seem challenging, especially if you’re used to getting a little ‘me-time’ during your early morning walk/ jog. In contrast, gym culture will seemalien, what with one having to share equipment with strangers, most of whom seem to effortlessly sail through their routines.
“Do not try to compare and compete with more experienced or regular clients,” says Waqar Qureshi, a fitness expert with Gold’s Gym. “Build on your routine gradually, as too much, too soon could be ‘too bad’. Impatience can be a primary cause for injuries.”
The first step is to choose the ‘right’ gym for you. Ketan Ashar, fitness head at Qi Lifecare advises signing up with a gym based on personal convenience. “Going to the gym regularly is key, as it becomes part of your lifestyle. So, choose a gym that allows you to be go regularly — one that is either close to your home or office, and that stays open during a time that is convenient for you,” he says.
Before signing up for an annual membership, see if you can sign up for a few trial sessions, during which you can check out how well the gym is maintained, what some of the hidden costs might be and whether the staff is trained well. Remember that an unqualified trainer can leave you with a life-long injury.
Once on the floor, you will be almost instantaneously initiated into the unwritten rules of the gym. Sunil Kudva of Elite Fitness, however, doesn’t think etiquette should be left to trial-and-error and has a session to help first-timers at the gym. “It’s a public space,” says Kudva, adding, “So, respect it, respect those using it and, most importantly, respect yourself and the fitness goals, which are the reason for your being there in the first place.” The session includes tips on sharing equipment, maintaining personal hygiene (no BO, please!), the need to respect boundaries and maintaining a low profile (no swearing, no loud grunting while lifting weights and lowering the volume of your MP3 player).
“Deodorants and perfumes must also be used moderately, as many people are allergic to strong odours which could trigger an allergic reaction or an asthmatic attack,” adds Qureshi.
Handy to carry
There’s a reason why gym bags are so large — so you carry two towels: one to wipe equipment after use and one for yourself. It makes sense also to carry a pair of shoes exclusively for the gym, so that you don’t track in mud and dirt off the street. Don’t hog the equipment and as soon as you have finished using it step away, so that others can use it.
“First-timers make several mistakes,” says Huzefa Lokhandwala of Fab Fitness. These include falling off the treadmill, trying to lift weights that are too heavy and even ripped pants. In most cases, over-enthusiasm might be to blame: “Do not try to do everything on the first day, as on the next day you will feel sore, tired, and might even have to rest for a week,” says Lokhandwala.
And that’s not even the worst part. “You could lose all your enthusiasm,” adds Lokhandwala, advises listening to professionals. “People feel that the treadmill is the ultimate cardio machine and will burn maximum calories. The fact is that any cardio machine, including the bike and cross trainer, is as effective,” he says. Also, what you see is not what you burn, either. “Do not go by the display showing how many calories you have burnt, as it is an estimate. The number of calories burnt depends on age, gender, metabolism, as well as body composition,” he explains.
It’s best to leave the outside world behind. “Remember you have the rest of the day to yourself to fulfil other commitments,” says Qureshi. Thinking of striking up a conversation with the cutie on the treadmill? Not your best idea. “Try not to treat the gym floor as a place to find love, make friends, or to strike business deals, Focus on tending to the needs of the body instead,” he concludes.
What to wear to the gym
Huzefa Lokhandwala from Fab Fitness shares tips on building your workout wardrobe:
“In a place as hot and humid as Mumbai, cotton is a great material, especially since you will be sweating profusely during your work out,” says Lokhandwala.
Go for: Vests or half-sleeve
T-shirts/ tops that are made from a combination of cotton and lycra. Dry-fit materials work well, as most fitness centers maintain an average temperature of 22 to 23 degrees Celsius. A tracksuit that covers your entire body and provides warmth is another good investment.
Avoid: Anything too tight, as it will trap heat, restrict the range of motion, and not allow skin to breathe. On the other hand, wearing anything too loose will get in the way, making it difficult for the trainer to identify the line of motion during weight-training.
“Selecting bottoms can be tricky, especially for women as most Indian women tend to store a lot of fat around their hips and thighs,” says Lokhandwala.
Go for: Cotton track pants, which are the safest option if you are a woman who is bottom heavy, or a man with skinny legs. Lycra or dry-fit shorts work better than cotton, as they provide a better fit. Fit/ sporty or athletic women can opt for Spandex shorts. Shorts can work
for men too.
Avoid: Denim shorts and anything you aren’t comfortable in
Selecting the right shoe is very important, as the right shoes can prevent injury and boost performance.
Go for: If you are into aerobics, walking, or running, the right shoes can ease some of the strain on your knees. Keep an eye out for lightweight shoes with good cushioning all over the foot, as opposed to only the heel. Shoes with flat soles are
good for weight -training.
Avoid: Shoes with a lot of elevation near the heels, except if you have muscles that are tight, and you need to elevate your heel when performing certain exercises.
“Socks mainly have to be worn so that you don’t get smelly shoes, especially for those who sweat a lot from their feet. Cotton ones work best,” says Lokhandwala.
Go for: A sports bra is a must for women, especially when it comes to aerobic activities like running, or dancing, as it supports the upper body and can help prevent the breasts from sagging in the long run. Cotton is the best choice.
For men, it is important to wear something tight for a firm hold, or a supporter, as a precautionary measure while performing any vigorous activity.
Avoid: Underwear that is either too tight or too loose.