How To Prepare For Your First Gym Workout + The Top 10 Survival Tips

How To Prepare For Your First Gym Workout + The Top 10 Survival Tips

Just purchased a new gym membership and don’t know where to start?

First off, congrats to making a REAL investment towards your health!


There are SO many who don’t even make that jump.

Now I know what many of you are thinking…

“Is this going to be just another failed gym membership?”

Here’s the honest truth…

Out of all the people who purchase a gym membership, many will go maybe once (or not at all), then give up.

Here’s another honest truth…

Whether you succeed or not is 100% your decision. 

Chances are, if you’re still taking the time to read this article, you have interest in making the RIGHT decision for your health and establishing a strength training routine.

Once you’ve made this firm decision for yourself, you’ll now have to come to terms with the fact that many fail because they expect “instant gratification“.

This doesn’t exist when it comes to anything worth having.

Want to get ripped with six-pack abs?

To get there, you’ll have to go through the rite of passage that is — being a complete, clueless beginner!

We’ve all been there.

How dedicated you are during the beginner stage of your journey determines how solid of a foundation you’ll have throughout the rest of your healthy lifestyle.

One of the hardest parts of the beginner stage is stepping into the gym for the first time.

I relate to this because when I first started prioritizing my fitness, I only focused on running.

Ultimately, I knew to progress in my fitness journey, I’d have to develop a strength training routine.

But…running became my comfort zone. And I was afraid to step outside of it.

It took A LOT of willpower for me to finally step into a gym setting…but the benefits were SO worth it. 

The Benefits of Strength Training

  • Increased Fat Loss — the increased muscle mass boosts your metabolism which burns more calories
  • Stronger Bones — increases your bone density which helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Weight Management — helps keep it off for good! — you’ll begin to burn calories more easily with a boosted metabolism
  • Joint Health + Flexibility — reduces symptoms of arthritis
  • Improved Posture — by improving your muscle control you’ll be improving your body stance as well — this helps you appear more confident!
  • Injury Prevention — by promoting muscle development you’ll be less susceptible to injuries over time
  • Quicker Recovery Times — the stronger you build your muscles over time, the quicker they’ll be able to recover after tough workouts
  • More Confidence!you’ll pretty much feel like a badass 24-7 🙂

Basically, it doesn’t matter if your goal is weight loss or an increased fitness level in general.

Strength training is crucial for BOTH!

Since this part of your fitness journey can be a bit daunting, I really wanted to share the top 10 tips I wish I knew when I first started a gym routine.

I definitely would have felt a little more comfortable — and A LOT less awkward!

10 Survival Tips For Your Very First Gym Workout

1) Know The Key Terms

Before starting any strength training routine there are a few, simple key terms you must know.

Reps: Short for “repetitions,” this implies doing one complete motion of an exercise.  For instance, one push-up would be one “rep.”

Set: This is a group of consecutive repetitions. For example, you’ll often hear gym-goers say, “I just did 3 sets of 10 reps!”. This means they did 30 reps divided into 3 sets of 10.

Circuit: A sequence of exercise sets that are meant to be completed with little to no rest throughout.

2) Bring The Essentials

Although you might feel content bringing just your water bottle and iPhone, I highly recommend investing in a quality Gym Bag with all the essentials.

The more you prepare for this ritual and make it feel like “you time”, the more you’ll stick with it!

Don’t skimp and only pack items you need. Pack things that will make your gym routine easier and more enjoyable!

Here’s a list of my favorite essentials that I pack in my gym bag:

  • Water Bottle (duh!) — Be sure to hydrate plenty!
  • Deodorant For obvious reasons.
  • Clean Towel You’ll be surprised how much you need it throughout your workout.
  • Hairbrush + Extra Hair TiesWhen I think back to some of life’s greatest “UGH!” moments, a number of those include when I broke a hair tie in the middle of a workout. 
  • HeadbandsYou’ll think you won’t need one, until you really, REALLY do.
  • Extra Gym Clothes (socks, sports bra, shorts, etc.) — because you will have a day when you accidentally wear a regular bra to the gym.
  • Makeup Remover / Makeup BagDepending on what look you’re going for.
  • Headphones Always go for wireless! It’s a game changer! 
  • Laundry Bag — For dirty clothes.
  • LockBe sure to get yourself a locker at your local gym! This is, again, part of the process of making this a RITUAL. 
  • Lifting GlovesAvoid the blisters and just start out with these from the get-go.
  • Shampoo + ConditionerIn case your gym has shower facilities.
  • Protein Bar / Shake for AfterDefinitely a necessity!

And obviously, you need that quality gym bag which you can find HERE.

I also really recommend making it a habit to pack clean clothes and toiletries.

By showering and changing into clean clothes after your workout, what happens in that gym STAYS THERE.

This might be a mental thing for me personally, but I’ve always found it satisfying to separate gym life from the rest.

I’ll list places to find these items in the “Resources” section at the end of the article!

3) Practice Proper Etiquette

Like any other form of physical activity, there are unwritten rules that separate the enjoyable gym buddies from the obnoxious lunks slamming weights to get their bulk on.

Don’t be one of those people.

Simple rules of etiquette to follow are:

  • Respect people’s space!Don’t hover around a machine if you’re waiting.
  • Don’t hog a gym machine, and if possible, let others share!Gym-goers call this “working in.”
  • Clean your equipment after you use it — Aka don’t be an animal 🙂
  • Re-rack your weightsAnd put equipment back where you got it from!
  • Keep grunting to a minimumif this is what you need to get by, fine, but just keep it as subtle as possible.

There are a number of gym etiquette rules that you’ll pick up over time as you gain more experience, but these will get you started without offending anyone outright.

4) Dress To Impress (If Necessary)

This is something I also covered in my How To Make Running Suck Less post, but it’s something I’ll always feel strongly about.

Anyone who judges you for wanting to look good at the gym is close-minded and not seeing the bigger picture.  

Sure, these days I may feel more comfortable looking like a she-beast if I’m just trying to get a workout in, but you better believe I dressed to impress when starting out!

Now, I’m not saying make yourself up like you’re going on a date with the man (or woman) of your dreams, but give it a little effort!

Buy a new, quality outfit for your first time at the gym! Or even get a new wardrobe started to give yourself some motivation.

Whatever your version of looking good is…DO THIS.

More confidence = More results. 

You will lift those weights like the true badass you are, if you feel like one!

5) Have An Epic Playlist

A powerhouse playlist will be the difference between getting that last set in, or calling it quits.

(At least if you’re anything like me!)

Here are a few of my favorite playlists from Spotify:

Also, just do yourself a favor (if you are able to) and invest in a pair of Wireless Headphones!

I bought my first pair last year (yeah I was late to the game), and it CHANGED my gym routine forever.


6) Have A Plan

Before going to the gym for the first time (or ever) ALWAYS have a plan!

Let me tell you, the first time I entered the gym I thought I could walk in, try any machine, and get a killer workout.

It wasn’t before I tried a couple of machines for a few minutes that I gave up and left.

The process becomes substantially less overwhelming if you have a plan first!

And when I say a plan, I mean pre-determine these things:

  • The Exercises (and the order in which you’ll do them)
  • Number of Reps + Sets For Each
  • Rest Periods

Trust me, it’s SO simple, yet so important!

If you’re still lost on WHICH exercises to include in your plan, here’s a GREAT RESOURCE for choosing the exercises based on the area you’d like to workout.

7) Hire A Personal Trainer

If hiring a personal trainer is within your means, its one of the most effective resources to help you get started.

Many gyms offer special rates with a new membership so definitely check with your local gym to see if this is an option for you!

If this isn’t within your means, don’t fret. We live in the modern age where EVERYTHING can be found on the internet.

I never used a personal trainer when I started.

But it will fast-track your results if you are able to use this resource!

8) Go Super Early + Super Late

Although no one else in the gym will give a DAMN what workouts you’re doing, it always gave me peace of mind to have fewer people around.

If this is something that you think will make you more successful, opt for a time when fewer people are present!

Based on your personal preference, choose whether you’d rather go early in the morning or late at night.

Chances are, you won’t need to do this for long before you get the hang of things and start getting more comfortable!

9) Bring A Friend!

Or don’t.

To be quite honest, I have mixed feelings about this .

There are benefits to either and here’s why:

While a friend can get you over that initial awkwardness of going to the gym for the first time, I’ve ultimately found in the long-run, having a friend can make you lose focus.

This also totally depends on the person!

I personally get VERY distracted if I’m working out with someone else, ’cause oftentimes their routine doesn’t match mine. Which can cause me to get side-tracked.

What I would ultimately recommend, is having a gym buddy to GO with (if that’s your thing) — but once there, go your separate ways!

Say, “See you in 30-Minutes!“, then independently start your workout.

This allows you to reap the benefits of being held accountable (since you have a friend who goes as well) while still being able to stay focused!

10) Do Your Research

While I’m hoping these tips will serve you well, when it comes down to it you’ll have to do some research on your own.

Strength training is a vast topic that takes time and knowledge to master.

But that’s what makes it super interesting!

Once you think you’ve conquered a specific workout, there will be dozens more to master that will target muscles you didn’t even know were there!

It’s a sport that not only brings out your best self physically, but gives you a whirlwind of knowledge as well.

To help you acquire the best knowledge starting out, I recommend this book:

Strength Training Bible for Women: The Complete Guide to Lifting Weights for a Lean, Strong, Fit Body

It’s an amazing in-depth guide on how women can establish a healthy, strength-training routine in the easiest way possible.

I highly recommend.

I sincerely hope that this article helps you gain the courage to start a strength training routine.

While this form of exercise is essential for weight loss and optimal fitness, I really found that the simple act of lifting heavy objects makes you feel stronger on the INSIDE.


But it’s true, nonetheless. 

And that’s all I want for you!


Kat Rentas

Founder, Living In Slack Tide




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