Feeling intimidated by getting started at your new gym? You’re not alone.

A regular gym—the kind with weight machines, free weights, cardio equipment, the whole nine yards—can feel like a lot to take in when you first sign up. It’s loud, with lots of big spaces and confusing equipment. It seems like everyone else working out has their shit together and knows just what to do, right? It’s enough to make even the most confident of us turn tail and go home.

While you won’t need a personal trainer from Day 1 of your fitness journey, you will need a plan for tackling this iron jungle. Here’s three steps to pump you up on your first trips to the new gym:

1) Have a plan before you get there.

Going to the gym without a plan in place will leave you wandering in the fitness wilderness. Figure out what you can commit to on a weekly basis and plan around that. Can you do two days a week in the gym? Three? One? From there, you can figure out how to divide your workouts (full body, 2-day split, 3-day split) and determine what parts you’ll be working out today (biceps, triceps, legs, chest, back, core).

Once you’ve got your list of body parts you’ll exercise, google the different machines for each one. Example: here’s a search for “gym bicep machine”. Find one in the gym that looks reasonable.

Next, you’ll plan your number of sets and reps. For starters, focus on 2 sets of 15 reps per machine you’ll be using. This will allow you to get a feel for how each machine moves your body. Once you’ve got that, move to step 2.

2) Ask questions when you’re there.

Believe it or not, other people in the gym are usually likely to help you when you ask. By simply getting dressed and bringing a written workout plan, you show respect for the people who are already working out. Experienced gym members appreciate you doing your research, just like experienced members of your other communities.

When possible, ask a staff member to point you towards the right machine or demonstrate how it works. Can’t spot an employee? Ask someone who’s nearby on the gym floor and looks like they know what they’re doing. If another gym member seems clueless or rude, thank them and try someone else. Don’t bug someone who’s in the middle of lifting, though: it’s considered rude, if not dangerous, to break their concentration. Instead, approach when they are done.

3) Get in and get out.

Follow your written plan and leave the gym. You don’t need 3 hours to get a good workout. When you’re just getting started, 30-45 minutes of focused effort can give you a great workout. The cardio machines can wait for another day, too; getting too ambitious right out the gate can overwork your body and stop your progress.

Be kind to the gym (wipe your equipment!) and your body (stretch!). Before you walk out the front door, schedule that next workout for 2-3 days from now. Having a plan for the future will actually bring you back next time. Finally, feed your muscle recovery with a protein shake within the next 45 minutes—those puppies are hungry!

We all have our Day 1 at the gym. Follow the plan outlined above, and you’ll be on track to crush that first day in the iron jungle, ready to tackle the days that follow.

For more tips on transforming your body one “baby step” at a time, be sure to Follow me on Facebook or Twitter, check out my blog archive, or send me a message.

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