We all know that “get in shape” is one of (if not the) most popular New Year’s resolutions. As a matter of fact, gym memberships increase about 30% every January.  Speaking of percentages, only about 10% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions.  If you want to be one of the elite 10%, I think the first thing to do is drop the word “resolutions”.  Let’s say “goals” from now on, ok?  Sounds more long term already.  I think the next thing we have to do to get you to reach your goal of getting in shape is get you comfortable in the gym.

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Whether you just joined a gym on January 1 or you’ve belonged for ages but never really got comfortable, there’s really only one way to get used to your gym, get your butt in the door.  Okay, so maybe its not that easy.  If you’re uncomfortable at the gym it’s very easy to sink into a treadmill and flye nautilus routine because you know where the machines are and how to use them.  Sound familiar?  Well read on because I’ve got some advice that will have you strutting around the gym like you own the joint.

1. Go when it’s empty.  Every gym has “off” hours, ask the front desk when it’s usually the least crowded.  Take your time and walk around.  Get the lay of the land.  Learn where they keep the equipment that doesn’t necessarily jump out at you, like medicine balls, yoga mats, and BOSU balance trainers.  I know most of us have obligations we’re at the mercy of (job, family, etc.), but I’m sure you can find once or twice a week to get into the gym when it’s more of a ghost town than rush hour.

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2. Schedule an appointment with a trainer.  Most gyms offer a complimentary session with a trainer, so take advantage of it.  Even if you only do an appointment or two, time with a trainer can really do a ton for your confidence.  You’ll learn proper form, some great workouts, figure out your baseline fitness, and get more comfortable with the overall culture of the gym.  Last but not least, it’s nice to see a friendly face when you walk into the gym, even if you’re paying that face to be friendly.

3. Always be prepared.  The Boy Scouts were really onto something with this motto.  You should never walk into a gym (or anywhere really) without a plan.  Whether it’s an actual workout journal or a note on your cell phone, have your workout plotted out in advance.  This way you’ll never waste your time wandering aimlessly around the gym.

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4. Mind your manners.  Worried about sticking out as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing?  Well believe me you’ll be fine as long as you act like a decent human being who wasn’t raised by wolves; basically act right.  When you take something, put it back when you’re done, say “excuse me”, if someone is standing next to a machine ask if they’re using it before you hop on it, don’t cut in line, you catch my drift?  Gym manners are the same as real world manners, so don’t worry about it.

5. Fake it till you make it.  I consider myself a pretty frequent gym-goer, but in September I switched to a new gym and OH MY GOD I HAD NO IDEA WHERE ANYTHING WAS!  At all.  Instead of acting meek (even though they are supposed to inherit the world) and timid, I held my high.  I’d rather eat my own eye than let some strangers know I was uncomfortable (I know this is a little weird, but there are worse flaws).  So who cares if you just walked into the men’s locker room?  Chin up, shoulders back, and walk with a purpose darn it!