However, Gyms can be intimidating places initially and if you’re unfamiliar with the environment it can be quite nerve-wracking. Here are some beginner tips to help you out of you're embarking on your first winter season in the weights room...
Expect Mirrored Walls
Don’t be alarmed by the mirrored walls, they aren’t there to criticise your messy hair and lack of make-up, or to allow everyone else in the room to spy on you.
The mirrors are there for you to check your posture and form whilst exercising, ensuring that you’re doing a workout correctly, and not hurting yourself. Use them to see your muscles working and make sure you're not putting undue pressure on areas such as your knees or lower back - which will start forming odd shapes if you are.
... And Weird Noises
When we’re working out, really pumping the blood around the body and pushing yourself for that extra couple of reps, it’s natural to make noises of stress and strain. You won’t be the only one doing this, many hard-core gym goers can have you believe you’re actually in the Congo with the mountain gorillas. Noise is an energy being released by the body, so if you feel yourself starting to sound like a pro tennis player, just go with it.
Nobody Cares What you Look Like
The great thing about going to the gym is that no one cares what you look like. If they do, they're clearly not working hard enough on their own training. Just be yourself, wear whatever you’re comfortable in. The gym can often become your own fortress of solitude, and it doesn’t matter what you look like, or what sounds you’re making.
Before you get started with any form of training or physical endurance (including riding a bike) always stretch out those muscles. Start at your toes and work your way upwards throughout the body, getting the blood flowing and oxygen to the important areas. Stretching is a crucial element of exercise because it prevents shock to the body that may cause muscle tears, tendon problems and aches.
See our guide here for tips on stretching for more information on which areas to focus on.
You’re not expected to stroll into the gym and immediately hit the weights, benching 100kg. It’s important to take baby steps to increase your fitness. Starting with simple floor exercises is a great way to get into the gym life because you only need you and your body weight. Stretches, core holds and balance movements do more than you think, they help build a strong core and foundation for building muscle upon.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask
If you’re uncertain of anything, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help. If you fancy trying out some of the weights or new equipment then you need to make sure you’re being safe about it.
Lifting with incorrect posture can cause injury so the gym can be a dangerous place if you’re not aware of the risks to yourself and others. Make sure you know how to put equipment away, use it properly and ensure you don’t do any damage to yourself.
Drink Plenty of Water
It’s a no-brainer that physical exercise causes you to sweat and burn fuel, so drinking plenty of water to rehydrate yourself throughout a gym session is crucial. Take a bottle with you, even if you sip occasionally, it’s important to keep your fluids up. This will help prevent stitches, headaches and muscle cramps.
After your first few visits to the gym, you might feel a little weak and tired. That is totally normal. But to help yourself make a full recovery, ready for the next session, it’s important to eat healthy foods. Just because you went to the gym doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to get a fish & chips after!
You need proteins and carbohydrates, and believe it or not, milk is the best recovery drink you can give yourself. Proteins and carbs are essential for muscle recovery and straight after a workout, you have a 45-minute window where they are absorbed best by the body.
Here’s our 10 favourite high protein foods that can aid your recovery - if you're not a milk fan, there are plenty more options!
For whatever your reasons are for joining the gym: weight loss, core strength, muscle gains, general fitness etc… You won’t see change overnight. You need to persevere and build up to the changes you want to see in yourself, and though that can be mentally exhausting, and at times a little hopeless, change does happen. Seeing progress in your gym routine will show in your riding and when you start to reap the rewards, it will be worth all the blood, sweat and tears.
Looking for inspiration? Check out these six great gym exercises for cyclists - and if you really can't make it, why not invest in some of this cheap, cheerful but highly effective home gym equipment?
You may also enjoy: