10/06/2014 13:14 BST | Updated 10/08/2014 06:59 BST

My First Time at the Gym: Survival Tips for the Absolute Novice

Last week I revealed a big secret to a couple of my closet friends - I, Rachel Moss (that gal who writes about fitness for HuffPost UK), had never been in a gym. Ever. In my life.

Now let's get one thing straight, it's not like I'm a complete fraud.

I do know a fair bit about exercise - I used to be a dance instructor and if there's an aerobics/Zumba/pilates/boxercise class near you, chances are I've tried it.

But the actual gym - with the treadmills, the buff men pumping iron and the women with the 'don't disturb me bitch I'm exercising' faces - was never for me.


Like many people in the UK I enjoy the adrenaline and feel-good effect of exercise, but I had always found the prospect of going to the gym for the first time a little intimidating absolutely, completely terrifying.

Considering the amount I spend on individual classes, investing in a gym membership could actually save me money (and get me one step closer to moving out of my parent's house!).

And so I thought it was about time I overcame my fear and lost my gym virginity.

I chose The Hertfordshire as the location for my big first time, mainly because one of the aforementioned close friends is a member.

I was unnaturally sweaty before even entering the gym. Was I wearing the right thing? What if I broke the machines? What if I was more unfit than I thought and everyone laughed?

But once I got going, I realised that everyone is at the gym to focus on their own fitness - they couldn't really care less about what you're doing.

That's not to say that my first gym outing went without a hitch. For a start I went flying off the end of a treadmill - I got the giggles and it all went downhill from there, literally...

Plus I had what can only be described as a 'dizzy turn' where a member of staff had to get me a sugary drink after I'd turned the cross trainer up too high. So. Embarrassing.

To stop you making some of the mistakes I did, here are my top tips for first time gym goers:

1) Go with a friend

If you have a friend who's already a gym goer, ask if you can tag along. Having Jenny there to show me how to work the machines (and laugh with me when things went wrong) made the experience fun and relatively stress-free.

2) Try and get a freebie

Gym membership is expensive, so do try before you buy! Ring around gyms in your area to see who offers free trials.

The Hertfordshire run 'bring a friend Friday' once a month for members, meaning I was able to attend as Jenny's guest - ask friends to see if their gym has a similar offer.

3) Book a session with a personal trainer

If it's your first session, ask a member of staff to help you out. They will be helpful - it's in their best interest; they want you to sign up for the year.

4) Don't hold down the 'up' button on the machine

Sounds silly, but I made this mistake. The machine sometimes takes a couple of seconds to catch up, you don't want to be accidentally sprinting before you're ready!

5) Don't try to compete with those around you

Again, I failed at this. Go at your own pace and you can always step things up next time if you feel you haven't really pushed yourself on your first go.

I can honestly say that the idea of the gym was far worse than the actual gym. If you go in with a 'I don't give a shit' attitude, the experience can be an enjoyable one.

Yes you'll have to ask questions, yes you might get something wrong, but that's the only way to become a sassy gym pro.