How To Survive The Gym

Want to get fit this year but worried you’ll look like an idiot? Here’s The Tab guide to blending in at the gym.

Photo: alantankenghoe (Flickr)

It’s one of the most common New Year’s resolutions: this year, I’m going to join the gym. 

The gym can be a daunting place for newcomers, full of complicated equipment, people who look better than you and an atmosphere clogged with testosterone.

If the fear of public embarrassment isn’t enough to keep you away, here’s a few tips to help you blend into the crowds and convince everyone you’re actually a seasoned gym pro.


  • Research. Check out exercise plans online and know you’re going to do. That way you won’t end up wandering around the gym aimlessly, deliberating over which machine you’re going to use.
  • Take a friend. It’s more fun and it helps motivate you. Plus, if you’re planning on using the benches, you’ll need someone to act as a spotter.
  • Dress properly. Make sure it’s comfortable. Many get this wrong. I once saw a man wearing a white shirt and blazer in my local gym.
  • Eat healthily. An obvious tip, but one that will help you see the results of your hard work.
  • Bring water. If it’s your first time you’ll be unfit and get out of breath quickly. Fainting isn’t recommended and will severely damage your confidence. Trust me, it happens more than you’d think.
  • Bring a towel. It’s basic gym etiquette – using sweaty equipment is pretty unpleasant. Most gyms are very strict about this.


  • Be intimidated. You might feel like you’re under a spotlight and everybody’s laughing at you, but unless you’re doing something completely ridiculous, nobody cares about you. They’re too focused on themselves.
  • Be put off by others. There will be people with perfect physiques who will make you feel stupid. Everyone started somewhere though. Put in the work and you will see results eventually.
  • Over-reach. So many people try to impress people and lift massive weights which their backs can’t deal with. Do this and you will only end up seriously hurting yourself. Build your strength up slowly.
  • Be vain. Staring at yourself in the mirrors whilst you flex your muscles looks stupid. A few weeks ago I saw a guy admiring his biceps so much he accidentally elbowed someone in the face.

Follow these tips and you’ll be confidently strutting round the gym in no time. If you’re still not sure a life of exercise is for you, here are some student physiques to aspire to.