BACK TO WORK: It's the season for getting in shape. Picture: Debbie Reynolds
Your first time at a gym can be an overwhelming experience, having to learn how to use machines and getting used to other gym-goers.

At this time of the year, gyms often see their numbers soar as many are trying to get their bodies in shape for summer.

But Samuel Borsah, a personal trainer from Ignite Fitness, warns newbies to first get professional advice.

“It is important for them to complete a gym assessment. The assessment includes a medical check, fitness level, blood pressure and skinfold check."

He says you must know your body and exercise goals so that you know which equipment to use.

Ian Pienaar, commercial product manager at Virgin Active South Africa, says the biggest mistake first-time gym members make is not asking for help at clubs.

He suggests that newbies must use fitness instructors and must start their exercise routine slowly and do what is comfortable to them.

Pienaar says adults should look at a moderate training session of 30 to 60 minutes five times per week or 20 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise three times per week.

People who want to lose weight should do at least 150 minutes of moderate to high-intensity exercise per week, combining resistance and cardiovascular training.

Those who want to build muscle should start by learning how to do the fundamental exercises correctly.

Training with a partner who has the same goals as you will help you to stay motivated and keep sessions fun, adds Pienaar.

Borsah says there are a few basic gym etiquette rules to follow, like personal hygiene, what you wear and how you treat people.

“Fungal infections of the skin can be common at the gym. Try and wash your hands frequently. Try and wash them before and after your workout session.”

You must also wipe your sweat off the gym equipment when you are finished exercising, he adds.

Borsah says you should dress appropriately for the gym.

“We have seen people running on a treadmill with jeggings or jeans and I often think that might be very uncomfortable for them. I wouldn’t advise people to do it.”

Lastly, be kind. Don’t laugh, mock or take photos of people who may be going there to lose weight. It takes bravery to make a choice to be fit. Don’t be a de-motivator at the gym.

Sunday Independent