I highly recommend joining a gym, if you can somehow add it to your budget. It is actually not that expensive, compared to other areas of spending, such as cell phone bills and eating out. You should be able to get a membership for $20-$25 per month, which is very reasonable, considering it is an investment in your body. If you are a newcomer to the gym world, it can be very intimidating because you may not know what to do or how to do it. So here are some basics that can help you.
1. Start with CARDIO. All cardio equipment is easy to start. Find the big green button that says Start or QuickStart, and you will start to move. Some cardio machines require that you start moving or pedaling before you press start. The easiest setting is MANUAL, which allows you to increase and decrease your resistance level throughout your workout. It saves you from having to select workout specifics or input your height and weight. Slowly increase to >30 minutes of cardio at a moderate-high intensity (you may need to start at 10-15 minutes at low intensity and progress over several weeks-months). Try to do some cardio every time you are at the gym, even on your strength training days.
2. Don’t be afraid of the MACHINE WEIGHTS. They may look complicated, but most of them are very simple to operate. There are instructions written on each machine that explain your seat and angle adjustments. Then you select your weight/resistance. Try different weights until you choose the appropriate amount (moderately challenging; you should be fatigued by the last few repetitions of each set). Then perform 2-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions. For example, start with 2 sets of 10. Progress to 3 sets of 10 in a few visits. Then increase to 3 sets of 15. Once you can do 30-40 repetitions at one weight, you can progress to the next level. Do not be afraid to ask the staff to show you how to use a piece of equipment. I’m not sure why, but there are usually at least 5 staff members at the front desk of my gym.
3. Choose a WORKOUT SCHEDULE. This will help to guide your daily exercise and strengthen all your muscle groups. If you are using the machine weights, each one states which muscles you are working. Do not strengthen the same muscle group on two consecutive days. It may help to divide the strength training into groups, such as arms, shoulders, chest, upper back, lower back, abdominals, legs. Then choose which days of the week you will exercise each muscle group. Try to strength train each body part at least 1-2x/week.
4. Try out some of the GROUP EXERCISE CLASSES. These are ideal for those of you who need extra instruction or are new to the gym. If the class does not make you sweat, it is likely too easy for you.
5. Lastly, borrow exercises from other people. You can get some great ideas from the exercises trainers give their clients. Or find the ab corner of the gym; you will see people doing much more than just crunches and sit-ups.