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What do I do in the gym?


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I have decided that 2014 will be the year that I get back into fitness! I used to run 10k 3 times a week (I didn't realise it was that far at the time though!) I'm starting off with 5k so I have started the couch to 5k plan. At the moment I am doing it on the treadmill at home I think I'm probably going a bit slow though? 5.5 kph walking and 8 kph running (jogging).


I want to tone every part of my body (obviously!). I have no idea what I would do in the gym though. My flat mate said she wants to join me on runs and wants me to go with her to the gym. Other than the treadmill I would not have a clue what to do in the gym?!


Walking home from a lecture I saw one girl in there jumping over a box and thought 'why can't you do that in your room?'. I mean, what is in the gym that I can't already do outside or in my room using my body weight. 


I DO NOT want to bulk up. My calve muscles are wayyyy too big for my height and make me look out of proportion. I'm 5'1" and 137 lbs. 

Is there anything in the gym that won't bulk me? I'm so short if I don't have very slim everything I look fatter.


I think the main thing I'm getting at is I have no fudging idea what to do in the gym or why I should go if I can run outside and do push ups or sit ups in my room? I am more worried about walking in there and looking like a massive twat trying to figure it all out; especially as it's my uni gym, it's not very big (I think) and it's a sports dominated uni so everyone knows what to do...


Any help or opinion is greatly appreciated and thanked :)

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Sooooooo.... yeah... 


Here's how this tends to go. You really don't seem to want to go to the gym, which is fine, doing exercise you don't want to do really doesn't benefit anyone expect the people who might make money off of it.


You're concerned about bulking, which in my experience basically boils down to, you won't use any weight that makes resistance training worthwhile, or if you do, you'll end up becoming aware of your muscles, due to soreness or just kinestetic awareness, which will prompt you to worry that they're becoming "too big."


So here's a couple things. Women don't get muscularly bulky unless they are incredibly genetically inclined to it and/or consume a very large number of calories while working out a tremendous amount in what is most likely the hypertrophy rep range.


Additionally people very often do exercises in a gym they can do at home, because the gym is free from many of the distractions that may take them away from their workout. Others like it as it helps mentally "psych" them up or prepare them for the work they're going to put in.


Finally, if you don't have any particular desire to go to the gym, and don't see any particular purpose in doing it, don't. Go do something you like. I hate running, and stationary bikes and weight machines.  So I lift weights for strength and do bag work and sparring or ice skating for cardio. But I certainly won't knock someone who prefers doing gymnastics or hiking or running on a treadmill, it's just not my thing, and I'd be miserable doing it.

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You will not get "bulky" from lifting weights, even if you lift heavy. That's a misconception that a lot of women have regarding lifting free weights. One of our administrators Stacy, known as "spezzy" on the forums is a shining example of lifting heavy without getting bulky. I wouldn't worry too much about looking like an idiot inside the gym though. It always feels like people are watching and judging you inside the gym, but honestly said everybody is in their own little world. And anyone who does judge you for trying to get fit is a douche. But like you mentioned you can do bodyweight training anywhere, so just decide for yourself which environment you prefer and then roll with it.


Best of luck :)

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I think my main problem is I don't want to look like an idiot and I'm worried that everyone will be watching me. I've got free gym membership from uni so I feel I should use it, also I've never been in a gym before (apart from the 6th form gym which only had 2 treadmills, two stationary bikes and some other stuff they never taught us how to use) so I would not have a clue what to do in the gym. My flat mate wants me to go with her for motivation and I want to tone my body but just wouldn't have a clue what to use to do what?

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First thing, this is awesome! You are nervous but you are still going for it! You are expanding your horizons and conquering your fears. This is when life gets interesting! 


If you want check out a few youtube videos first so you can see other people using the machines. Many machines have diagrams on them to help you. And you can always ask for help. It will take some trial and error to figure out how to adjust the machine to your needs.


I would focus on just a few machines and exercises.



1 - Seated Row
2 - Chest Press
3 - Pull Down
4 - Overhead Press
5 - Leg press
But it is totally up to you. Maybe you just go there to see what they have and just hop on a stationary bike or tread mill for a while to check out the vibe and see what equipment is there. This will be a learning experience, you won't learn and grow if you don't take the risk of making a mistake and perhaps looking foolish. If that happens it just makes for a funnier story to tell friends, and they will all admire you for your sense of adventure and sense of humor!  :joyous: 



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Ah thanks :) I'm training for a 5k using c25k and I'm on week three now! So the earliest I will be able to run 5k is hopefully the end of February! My main problem is my stomach it's where most of my fat is, but my thighs are also too big and my arms (bat/bingo wings) haha. BUT my calves are too muscly! How can I tone the rest of my body without bulking and without making my calves bigger? Especially as I want my thighs thinner?! I was told long distance running can slim down muscles and is a way of burning fat so two birds one stone... but I guess I still need to build muscle at the same time?


Sorry about the ramble I really don't understand any of this apart from how to run haha

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My main problem is my stomach it's where most of my fat is, but my thighs are also too big and my arms (bat/bingo wings) haha. BUT my calves are too muscly! 

I store most of my fat in my stomach too. The way to get rid of that is improve the diet. I am working on increasing my fats and protein in my diet and reducing sugar and carbs. I know that seems like the opposite approach but reducing intake of fats causes a hormone response that triggers fat storing because the body thinks it is in a famine. Eating more fats encourages your body to go into ketosis so your body uses fat for energy instead of storing fat.  Increase protein helps the body build more muscle, I want to be strong and fit not weak and skinny. Doug McGuff, MD wrote Body by Science, has some really good youtube videos explaining this. 


As far as the shape of your body, that is genetics. You are going to look better being more fit. Your measurement and proportions are unique to you. As you workout your whole body, your body is going to slim and tone, not just one area. It would not be good to only develop one part it would throw off your biomechanics. Enjoy the changes and discover what your body can do and the shape it wants to take. Accept the body you have been blessed with and work with it and be the best you! 



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agreeing with pretty much everything that everyone has said so far, though i would add to LIberator's latest post that it's healthy fats you want to be eating, like avocados, coconut, high-grade olive oil, etc. fats from fast food do not count.   :tongue:  and yes, diet is at least 80% of a person's health, if not more.
in order to get slim, the unavoidable all-encompassing basic truth is that you have to eat a caloric deficit. so, if you're getting full from high-quality meats and large servings of vegetables, you're pretty much guaranteed to be taking in fewer calories than if you're filling up from bread and sugary foods. and - bonus! - you're getting more minerals and other health perks!
there's a whole lot more detail i could give about each of these groups, like carb-dense vegetables and the high sugar content of fruit, but suffice it to say that if you're working out however is fun for you, eating more veggies, enough protein [start with a palm-sized serving for each meal] and healthy fat, you'll see results.
a quick word on your body shape: target exercises which are aimed at a specific body part [situps/crunches and the movements that most exercise machines have you do are the first that come to mind] do not usually make any sort of visible difference unless your body is already slim and toned. for everyone else who is not yet below 20% body fat, i highly recommend full-body workout moves like deadlifts, squats [go all the way down!], pushups, and pullups. [if this sounds interesting, check out Steve's basic body weight routine and see what you think!]
aside from shaving the excess fat from all over, your body is what it is. so you have muscly calves, so what? they're powerful! they get you from place to place! they help you out every day, and they should be appreciated for what they are. in my humble opinion.  ^_^ again, Liberator is right, your body shape is just genetics. there's only so much you can do. but you will always feel better [and probably look better, though that should be secondary] if you're healthy. and the confidence that you get from knowing that your body is strong and finely-tuned is priceless.  :)
now, get out there, and go get 'em! rawr!

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level 4 elf ranger
STR | 6    DEX | 5    STA | 6    CON | 4    WIS | 4    CHA | 8

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Good advice so far, I gave you a couple suggestions on your other thread too.

I believe there is an article here on NF about beginners in the weight room and how to not look out of place. That's probably a good read if you have concerns about being lost in there.

rybo, level 4 Human assassinSTR 16|DEX 7.5|STA 9|CON 12|WIS 8.5|CHA 5 

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The trick is this:  fat loss (including belly fat) comes from diet change.  This will be hard at uni.


The other trick is this:  figure out what you want to do and then how to do that.  Don't worry about the rest of it.  Don't ask what you should do.  Where is the fun in that?  Ask "what do I love doing?  What would be fun?".  then try it.  Rock climbing?  Zumba?  Yoga?  crossfit?  What sounds interesting?  Then you can figure out how to get there.


"Toning" for most women means "I want to lose weight" = diet.  Then do any exercise and you'll be fine. 


As for bulky... yes, women can develop some large muscles without genetic predispostion but it's about training.  Check out the top female crossfit athletes...but then know this... the average woman crossfitting several times a week looks NOTHING like them.  They train at an elite level like dancers train at an elite level.  I know several women who lift and none of them look even close to those athletes. 


The thing is pick what YOU WANT TO DO and not what others think you should do.

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I AM going the distance


'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

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The fact that your flatmate wants to go to the gym is really, really cool, one of the best ways to get fit is to have someone else partnered with you. Among other things, it takes away some of the awkwardness at the gym, since your partner is likely to be as clueless as yourself:). In terms of what to do, others have given some good advice on moves like squats, deadlifts and so forth. While the machines can work multiple muscle groups, I personally don't think they work as well. I agree with others, if you can get a personal trainer to work with you on the basic lifting techniques, it is more than worth it, to make sure you aren't hurting yourself.


With diet, I know you are at school, and school cafeteria food is usually, well, crappy....that said, if you want to lose fat, there are things you should work towards. First and foremost, if you drink soda or fruit juice based stuff, or sports drinks,stop it..likewise, if you use sugar in coffee or tea, try to work on weaning yourself from it. Non sugar sweeteners are a disaster area, if you absolutely need something in your tea or coffee, use stevia (if you can get it). Try and reduce the amount of grains you are eating, even whole grains can cause issues, and try to make vegetables and lean protein the center of your diet, with some healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, nuts) and yes, fruit (yes, fruit has sugar in it, but unlike one stupid so called dietician I remember years ago proclaiming how an apple had as much sugar as a can of coca cola, that is bs, first of all coke is full of high fructose corn syrup, not sugar, and secondly when you eat an apple you body has to digest the fiber, and it has regular fructose in it to boot,very different reactions (fruit needs to be in moderation, and probably are best eaten on days you are doing strength training). One other thing, please, please don't diet; while to lose fat/weight you need to have it where caloric input<calories expended, you don't want to go hungry, that is counterproductive..this is about a lifestyle shift, not a crash diet:). In the end, it is about experimenting and seeing what works for you.....

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If I go to a new gym for the first time, I try to go at some time during the day when it's super quiet (perhaps the morning if mainly students are exercising :offended: ) , and have a look around, try out some new machines and so forth.Don't worry about looking like a knob though - i would say about 75% you see have no clue what they are doing?


I like Kettlebells in the gym, as I don't always feel confident performing heavy lifts without a spotter. Look up 'kettle bell workouts' on Youtube. Or what about a class like circuits?


I am assuming you're British? if you are, get signed to parkrun as well - weekly free, timed 5k runs, in most towns/cities - lovely atmosphere.

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