Reading Time: 2 minutes

MANY FIRST-TIME GYM goers are intimidated by confusing equipment, loud grunting noises, and guys who walk around like gympanzees with bulging muscles that prevent them from lowering their arms and rotating their neck. Don’t let this scare you away—a gym membership is included with your tuition, so you have as much right to use the gym as Captain Creatine. To ease the fear associated with a first visit to the gym, follow these easy tips.

Go with a friend

Find a workout buddy—preferably one who has more gym experience than you. They’ll be able to show you the ropes, and keep you accountable to your own exercise goals. You’ll be less likely to skip the gym if you have plans to meet a friend there.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you prefer to work out on your own or if neither you nor your friend have much gym experience, be sure to ask for help when attempting new exercises or using machines for the first time. Keep an eye out for people who look like they know what they’re doing or gym employees who will be able to demonstrate proper form. Proper form is important: There’s nothing like a strain injury to prevent you from returning to the gym.

Get professional help 

For some, a few helpful tips from fellow gym goers are enough to get them started on a fitness routine; however, if you have specific goals for weight loss, endurance or muscle gain, it may be helpful to book a few sessions with a personal trainer. They will create a safe and effective routine for you to follow on your own.

Start small and don’t compare yourself to others

Don’t head directly to the weight plates the size of hubcaps. Everyone needs to start somewhere, even if that “somewhere” is the small weights or the lowest setting on the treadmill. This may be a hit to the ego, especially for guys, but don’t compare yourself to the bodybuilders around you. You may not be able to bench 300 pounds right away, but at least you don’t look like a reject from the movie 300.

Stay consistent

There’s no denying that a first trip to the gym is a huge hurdle to overcome. Keep it up—do whatever it takes to ensure you return on a regular basis, whether that’s an upbeat iPod playlist, a magazine to read on the treadmill, or a workout buddy who will drag you out of bed if necessary.

—Sarah Gisele