Part of what drew me to Quest when I applied was the seemingly endless amount of recreational activities and facilities that would be available. I had told myself I would snowboard every morning, mountain-bike every afternoon, and play squash in the evenings – when I would actually do coursework, I wasn’t as sure. Once I got here in 2014, however, reality set in and I found myself more concerned with making new friends and doing well in classes versus being active 24/7.
As a result, I became unhappy with my level of fitness compared to what it was upon graduating high school. I wanted to change that. So in my second year, I made a promise to myself that I’d start hitting the gym (something I’d never done before) and maybe go on the odd run. I quickly realized that having zero gym experience– I felt like a fish out of water in the weight room. I had no clear goal in mind, and I didn’t understand what half of the exercises the people around me were doing were supposed to accomplish. In short, I didn’t know where to start.
Resident fitness messiah Mike Allan started working out with me and the rest is history. Working out with an experienced partner was the biggest component to me feeling comfortable using Quest’s facilities.
This year there has been a noticeable push to make fitness at Quest more accessible for people. Frosted glass has gone up and fitness classes are numerous. Women’s hours have also been running for little over a month now, to widespread acclaim from students who access the space during those times.
This piece aims to supplement the various accessibility initiatives, by providing a quick list of tips to help people enjoy time spent in the gym.
I sat down with Mike Allan, and we discussed ways to reduce gym intimidation. The tips below are a result of that discussion.
- Go with an experienced friend. If you have a regular gym-going partner, room mate, or buddy, ask if you can tag along and get some tips from them. Ask what their routine is all about, and how they access the gym to achieve those goals. If your interests line up, consider becoming regular workout partners. Like anything, practicing with someone with more experience will yield better results than working alone.
- Take advantage of slow hours. The slowest times in the gym are generally when classes are being held, so between 9-4. Late evenings and weekends are also quiet. There are numerous benefits to going while there aren’t many others around. One is that you rarely have to wait/compete for equipment and space. On a similar vein, there is no pressure to hurry through your set on a squat rack, for example, if there is nobody else waiting to use it. If there are less people in the gym, then the feeling of being watched might be reduced as well.
- Access fitness classes. Fitness classes are lead by people who are passionate about exercise, and want to see you succeed and do it well. Although I haven’t used his classes, JF’s morning fitness is fantastic, and Sophie and Nicole’s Women’s Hours classes are supposed to be great as well. Fitness classes have the added benefit of teaching you exercises you may not have known about, with proper form to boot.
- If time is of the essence, get a quick, high intensity cardio workout instead. These types of workouts often have the benefit of involving the whole body, and having you feel spent in less than 15 minutes. Search for short workout apps in your mobile device’s store, and pick a couple workout routines that look interesting and challenging to you. Although these types of activities may not yield the same results that long-term exercise plans would, at the end of the day, any exercise is better than no exercise!
- Bring a cheat sheet! Don’t be afraid to write down your routine, and match it up with the correct equipment/weights. If you can’t remember what the form for an exercise looks like, do a quick Google search, and perform it in front of a mirror to make sure you’re doing it right. Allan suggests bodybuilding.com as a resource for workout routines and form reference.
While these tips may be helpful to the beginner gym-goer, it’s important that they don’t feel as though they should only go when it’s slow and empty. Everyone has a right to access fitness facilities on campus, and regular gym-users have a part to play in promoting that environment. Allan says one of the best ways a regular gym user can make the space feel more welcoming is by being aware of the music you’re playing if you are connected to the shared speakers. Aggressive hip-hop or electronic music can be overwhelming and jarring; being aware of who is in the space with you is a simple way to put everyone at ease in the gym.
Another important responsibility of gym-goers is to maintain a clean space. There have been countless complaints of weights and equipment being strewn about the exercise area. It makes it much more difficult for a beginner to enjoy a workout if they are forced to run around searching for weights for 15 minutes before they can even begin their exercises. Being forced to search adds to the feeling of confusion in the gym, and in some cases, could feel synonymous with the larger experience. It should not be that way. Simply putting weights away after you complete a set makes the experience easier for everyone.
At the end of the day, everyone who uses the gym has a stake in it. Whether or not you are a beginner or a gym veteran, you must share the space with other people. Remember to treat everyone with respect and do your best to foster a positive, encouraging environment.