Going to the gym for the first time can be a little intimidating. All those machines and weights and so little knowledge -- and concerns about doing something inappropriate and looking like a goose. Well, looking like a goose happens to the most experienced trainers, so novices need to get over that fear, first up. Yet, you can do a few things to make the process easier and more fun.
Weight training, resistance training, and strength training are not exactly interchangeable terms, but 'weight training,' for the most part, encompasses the complete spectrum.
1. Read Up
A little knowledge gets you a long way, so read up on weight training in books from reliable authors, and on sites such as this one, starting with articles for beginners.
Be aware that you will encounter much conflicting advice about what's right and wrong, what works and does not work -- for training and diet. Try to stick to reputable web sites and known and well-qualified trainers.
2. Choose a Venue
Decide where you will do your weight training. You can choose a modern gym (most popular), health club (more expensive), and home gyms and weights. Or, if you want to get into bodybuilding or Olympic lifting, you might choose a professional competition gym.
3. Employ a Personal Trainer
Choosing a personal trainer, at least in the beginning, can be as challenging as deciding what information to believe and what web sites to monitor. Again, experience and qualifications go a long way. Try to avoid fad diet recommendations and offers of fast muscle building in unrealistic times or with simple training programs. Be assured: none of it is too simple.
4. Start Slowly
Progressive resistance training is just that. You start slowly at the beginning and build intensity and volume, that is, how hard and how long you work out over time as you get fitter and your muscles and physiology adapts to stresses.
If you don't do this you risk injury and nothing is more discouraging than having the motivation to work out and not be injury free. Don't let a personal trainer or coach push you too hard, too early. Be cautious.
5. Do Some Cardio
Weight training, especially circuit training, will provide you with a certain level of aerobic conditioning, but adding extra cardio like bike spin classes or floor aerobics or running or swimming will get you in good condition for increases in weights intensity and volume over time. You will also lose weight faster with a combination of weights and aerobics.
6. Eat Clean and Lean
Fresh, natural foods high in fiber and moderately low in fat will not only boost your health, but provide you with the energy you need, and help with weight loss as well. You will need a little extra protein, but not much extra.
7. Let the Fads Pass
You don't need a special diet out of a popular book to help your training. Fad diets are not the answer and they never will be. Similarly, fad training schemes come and go, and although there is always room for different combinations of exercises, sets, reps and training patterns, the more extreme of these may get you injured rather than get you fit.
8. Always Practise Good Form
'Form' is the proper way to lift a weight. There is a right way and a wrong way for most exercises, and this is to ensure you don't injure yourself and that you get the best results from the exercise. Learn good form at the beginning and practice it. Ask a professional if you need help.
9. Progress to Free Weights
Barbells and dumbbells and kettlebells in the 'iron' room might look a little ferocious in the beginning, but you will do well to progress to these free weights at some stage. You don't have to give up your favorite machines, but free weights add another dimension.
10. Aim to Continue for Life
This one may sound demanding, but you should build weight training and cardio into your regular schedule. It's like dieting, you don't do it so that you achieve a result and then stop. You have to do it forever! Sorry.