The First Gym Visit: A Freshman’s Essential Checklist

You can’t escape it forever (well, maybe if your metabolism is powered by the Incredible Hulk on his best day). Sooner or later, you will find yourself at your university’s gym, or recreation center as they are frequently called. Once you get past the lingering smell of sweat and occasionally overly exposed bodies in exercise clothing, it’s really not that bad. With a few vital tips, you will find yourself on your way to being a seasoned exercise artist.

Do your research on the facility and figure out what you want out of this workout.

This is especially important when you are first getting on campus. After all, this building is completely new to you, and you do not know what all they have to offer. A majority of campus recreation centers have their own website with a list of equipment, locations and activities available for students. The more you know about the facility, the easier it will be to plan your workout accordingly. For instance, you may go there planning to just run, but then you realize they also have an indoor pool for laps. It would have been really nice to know that beforehand, so you could cool off after your workout, now wouldn’t it?

Bring a workout buddy!

Working out by yourself can make time seem to go by extra slow, and you will tire yourself out much faster. Go to the gym with your roommate or another friend, and you will find time flies by. Having a partner also makes keeping pace a much simpler task. It’s also nice to have someone to talk to and to bounce ideas off of every once in a while. They can also keep you in check by making sure you don’t under or overwork yourself on the first day. Plus, getting lost or confused is much less embarrassing when you have someone there in the exact same situation as you.

Dress appropriately for your workout activity.

To each his own on workout clothes, but there is an etiquette for certain activities. If you are planning on an intense workout, do not show up in a mountain of sweats and fleece. You will look miserable, and you will probably not smell that fantastic afterward either. Always bring a change of clothes just in case yours are too cumbersome, or you are literally freezing on your yoga mat. For more low-key exercises, loose t-shirts and tanks with a nice form fitting sweatpants are definitely acceptable. Just make sure you can move sufficiently in whatever clothes you work out in. I have seen too many of my fellow students struggling to zumba dance in jeans, a nice blouse and flats.

Always, always, always bring a water bottle (and your student ID).

Hydration is something that should never slip your mind when working out at the gym. These days, it is far too easy for the everyday college student to overdo it and pass out while pushing themselves too hard. Also, they are sold in such cute styles and various sizes that you never have to worry about yours being mistaken for someone else’s. The student ID is also a “no brainer” for a trip to the gym because you need them to get into the recreation centers obviously. If the worst comes to pass, and you hurt yourself while working out, you will be glad that you brought along some sort of identification.

Finally, when in doubt, always ask an employee of the recreation center for help.

These people are hired specifically to help you and keep you safe. They know how all the equipment works and can answer any of your questions about them. If you find yourself struggling to use a specific machine, let them know, and they can fix it or show you what you are doing wrong. Do not be embarrassed to let them know you are confused. By clearing things like this up early, you set yourself up for more fun and productive gym visits in the future.

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Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins

Tori Stukins is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Theatre. On campus, Tori can often be found working on various projects for Her Campus Illinois, acting in a production or reading. While at home, she enjoys working at her family’s restaurant or exploring with her friends.