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Maximize your new gym membership by following a smart workout plan.
You've plunked down the fees for new membership at your local gym and are ready to get started down the road to fitness. As you stand facing the rows of gleaming equipment you may be a bit overwhelmed but fear not: most fitness centers are designed to make sure that newbies become comfortable working out quickly.
Step One: The Orientation
Most fitness facilities offer a "new member orientation", and don't let embarrassment stand in your way of taking advantage of this excellent opportunity to learn about your gym. You've paid for an all-access pass so discover all that you can. During your orientation a member of the fitness staff will walk you through the different equipment available, instructing you in the proper set-up and adjustment variables required for safe and effective exercise machine operation. Additionally they will likely provide you with a schedule of different group exercise classes like Zumba or Boot Camp that might be offered. Some fitness centers even offer a few free personal training classes for new members; it never hurts to ask!
Step Two: Cardio Foundation
Once you've become familiar with all of the different types of exercise equipment in your gym, start by focusing on your heart health first. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends working your way up to a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular activity a day five days per week. Don't limit yourself to hours walking on the treadmill though; many fitness centers offer elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles, rowing machines and stair climbers all of which challenge your heart while burning calories. Experiment until you find one or even a few pieces of equipment that you enjoy.
Step Three: Lift
Most gyms have a pre-made strength training circuit featuring machines set up in a rational pattern appropriate for all exercise levels. Although manufacturers vary in the details of these machines, a few stand out including the leg press, the assisted pull up and dip machine combo, and the overhead press. Each of these four involve compound movements, meaning that you are working more than one group of muscles and joints at a time so that you get the most bang for your buck. The Centers for Disease Control recommend strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice weekly. If you are interested in using dumbbells or barbells, work with a qualified fitness professional to learn proper technique.
Step Four: The Oft-Neglected but Vital Balance and Flexibility Component
Stretching after your workout can not only feel fantastic but studies indicate that it improves muscle flexibility and your ability to move your arms and legs more comfortably through wider ranges of motion. As a good rule of thumb aim to stretch out all of the major muscle groups that you've worked in a given day. Balance is one of the first things that we lose over time but it can quickly return with practice. Incorporate balance training by standing on one leg while you stretch your thighs or work on a wobble board or Bosu trainer in between stretches.