Don’t Let the Idea of the Gym Keep You From Your Workout

Pam Moore, a personal trainer in Boulder, Colo., recommended trying a free personal training session, if it’s offered. “Granted, they are trying to sell you a package, but it’s a great opportunity to learn how to use the equipment properly,” she said. “Or if there are group classes offered, maybe that’s a less intimidating place to start.”

You can make the new gym experience more manageable by learning one thing at a time, too, rather than trying everything at once. “It’s like renting a car and having to learn where every button is all at once — it’s overwhelming,” Ms. Moore said. “The same thing applies to the gym. Come up with one small marker for success, like mastering one machine or move.”

If you are at a loss for what to do, rowing machines and battle ropes are simple to use and provide comprehensive workouts. Or try a simple three-day “short and sweet” weight lifting routine for pushing, pulling and legs (but be clear on how best to avoid injury). If you prefer to skip equipment at first, do a simple body weight workout to get your feet wet.

Some gyms offer trial memberships, in which potential members get several one-on-one sessions to familiarize themselves with exercise movements, equipment and terminology. This worked for Patricia Cully, a retired information technology professional from Ellicott City, Md. Ms. Cully spent years trying to train on her own, only to repeatedly injure her ankle. Then, a trainer she was working with failed to modify her workout accordingly, and she injured it again. Ms. Cully realized that a gym environment might not be right for her. After much prodding, however, a friend convinced her to do a trial period at a new gym. Two years later, she is now a regular.

“I was so afraid that the classes would aggravate old injuries,” Ms. Cully, 65, said, but the trainers were able to work around her ankle issues. “Before you decide on a gym, go try it two or three times. For me, a small gym with personal attention was a game changer.”

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