Healthy Living YMCA Health and Fitness

Ask A Trainer: How should I start getting into shape?

Setting foot in a weight room for the first time can be intimidating. How much should you be lifting? How many reps and sets do you need to do? And what’s that scary-looking jungle gym thing in the corner?! We want to take the guesswork out of your healthy living routine so you can make the most out of your time at the gym. So we asked Paul, a personal trainer and the Senior Director of Programs at the Oshawa Mary Street YMCA, to answer some of your most frequently asked fitness questions. As part of our bi-weekly series, he gives step-by-step instructions for anyone who’s just getting started on their healthy living journey.

Let’s face it: getting into shape can be scary. You show up to an enormous gym full of mysterious equipment, where you’re expected to do things you’ve never done before. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed by all the options, or nervous to dive into something new—but you shouldn’t let those feelings stop you from chasing your fitness goals.

Here are four ways I help my new clients overcome their fears and get started on the path to success:

1. You’ll never know unless you try

Most new members join the Y thinking they want to do one specific thing—sweating it out on the cardio machines is a popular choice. If you can stick to a solo workout routine, you deserve a pat on the back; you’re in the minority. The single best thing you can do to stay motivated and on track is try one of our Group Fitness classes. Your certified instructor will guide you through a carefully planned routine designed to get your heart rate up and give you a full-body workout. The upbeat playlists, motivating guidance from your instructor, and the energy of a big group all working out together are sure to keep you feeling excited about hitting the gym. Not to mention, all Group Fitness classes are included in your membership, so you’ve got nothing to lose!

2. Start slow—but not too slow

I can’t count the number of times new members have approached me to say they’re afraid of doing too much too fast and getting hurt. Understandable. If you go from 0–100, you risk injury that could force you to stop working out altogether, putting a big kink in your progress. That said, you shouldn’t sell yourself short, because you’re stronger than you think! Give yourself permission to break out of your comfort zone. Otherwise, progress is going to come very slowly, if at all. A good way to gauge if you’re adequately testing your limits is to monitor your body on your non-gym days. Feeling sore after a good, tough workout? That’s great! It means you challenged yourself and you’re getting stronger. With challenge comes change.

3. Keep it simple

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest whirlwind of fitness trends. “Cleanses,” fad diets, and bizarre workouts promise you amazing results with minimal time and effort. But at the end of the day, I always remind new members to lean towards training methods that have stood the test of time. They’re still around for a reason: they actually work! You’d be surprised just how much progress you can make by working some classic strength training into your cardio routine, or adding a weekly jog to your time in the weight room.

4. Don’t be shy

You know those people who refuse to ask for directions when driving? I see the exact same thing in the gym every day. People who’ve never set foot in a weight room, but don’t take advantage of our free mYfitness orientations; those who look lost, but never drop into a Group Fitness class; and members who say they want to improve their endurance, but refuse to do cardio. At the Y, we have an entire team of coaches that can help you figure out the most effective, efficient way for you to accomplish your goals. Whether you need someone to show you how to use equipment, want recommendations on the best Group Fitness class for you, or want to take your workouts to the next level with your very own personal trainer, we’ve got an exercise expert who can help. Don’t hesitate to ask for guidance next time you’re at the Y. We’d love to help you get started!

Paul has a degree in Human Kinetics and Education, with a specialty in Phys. Ed, and is a YMCA Canada-certified Fitness and Personal Trainer. For over six years, he’s been working as a personal and small group trainer at the Oshawa Mary Street YMCA, where he also teaches Bootcamp, MuscleFit, CycleFit, and Kettlebell classes. Paul runs a variety of fitness workshops and conferences, including the YMCA Personal Training Certification course.