| Pro Rules for Gym Rookies

Author / Andy Holmes

7-10 min read

It’s a brand new year, which means folks all across the US have started 2022 with a shiny set of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe that’s getting into (or back into) the gym after a hiatus. Or maybe you’re changing schools, or picking up a new sport (rec league or otherwise). In either case, these changes can be a bit daunting, particularly if you’re going at it solo without a coach to help you along.

Well, this is your lucky year.

Block One Coaches John Durrett and Andy Holmes have prepared a quick and easy guide for folks walking into a gym for the first time.

With years of experience in private gyms and sport performance weight rooms, these coaches have seen what it takes to turn a new years resolution into a lifetime journey towards athleticism. They know the pitfalls of first conditioning session jitters and new gym member jitters. But never fear, they’ve teamed up to get you ready for whatever comes your way: kick down any door, overcome any obstacle, and succeed in 2022 and beyond.  

New Gym Survival Rules

Whether you’re a first timer, or just joining a new gym community, Coach Durrett’s list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” will hep ensure that you don’t end up starting the year as everyone’s least favorite gym member:

Do!

  • Have a program. A great program comes in many forms. Whether you’re looking to get yoked off of Jacked Street, pick up game legend through Field Strong, or just get back to basics with Grindstone, Power Athlete has proven programs to empower your performance. But regardless of who’s programming you follow – stay the course. Success comes with consistency.
  • Carry yourself with confidence. If you’re nervous, remember that everyone at the gym had a first day. You’re making a change to improve your life; you should be proud. Let people know you’re new and that you’re excited about beginning this journey. Gym rats love adding to the tribe. 
  • Find a coach and ask for direction if you’re unsure of a movement. Heck, ask a coach about guidance for anything gym related. That’s why we’re here. If you aren’t seeing the results you want, don’t be shy. Help us help you!
  • Treat the gym with respect. Rack your weights, wipe down sweaty equipment.
  • Find a gym that matches your goals and your budget. Finding the right gym is like finding a friend. It may take time and effort but getting the right one is worth it.
  • Keep track of your equipment and make sure it’s staying in proximity to you, instead of spread all over the gym.
  • Practice good hygiene. Shower regularly, wear clean training gear. Make sure that you’re being as clean as possible in the bathrooms, especially if they’re small or mixed gender.
  • Pick up on social cues. If someone has headphones in, they probably aren’t looking to have a big conversation. If you really need a spotter and there’s no one else around, this is an acceptable exception to the rule. Be wary if someone is lining up with a heavy barbell or has some serious weight overhead. Mind your distance and let them do their work.
  • If you have a question, ask. Often, and especially in group training settings, if you have a question, someone else does too.
  • be mindful of personal space and the space you’re taking up. Lifting directly in front of the dumbbell rack, for example, can make you an obstacle to others. Sitting and texting on a bench means no one else gets to use it.

Don’t!

  • Freestyle your workouts or train without direction. Best case scenario, you’re not going to improve as much as you could. Worst case, you’re looking at a potential injury or getting worse despite putting in a lot of effort. If you try and do everything, you’re going to end up doing nothing. 
  • Be arrogant or condescending to others, especially if you’re the one in better shape than them. Have some compassion and remember the reason behind the gym. Remember, you were once that clueless newbie yourself – you know what’s cooler than being judgmental? Being a nice and welcoming person. 
  • Try to be the coach. Offering unsolicited advice on lifting technique or training advice to other gym members is a big no-no, especially if they’re currently working with a coach. You’re overstepping boundaries and being rude.
  • Drop empty barbells or any equipment that’s not rubberized.
  • Ask for discounts, especially from small businesses that are already working on thin budgets. This is an industry where you often get what you pay for, and if you feel like you aren’t, go back on the hunt for a better gym. There’s a reason Planet Fitness is only $10 per month and offers free pizza.
  • Leave sweaty gear, lifting equipment, or water bottles behind. The amount of stuff I throw away here daily is heartbreaking.
  • Try to cover up body odor with excessive amounts of spray deodorant or any cologne or perfume. Many people are sensitive to these smells and you can become a real menace.
  • Be a creep. Staring, “discreetly” recording, or aggressively flirting are all discouraged. People are here to work. Download Tinder and swipe on your own time. If it’s a group fitness setting, it’s likely people are looking to make friends and possibly other connections, but it’s still better to keep any of that stuff for after class and outside the gym. Ask someone out for coffee instead. If they say no, let it go.
  • Show up to group training classes late. Don’t go to the bathroom during instructions. Definitely do not get upset with the instructor when you feel confused because you were late or in the bathroom. It’s your responsibility to be on time. Even if it’s outside your control, wait for a break in the action to take the coach aside and ask questions. Do not sabotage everyone else’s experience.
  • Invade someone’s personal space. Lifting directly adjacent to someone, using their rack/bench or “sharing” equipment with them without asking is heavily frowned upon. If you’d like to work in on a set, feel free to ask, but if someone says no, respect that.

In the immortal words of Jonny Wu, every person in America is either a “Doer” or a “Don’ter”. Don’t be a Don’ter; Do be a Doer, and you’ll find yourself adjusting quickly and happily to your new gym, well on your way to new levels of fitness.

New School Etiquette

The first conditioning session at a new school, with a new team, is always tough. Whether you’re a high school or college freshman and you’re walking into a new weight room or stepping out on the field with a new squad, there are a few things to keep in mind to be the hammer at the next level. Here are Coach Andy’s ”Do’s” and “Don’ts”.

Do!

  • Listen to your coach. Even if you were fluent in the primal movement patterns thanks to an awesome Power Athlete Block One Coach before landing at college, every college strength coach has THEIR way of doing things and it’s your job to learn that new way and execute to the best of your abilities.
  • Do more. If you have to hit ten squats do eleven. If you have to sprint twenty yards go all out for twenty three. If your shirt is supposed to be tucked, tuck it so tight it’s nearly to your socks. More is always going to be better. Remember, someone is always watching. Spare yourself and others the pain of sub-maximal effort. Go all out, on every rep, always.
  • Be a winner. Everytime you walk into a weight room or step onto a field for conditioning your goal should always be to win. Get you chilly the hottest in warm up, listen the most intently, squat the best, run the hardest, try to win EVERYTHING. You might not always win, you may even come dead last, but that competitive effort will win out in the long run.
  • Embrace the chaos. The first days of preseason for any freshmen will  feel like drinking from a firehose – it’s intended to.  The early stages of indoctrination and culture building have to marry an overwhelming level of information and a nearly intolerable level of stress in order to make “adapt and overcome” the ONLY option. Coaches want you to succeed, trust in that and push hard.
  • Have fun! As miserable as any single day of practice may seem to be, always remember you’re there because of a game. Sports are FUN. The worst days of summer conditioning make for the best stories later that day, week, and five years after the fact. Enjoy building new friendships, learning new skills, and finding new limits. 

Don’t!

  • Correct the coach. Saying “Um, actually, my old coach had us squat this way” will get you nowhere fast. Let your movement do your talking. Shut up and squat well. 
  • Cut corners. Taking the path of least resistance is the quickest way to find yourself onto any coaches shit list. And, more often than not, it’s your teammates not you who will face the consequences of your slacking. The option to cheat a rep, hide in the crowd, sneak a rest, will always be there; it’s existence is what makes doing the harder right thing so impressive.
  • Hold back. Especially early on, conditioning at the collegiate level for athletes in any sport can feel more like a fight for survival than general physical preparedness. Don’t give into that mindset. The only rep that exists is the next rep. Don’t worry about the next set, the next movement, the next day. Those who coast to survive are quickly found out, and while they might make it through that week, they rarely thrive in season.
  • Lose confidence after mistakes. You’re going to mess up, you’re going to fail, either due to your own fault or because you were meant to fail. Regardless, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back on the line. Own your mistakes and fight tooth and nail to fix them. The slip ups of the early days of summer are easily forgiven; continually hiding from responsibility and shifting blame, that can follow you for years. 
  • QUIT! Seems simple, but it happens. Do not quit. Athletes who are slow or weak or uncoordinated will always be better off than those who don’t show up. Coaches can and will work with you to get better, that’s what we’re here for, that’s what we LOVE to do. But you have to stay in the fight.

There you have it. We’ve given you some of the tools we’ve seen that have helped athletes and clients succeed; now the ball is in your court. Start TODAY and take your performance to the next level!

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BLOG: Crush Your 2022 Resolutions by Sam Flaherty

BLOG: The Resi and The People Who Coach Them by Adam Campbell

PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 571 – John Welbourn’s 12 New Years Resolutions

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AUTHOR

Andy Holmes

Andy Holmes is a Power Athlete Block One Coach who has over the last decade worked with athletes from nearly every walk of life, sport and occupation. A college athlete Andy graduated and commissioned in the United States Marine Corps as an Officer. After leaving the Corps he began coaching full time working with both general, athlete, and tactical populations. He has coached collegiately at Georgetown University and The University of Texas working extensively with football, lacrosse, rowing, softball, and volleyball teams. Andy is a firm believer that better people make better athletes and better athletes win championships. He is currently enrolled in Denver University’s Masters of Arts in Sport Coaching Program and loves to chop it up about philosophy, Russian history, and obscure films between heavy sets. In addition to the coveted Block, Andy holds certifications from the NSCA, CSCCa, and USAW. He currently most likely drinking coffee or eating tacos with his wife and dog in Austin, TX.

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