How to Start Going to the Gym Everyday

Photograph by Tala Parker

Photograph by Tala Parker

I’m known for having a very weak immune system. Even though I’m very careful to be healthy (lots of sleep, lots of water, eat healthy, don’t touch my eyes/nose/mouth, don’t share food/drink with others, etc.), I often get sick. However, I realized that when I’m most active, I tend to be healthier. In part because of this, I decided to start going to the gym.

I’ve never really been a gym person. Growing up, I didn’t have a proper PE class and never learned how to use most of the gym equipment. Both my parents don’t go. I was actually pretty anti-gym because I thought it was silly to do something like running on a treadmill when you could go for a run outside and see interesting things. Nonetheless, something changed. I wasn’t hiking or running often enough, especially during the cold winter months, and wasn’t exercising in my college dorm because I felt awkward if my roommate was there. My friends liked the gym, so I decided to give it a go.

I’m very lucky to have free (except for my massive tuition) access to a really nice gym just a few minutes bike ride from my dorm. I suggest you find a gym/yoga studio/rock climbing gym/etc. that is as local to you as possible (whether by your house or work) to reduce the barriers that prevent you from going. Buy a pass and calculate how much money it’ll cost you per day if you go everyday (or five or six times a week). You’ll be amazed (hopefully) by how cheap it is compared to if you just go once or twice which will hopefully motivate you to go often.

Step #1: commit and follow through

The first step is to commit to going. I decided I’d go everyday possible until the end of February (about two and a half weeks). By committing to going everyday, I broke down any barriers that prevented me from going (like “I’m too tired today or “I’m too busy”). In addition, our bodies release endorphins when we exercise (meaning we like to exercise), and once you start you begin to “get addicted” to it in a way. This will encourage you to keep going.

Step #2: time it right

Figure out when it’s the best time for you to go. For me, it’s really important that I’m not too full, otherwise I feel gross exercising. Because of this, and depending on my class schedule, I go in the morning after a light breakfast and before lunch or go in the late afternoon before dinner, or late at night a few hours after dinner.

Step #3: Go with support

The first time I went to the gym, I went with an amazing friend of mine who showed me the ropes. She made me feel comfortable in the gym environment and showed me how to use some of the equipment. If you don’t have someone to go with, most of the equipment have instructions on the sides or simple start/stop buttons (also faster/slower). Clean off the equipment after you use it with provided towels and spray. Don’t be afraid to ask another fellow gym-goer how to use a machine or if you’re shy just observe other people. It’s also important to go by yourself and learn to enjoy the gym on your own as there wont always be a buddy to go with you.

Step #4: Experiment and discover what you like

It’s important to try many things when you first begin to go to the gym. For example, the first day I went on the elliptical for a long while. I got hot and sweaty and felt gross and really tired. In comparison, I did the stair master and machines that focus on particular muscles the next day for short periods of time and really enjoyed it. It’s important to figure out what you like so you enjoy the gym.

Step #5: DOn’t push it

It’s important for me not to go for over an hour because I leave feeling like I spent too much time at the gym, biking there and back, showering, etc. It’s also important for me to not to over do it and become incredibly sore. I once went for a long run and could barely walk for three days afterwards, let alone exercise. My goal is to feel sore, not in pain. If your muscles feel sore, work some other part of your body to give that area a break. Also, know when you need a rest day (but don’t abuse it).

I think it’s really important to understand and internalize the distinction between exercising for health and strength and exercising for weight loss. Society really impresses on people, especially women, that their bodies should look a certain way and I think this is messed up. I am trying to retrain my idea of what “beauty” is, and part of that is to accept all bodies, especially my own (we are always our worse critic). I think counting calories and/or starving yourself is no good, and it’s terrible that society has made us think otherwise. For me, exercising is an opportunity to become stronger. One thing that I’ve found really interesting in this process is that after just exercising for a few days with very little body change (except for sore muscles), I felt much more comfortable in my own body just knowing that I was gaining strength and being healthy.

What are your thoughts and feelings on health and fitness? How do you try to push back against societies toxic norms? What’s your favorite exercise? Let me know in the comments!