What is holding you back from going to the gym?
Being a minimalist, I try to apply the same to all aspects of my life and this includes how I approach the gym.
Keep in mind that not all exercises require a gym. There are exercise programs designed to be done at home. However, this guide is dedicated to those who want to gain their results in a gym.
Going to the gym should not take any mental energy if you plan ahead. My minimalist approach to it consists of five things: defining my goals, following the right workout program, finding the right gym, staying consistent, and having the right athletic gear.
Once you have these five things figured out, you will only need to focus on completing your next set.
Before we go further, everything mentioned below is based on my opinion and experiences. Please consult with a fitness expert or physician to see if my recommendations are right for you.
With that said, let’s get started.
Before you even step foot in a gym, try to figure out what your goals are.
Are you trying to become stronger or have the physique of a bodybuilder? These two things may sound similar but may actually not be mutually exclusive. Strength can come from just doing calisthenics without gaining massive muscles. Therefore, you can stay lean and strong. Figure out what you’re trying to achieve.
Next, is this for health? If so, have you thought about your diet and nutrition in addition to exercising? What do you plan to eat after you workout? Throughout the day?
Finally, what is your timeframe for achieving your goals? This is important because if you’re planning to go from a 120 pounds skinny guy to 150 pounds of muscle, it’s important to have a realistic goal. I think mini-goals and mini-gains are a great way of staying motivated. Setting them at one month intervals can help track progress and make it easier to continue the momentum.
My main focus in this guide is a minimalist approach to working out at the gym. I think one of the easiest and minimalist program to get started with is Stronglifts 5×5. It is also a great introduction to weight lifting.
Additionally, any one can start. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a male or female, weightlifting is neutral and brings benefits to both genders. For men, it builds muscle. For women, it tones the body. For women who are afraid they might “Hulk out” from lifting, that doesn’t really happen like that and should not be the reason to hold you back from lifting. The women I know that lift have benefitted from it by becoming more lean and tone than they ever have from doing other forms of exercises.
With the additional calorie burn from weightlifting, lifters don’t have to be as restrictive with diets. Since I’ve started lifting, I’ve been able to maintain my weight and size even though I have a lot of cheat days.
You can check out the Stronglifts app on iOS or Android and learn more about the app here. The app comes with great instructional videos and easy to follow workout routines. The goal is to perfect each exercise before adding more weight and making it harder. I definitely recommend purchasing the Power Pack because it comes with a lot of extra features that is worth it in the long term. But definitely try it out first before investing any money into it.
Finding the Right Gym
If you plan to join a gym, make sure they have a squat rack.
Not a smith machine but a full squat rack or power rack. This is generally a good indicator that they will probably have additional equipment.
If you’re planning to take my suggestion and start Stronglifts, squat rack is a must have because you can also use the rack for the overhead shoulder press.
When looking for a gym, be sure to get a tour of it. I think an important thing a gym must have is a good locker room. It should be clean and individual lockers should be big enough to fit your stuff (and umbrella on rainy days). This is important because unless you have the luxury of going home and showering or changing into a different set of clothes before going to work or starting your day, you need adequate storage for your things.
Minimalism to me is about doing less and gaining more from it.
The great thing about the Stronglifts program and the core of this article is the simplicity of it. It’s structure in a way that you just need to follow the app and theoretically, you should be at the gym three times a week.
It can be easy to skip a day but following a program should make you motivated to go to the gym because you’re constantly progressing and adding more and more weight after each training session.
For me, I tend to look forward to days where deadlifts are part of the exercise routine.
All you need at the gym is general athletic attire, this can be t-shirt, sweats or shorts, and a pair of sneakers.
However, if you’re progressing to the point in your workout program where you’re starting to stagnate in progress, here are a few additional things you can bring with you to the gym to help:
- Gym Bag
Are you going to the gym before work or after work? I look for a gym bag that has a compartment for shoes so I leave my sneakers or dress shoes in. It also helps me carry everything else I need to bring. I recommend a bookbag style gym bag because it is easier for me to commute with. May not apply to you if you drive, so a traditional gym bag should be okay for you.
- Wireless Earbuds
The benefit of wireless headphones is alleviating my fear of getting my wires wrapped in gym equipment and hurting myself in the aftermath. I feel like this is a must have because I also use music to focus on the exercise and maintaining my form. Additionally, I’m using my phone for Stronglifts anyway so I might as well listen to music. I generally loop one song when I’m working out at the gym.
Having wireless earbuds is a game changer but if you’re an audiophile, you’ll definitely hear a drop in sound quality.
- Weightlifting Shoes
I highly recommend these for squatting and deadlifting because it keeps my feet planted to the ground. It is also very beneficial for maintaining form and foot placement.
- Weightlifting Gloves
This is optional one for me and I have found I don’t need them. For those trying to avoid calluses, this is a good option.
However, once certain lifts become heavier, it becomes harder to grip the equipment bare hand and this is especially true for deadlifting. Having the additional grip is important and can prevent dropping the weight mid lift.
An alternative would be to bring chalk but some gyms don’t allow it because they have to clean up after people who use it.
- Exercise Belt
I find this optional as well but it is definitely recommended for heavier squats or lifts.
- Water Bottle
This one is a must have at the gym. Staying hydrated is very important. Most gym should have water fountains to refill your bottle. Remember to take sips between sets.