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How To Become A Gym Girlie 101

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

Whether you’ve been dreaming of entering a fitness era for ages or just stumbled upon the lifestyle from scrolling on TikTok, the truth is that it’s intimidating. Everyone in the gym seems to know exactly where to go, their outfits are always so coordinated, and somehow, they know what all of the machines do. The thing they don’t tell you though, is that it’s perfectly normal to be confused, scared, and struggling when going to the gym.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s better sooner than later. So, how does the journey start?

1. Set up a routine

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it’s important to say it again: routines are not only what keep you accountable for going to the gym, but are also the only way you will see any sort of gains. You’re essentially creating a specialized schedule for yourself: What time of day works best for you to work out? Morning, evening, afternoon? How many days a week can you make it to the gym? Do you need to go at different times on different days?

The main question to be asking yourself when setting up a routine is: What works best for me? If you make a schedule that you have to force yourself to follow through with, you’re eventually going to abandon it and then enter that spiral of regret most college students know all too well.

If you’re just starting out, I’d recommend two to three days a week, for 45 minutes to an hour. It seems small, but the key here is consistency. Your progress will add up over time and a small commitment lets you get adjusted to this change in your life.

2. Create a Workout Split

The dreaded “workout split.” People talk about this term all the time and debate which one is better or more “effective for building muscle mass,” but no one ever takes the time to define what it means.

Well, let’s clear the air now, shall we?

A workout split is the schedule of workouts you follow. This isn’t the same schedule from before, but rather, it’s part of a sub-section of that. You decide what part of your body you want to work out each day.

For example, Monday could be arms, Tuesday could be legs, Wednesday could be chest, etc.

The most common split is the Push Pull Split. It looks something like this:

Day 1: Chest, triceps, shoulders (Push)

Day 2: Back and Biceps (Pull)

Day 3: Legs

The reason it’s called the Push-Pull Legs is because the exercises associated with the chest, triceps, and shoulders are typically pushing actions like pushing weight above your head or away from your chest. On Pull days where you work your back and biceps, the exercises you do require you to pull weight towards you like in a dumbbell row or a bicep curl.

The most important thing to remember about creating a workout split is that you’re working all of your body parts with rest in between. Working the same body part two days in a row can result in injury and push your progress backward rather than forward. Whichever split you decide to use or create for yourself, optimal rest (at least one to two days) should be allowed between body parts.

3. Choose Exercises

The last thing to do before you actually go to the gym is do some research. After all, how are you going to follow your split if you don’t know what exercises to do for certain body parts?

Well, now’s the time to figure that out.

Although both can contain misinformation, YouTube and TikTok have tons of informational videos about how to perform certain exercises, which ones to do on which days, how to best target certain muscle groups, and how to use certain machines. (A note on workout machines: don’t ever be afraid to look at the pictures or ask for help. Everyone gets confused by them and it can take trial and error to figure them out.)

Typing in your split or “exercises for (insert body part here) will result in a slew of videos popping up. You don’t have to watch them all the way through, but just watch a bit of them and you’ll start to get a good sense of exercises that you feel like you want to incorporate into your routine.

Or, if there’s a fitness influencer that piques your interest, go onto their page and see if they lay out their workout split or what they do for certain days of it. If they write it out, you can look up the exercises and learn how to perform them.

Take your time and don’t be afraid to google questions that might seem stupid. After all, the only way to learn is to ask those questions. But asking questions and learning what to do is only half of the task: the next part is to perform those exercises for yourself.

4. Actually Going to the Gym

Alright, you’ve made a schedule for yourself of when you’re going to the gym, created a bomb workout split, and did your research on exercises you want to try. The only thing left to do is to go to the gym right?

Well, easier said than done.

When you enter a gym, people are already there working on machines and it can feel as if you don’t belong. I can feel the eye-rolls and the glares as I type this, but the best advice I can give you is to bite the bullet. Everyone is there to achieve the same goal: work out and get stronger. It’s not fair for you to exclude yourself from achieving the same goals!

Once you get into the gym, you’re going to notice four distinct “sections” of weights. Cable machines, which are machines that require you to pull cables to lift stacks of weight, machines, squat cages (the big black things with the large metal barbells that people squat in), and free weights.

Based on the exercises you choose to do, you’re going to enter each of these sections. No matter the type of weight you lift, stretch the muscle group beforehand and always start with lighter weights. Too much weight in the beginning can cause injury, not warming up can cause this as well.

Now that you’re warmed up and ready to go, how do you know which weight is right for you? Well, the goal in the beginning is to build muscle. This means that the weight you do should be heavy enough that you have difficulty doing the exercise for three sets of eight to 12 reps with a two-minute rest in between sets. This range of eight to 12 reps is good for hypertrophy, or building muscle mass. Building strength means doing fewer reps of an exercise while increasing the weight. However, building muscle first gives you a good foundation for building strength.

Going to the gym isn’t easy: it’s uncomfortable, awkward, and sweaty. But as long as you go, you’re succeeding even if you can only manage 30 minutes or don’t get to finish everything you set out to do. Put on a cute outfit, try your best, and the rest will sort itself out with time.

5. Diet

Now, I’m not going to tell you which diet is right for you because everyone’s body is different. However, there are two facts that are universal about gym lifting that I can tell you.

1. Protein Intake

Try to aim for one gram of protein per pound of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, try to aim for 150 grams of protein that day. Protein is going to become your best friend as it is the macronutrient that aids not only in muscle recovery but in building muscle mass. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different protein sources like protein shakes. Muscle Milk is a great option for my non-milk-drinking friends, and Fairlife is also a great choice.

2. Sufficient Food Intake

Your body needs fuel! A plain yogurt on the way to class, although a great snack, is not going to be enough to give your body the energy it needs. This also means paying attention to what you eat. There is nothing wrong with sweets or chips, but those foods aren’t going to be enough to give you the energy your body will need for the day. Rather, add more foods besides them into your diet such as fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains.

Becoming a gym girlie doesn’t have to feel like pulling out teeth: as long as you’re getting up, active, and eating what your body needs, you’re as much of a gym girlie as the others who may have started before yourself. Put on that cute outfit, grab some friends if you want to go on the journey with them, and fill up your water bottle. You’re now a gym girlie!

Sofia is an Sophmore English Major at the University of Connecticut who loves reading, music, and anything fantasy. Her hometown is Morristown New Jersey and loves going to the gym and making new friends!