If you’re new to working out, these gym rules will help get you closer to achieving your fitness goals, while preventing injury. By the way, I’m using the term ‘rules’ very loosely.

1. Don’t compete 

Don’t think for one minute that I’m talking about not taking part in competitive sports, because I love those! What I mean is don’t compete with the person next to you in the gym. I’m a ridiculously competitive person – always have been, but I know that if I start trying to be better than someone working out next to me, things are going to go very wrong for me very quickly.

Not only will comparing yourself to someone else in the gym possibly leave you feeling discouraged if you realise they’re able to lift heavier weights than you or run for longer, but it could also lead to injury as you won’t be focusing on what you’re doing. Your workout needs your full attention to ensure that you’re maintaining good form and doing the exercises to the best of your ability.

So what if the person next to you can squat more than you! The only person you need to compete with is yourself. Use that competitive streak to push yourself to improve your strength and stamina, but in your own time, not in a rush to be better than someone else. Just be the best version of you that you can possibly be.

2. Always warm up and cool down

There have been times when I’ve been running late so I’ve only done a quick cool down stretch after a gym session but not really given it much time or attention, and I’ve seriously regretted it! Stretching is essential if you want to protect your muscles and minimise the risk of injury. It also helps with flexibility and circulation, so always ensure that your muscles are warm before working out, and remember to stretch them post-workout.

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3. Eat a snack post-workout

It’s a common misconception that you shouldn’t eat anything after a workout…why ruin that hard work, right? Wrong. The best thing to eat after a workout is something high in protein and carbohydrates. This will help your muscles to repair and strengthen, and replenish your body after your workout.

4. Stay hydrated

I’ve written various articles about why hydration is important in general, but it’s essential to keep hydrated during a workout because you lose so much water through sweat. Hydration affects your body’s energy levels and without adequate water, your workout will be affected as your body won’t be able to function as well as it can when fully hydrated. It also regulates your body temperature and heart rate.

5. Don’t assume you can pick up where you left off

If you take a break from exercising for a holiday or illness (or any other reason), when you get back to the gym it’s important to remember that you won’t be able to simply start where you left off. This is because your body won’t have been used to exercising for a certain amount of time, and it’s likely you’ll struggle with the workouts you managed to do before. This is because it obviously took you time to build up to where you were before, so it’s going to take you time to get there again.

Be patient, and don’t get disheartened. You will get there.

6. Don’t skip rest days

It’s easy to think that working out excessively will mean you’ll reach your health and fitness goals quicker, but this isn’t true because you need rest days. Everyone does. When you lift weights you’re making tiny tears in your muscles (don’t worry – it’s ok), and when you rest your body repairs the muscle and rebuilds it stronger than before, so rest days are vital.

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Missing rest days can actually make you more prone to injury too because you aren’t giving your muscles the adequate amount of time to recover. Even if you don’t lift weights, you still need to take regular rest days every week to give your body a break and allow it to repair.

7. Don’t forget abs are made in the kitchen

Exercising regularly will only produce results if you also have a healthy diet. It’s no good spending hours in the gym if you then eat junk when you get home, because it’s likely that you’ll be eating more calories than you burned during your workout. I’m a big believer of everything in moderation so, by all means, have treats occasionally – just don’t use your workout as a free pass to empty the fridge. Oh, how I wish it worked like that!

8. Change your workout regularly

To see the best results you need to switch up your workout routine regularly because, when you do the same thing repeatedly your body starts to become more efficient at doing it, making it harder for you to burn fat. By regularly changing your workouts you will keep it fresh, and your body won’t know what’s coming so won’t be able to adapt to it, meaning you will see results.

You don’t need to change your workout after every session though – just when you start to feel like your routine is getting too easy for you.

Read more posts about exercise for beginners:

13 tips for weight lifting beginners

10 Reasons Why Women Should Start Weight Training

It’s OK To Be a Beginner In an Exercise Class

What are reps and sets in the gym?