How to Start Going to the Gym: The 2024 Queer Edition
Before Your First Day
Taking your resolution seriously requires you to think about three crucial aspects: your fitness goals, your preferred workout spot, and a workout plan.
Your fitness activity is ideally a long-term commitment to maintaining good physical health, not just to lose weight to get abs or build muscle. Are you considering weightlifting, strength training, body-weight exercises, cardio, or a combination? Your fitness journey should focus on maintaining good physical health as a long-term commitment, rather than solely aiming to lose weight or build muscle. Remember, the best exercise routine is the one you can stick to!
When searching for a gym, factors such as price, payment frequency, distance from home/work, operating hours, equipment availability, extra amenities (e.g., group fitness classes, in-house trainers, swimming pool), or values (centers that prioritize diversity and welcome all body types) need to be considered. I recommend visiting various gyms to get a feel for their ambiance.
Preparing for your first day is just as important as showing up. Depending on your fitness goals, follow a structured workout program (like push-pull-legs or full-body routines) or research how to create your own. Pay attention to muscle groups, proper technique, reps and sets, and rest times. You can consider the benefits of personal training. Working out with a trainer can improve strength and fitness by teaching you proper form, range-of-motion, good stretching and how to use training equipment, like barbells and gym machines.
What to do at the gym
The gym has rules, some written in contracts, others unspoken. These guidelines revolve around hygiene, safety, and basic courtesy. Wiping down your equipment before and after use is a hygienic must when sharing a space filled with sweat. Lots of germs spread at a fitness center…
Putting away equipment after use prevents accidents, which occur usually when something is too high, too heavy or unseen. I’ve tripped on dumbbells scattered on the floor carelessly. Leave the space as free as possible for the next person.
Finally, don’t be a jerk. If your workout has supersets (read: exercises to be performed back to back) or circuit training, be mindful of others who may want to use those areas after you. If there’s only one Smith machine at your gym, consider a workout routine that doesn’t require this machine for several exercises. Be considerate!
Being queer in a gym
The gym atmosphere can be quite binary and often leans towards hyper-masculinity. The workout room can be explicitly divided, with women tending towards cardio machines and men dominating the free weights area. For individuals with gender non-conforming expressions, this environment can exacerbate the feeling of standing out.
If possible, attend the same hours on the same days regularly. It’ll feel less intimidating and grow your sense of belonging when you see the same crowd warm up to you. You can also change the hours if the crowd it brings makes you uncomfortable. Going in the morning vs. Early evening can be polar opposite vibes.
For folks with non-conforming gender expressions, locker rooms and showers can be worrisome territory. During my transition, I avoided using them altogether until I was sure to pass: brought my essentials in small bag and would show up already in gym clothing. Now that I do pass fine, I still don’t change in locker rooms. I don’t think anybody would care enough, but I’m more peaceful not worrying about it. Some gyms have lockers that aren’t in the changing area - that’s definitely something to ask about when you sign up.
Improving your fitness level from gym training take time, so stay motivated! Muscle growth requires consistent exercise several times a week, a well-rounded total-body fitness program, progressive overload, sticking with your regiment, and resting up. These will eventually lead to getting stronger and an improved sense of well-being. Here's to a fulfilling 2024!