A letter to beginner of an exercise regimen

Published 12:01 pm Friday, January 31, 2014

Column: Beyond Broccoli and Jogging, by Susie Hulst

Dear, beginner:

First I want to say, good for you. Good for you for stepping outside your comfort zone and making a commitment to exercise. It probably took a lot of contemplation to get you to this stage of action.

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You probably had to debunk the excuses you came up with. You probably had to rearrange your already busy and hectic schedule. You probably had muster up the courage to finally visit the gym, maybe a place you haven’t been to in a long time or ever. It wasn’t easy to finally commit, but you did it. The journey ahead will be hard, but as they say, each journey begins with a first step.

Susie Hulst

Susie Hulst

The reason I am writing this letter is to encourage and inspire you to keep moving forward. But more specifically, to help you get over that fear and intimidation of going to the gym. As a fitness professional and longtime gym-goer, I’ve seen you around many times and even more so since the start of the year. I was in your shoes some time ago, so to some degree, I know how you’re feeling. In the next couple of paragraphs, I’ll take two common fears and follow them with what I call arguments of encouragement.

“I gotta get in shape before I go to the gym.”

People don’t go to the gym because they are in shape. They go to the gym to get in shape or to get in better shape. Don’t ever be intimidated by people running 7-minute miles or wearing spandex tank tops. Everyone goes to the gym to make themselves better. Yes, even those who seem to have no room for improvement.

So wherever you are on your fitness journey, whether you’re at “I-get-winded-going-up-the-stairs” or “I’m-training-for-a-bodybuilding-competition,” you’re there to become one notch better than you were the day before.

And honestly, if asked about the new gym-goer, most veterans would say something like, “Awesome! Good for them.” So the next time you go to the gym, hold your head high knowing that you are taking the steps to become a better version of yourself.

Here is one of my favorite quotes. Remember it every time you go to the gym and feel inferior to the fitness fanatics. “No matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch.” Even your old self.

“I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

OK, you have a couple options here.

Option 1: Do what you know and slowly branch out from there. If all you know how to do is walk on the treadmill, then do just that.

And from there, experiment with one or two new machines or exercises every time you visit. Maybe do the treadmill and then do some of the weight machines you saw someone else doing the other day. Or maybe find some abdominal exercise online to do after the elliptical.

Sooner or later you will get more comfortable in the gym and feel more comfortable branching out. However, I want to advise you that there are some things floating around the Internet that aren’t totally true or accurate. Obviously. There are also some exercises that if done incorrectly can result in an injury. This brings me to your next option.

Option 2: Get some help. Start at the front desk and ask something like, “I would like someone to show me how to use the machines and maybe give me some guidance on getting started. Is there someone here who does that?”

At the Albert Lea Family Y, we offer free equipment orientations. During these orientations, we can answer any questions you may have and also get you started on a simple routine. This is something I’m sure every fitness center is willing to do. Good fitness facilities make a priority to help new members.

Option 3: Try joining a fitness class if or when you’re comfortable. The class will expose you to new exercises, educate you, keep your routine efficient, keep you accountable and help you meet other members.

Some classes are more intense than others, so you may want to ask what classes are best for you. This may be a scary feat at first, but it’s a great way to connect with others who are trying to get fit as well. This reminds me of another quote I like, “Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.” If you want to be healthy, connect with others who also want to be healthy.

Again, congratulations on getting this far and don’t let intimidation or fear keep you from going even further. This is your fitness journey, respect where you are currently and look forward to where you are going.



Susie Hulst


Susie Hulst is the fitness director at the Albert Lea Family Y and is an American College of Sports Medicine-certified health fitness specialist.