A Geek’s Guide to Going to the Gym

Hello, my name is George, and I am a nerd. As you might have already guessed, I look like I belong in a gym.  I fit right in. Me and muscles over there… tight. That bar thingie with the circles on it, got it under control. The girl with the tight booty shorts, oh yeah, she was looking at me doing my hip thrusts.  Oh I forgot, I’m a liar.

I have always kept my distance from gyms in the past, but in my grand plan of being a sexy bitch, I needed to step up my workouts. So, I recently signed up for a two week trial to a gym, and let me tell you, gyms are hard to walk into as  an overweight semi-geek type. I never had an issue in high school with the whole geek vs. jock shenanigans, but the whole concept of a gym reminds me of that stereotypical divide.  Muscle bound dudes. Super fit aerobics instructors. People with tans. I am not a shy person by most standards, but I was definitely a little intimidated my first time stepping through the gym doors.  I can see how a lot of people have bad gym anxiety.

However, a gym provides so much benefit, so sometimes we have to just suck it up.  And that is exactly what I did, and so far it has worked out great.

So, since I have recently been through the process of getting into gym mode, I thought I would share some tips that helped me ease the transition from couch and office chair to step class and weight bench, both mentally and physically.

Step 1: Get your mind right

You can’t begin to take advantage of the gym until you get over (or at least bury deep inside) any gym anxiety you may have.  Here are some small things that helped me:

Realize that people in the gym look the way they do because they go to the gym. A good number of the people that go to the gym are already in a maintenance mode, and are exercising at a rate in accordance with their fitness level. This makes it hard Joe McFlabbybelly, who is 30+ pounds away from his goals and gets winded from pouring milk into his Lucky Charms, to feel at home in a gym.

You have to start somewhere.

Just realize that you are on the right path.  Sooner than you think, you are going to being that guy/gal you see throwing up dumbbells that are bigger than your head. Just stick with it.

Nerd out on research and bring the knowledge! Would you start a new software project written in a new programming language without going through the quick-start guide, multiple tutorials, and a few screencasts? Would you dive right into a raid without looking at boss abilities, discussing strategy, and doing a ready check? Sure, if you expect to wipe. The correct answer is:  No!

One thing that I think all of us geeks have in common is our insatiable curiosity and our ability to gather as much knowledge as possible to be prepared for whatever it is we are obsessing over at the moment. The same applies to the gym.  Make goals and research how to meet those goals. Come to the gym prepared. Know what classes you want to take, what workouts you are going to do, and come with a purpose.

Don’t cause yourself to crash and burn just because you don’t know what to expect.

Step 2: Equip the right gear

Since I don’t know what level of geek you are, I will not assume that you know not to wear your storm trooper outfit to the gym.  So no storm trooper outfits. But don’t let that prevent you from showing your geeky side while whipping your ass into shape.

Embrace your geekiness in the gym! Don’t be afraid or ashamed to stick out from the crowd.  While most people at the gym are wearing their MMA Tapout shirts or skin tight Under Armor gear, I proudly wear my Nerds 2^2 Ever shirt to the gym.  I embrace my horn-rimmed glasses that fog up when I get sweaty.  I enjoy stripping down to my whitey-tighties in the locker room… Ok, not that last one. But seriously, don’t be afraid to let your geek flag fly in the gym, our t-shirts are way funnier than their t-shirts, and chicks dig funny t-shirts.

Make gym time your geek news time with podcasts. I assume, like me, you have blogs you read to keep up on the latest tech trends or the latest news to your favorite game(s). Well, lucky for you, someone probably produces a podcast that hits all of the major tech, gaming, political, woodworking, or Local Causal and Markov Blanket Induction for Causal Discovery and Feature Selection for Classification news your heart desires.  The last one might be hard to find, but the others are definitely covered!  So load up your MP3 player of choice with some great news podcasts and make gym time learning time as well.

Step 3: Crawl, Walk, Run

When going to the gym for the first time in a while (or ever), you are bound to get sore. But never use that as an excuse to stop going to the gym. Start somewhat easy (don’t be a wuss, though) and plan on being sore the first few times back.  If you aren’t sore, you’re probably taking it too easy and need to step it up (remember when I called you a wuss about a sentence ago?).

The burn says its working. Plan for the inevitable muscle soreness that will follow your first few workouts.  Don’t plan any major physical activities the first few days after your first trip to the gym.  My first day at the gym resulted in 3 days of pretty bad muscle soreness.  Unfortunately, not much can be done for muscle soreness.  The best thing that helped me was going for long walks to keep my muscles warm and light stretching. Take the pain lightly and don’t let it dissuade you from going back to the gym.  While it sucks, it means that your body healing itself to prepare you better for the next time.  After a few weeks, your muscles won’t be as sore after each workout, so you can hit the gym hard after that. You can even treat the pain as an immediate result from your workouts… you may not see the results right away, but you can sure as hell feel them.

Step 4: Give me a ‘C’! Give me an ‘O’! Give me a ‘NSISTENCY’!

(I ran out of header room)

Grind out reputation with your gym’s faction. Make sure you take advantage of the gym. Take extra time to get to know the gym common folk.  Make sure you know where to find a good mead (protein shake). Know how to find your (aerobics) class trainer. Know how to get to the the local smith (machine) to help craft your armor (muscles).   Use the chat channels (your mouth) to make new friends (friends). Do your gym dailies and grind your way from Neutral to Friendly and beyond. Keep at it, the rewards are well worth the daily grind.

Step 5: Have Fun!

The end goal is to get fit, but you have to have fun doing it. Treat the gym as a fun place to get fit and meet new people who are trying to (or already have) achieve the same goals. If you genuinely don’t like it, stop going… Remember that a gym is just one of many methods to reach your goals.

Hopefully these thoughts and tips might ease your transition into the gym… it did mine.


  • http://www.halfofjess.com Jess

    Haha, this post cracked me up. Nice one.

    I totally agree with the statement that most people at the gym are in such good shape because they go to the gym. All the freaking time. Well, at my gym (24 Hour Fitness), I recognize all the regulars and I’m sure they recognize me. I don’t talk to people much because I go there purely to work out, sweat and look disgusting and not to socialize, I’ve gotten help with spotting if I need it and the front desk guys know me by name now. It’s nice and rewarding to know that my consistency at the gym pays off.

    As for the crawl, walk, run, I kind of do it in reverse. Run, walk, crawl. I’ll crawl to the finish line if I have to. That’s my method of tackling my Half Marathon. I’m going to finish even if I have to roll across the finish line.

  • http://geekgirlgetsfit.com Kathleen

    Love it! Cracked me up the whole way through. When I started working out I would only do it while I was home alone. I would draw the curtains and lock the doors (no, really, I would!)

    Now I work out with several workout buddies and I don’t care who watches, cause they get to see me bring the THUNDER! :)

    It only took me 5 months to get to that point. You are much braver than me!

  • http://www.geekintoshape.com George Titswoth

    Thanks for the nice words!

    Jess – your right, I should caveat the Crawl, Walk, Run with a 2 week time limit, everything after the first two weeks should be done in reverse order :)

    Kathleen – I always bring the thunder too (thighs that is). But seriously, I’m always amazed how much weight loss and a healthy lifestyle positively affect confidence. I always wonder if it is mental (i.e. body image) or physical (i.e. the chemicals released during exercise). Either way it feels great to feel comfortable!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pawned79 Patrick Damiani


    Great suggestions! I love the nerdy shirt idea. I know that when I used to go to the gym, I always tried to blend in by wearing the common gear, but of course this has an uncanny valley effect. By simply going to the gym in something super dorky, you make it clear that you are not a poser. And a poser is always worse than a nerd.

    The podcast idea is gold btw!

    If you are fat and you’ve never been to a gym, do cardio! Get on the treadmill, elliptical or the slow lane of the running track and just go go go! Anaerobic exercise like weight lifting is NOT going to get you to a healthy weight. Don’t even bother with it until you see a measurable improvement. If you can’t afford a gym, just start walking! You need to get winded and get sweaty. Also, keep track of your weight daily. Sure your weight goes up and down on a daily basis, but that is just the high frequency noise! You want to see the long term trend, and no nerd loves anything more than a robust data set!

    :-D Patrick

  • http://www.geekintoshape.com George Titswoth

    Thanks Patrick! I agree cardio is the way to go for newbies. It is important to strengthen you heart, especially if you are classified as obese. Cardio is definately the way to go for that, but I wouldn’t completely shut out weight training. Since I know you like numbers, I’ll drop some (minimally researched) science…

    10 lbs of lean muscle can burn up to 500 calories a day (the same as a good run), resulting in 3500 calories in a week, which is a pound lost a week. So I would also suggest to start with cardio, but add in strength as soon as you can to get that extra boost. Plus when your fat sheds, you’ll have something under it worth showing off.

    Man I feel bad now, your first comment on the blog and I disagree with you. I’m a bad blogger :)

    BTW, we never got a beer the other month.

  • http://thegeekphysique.com jbwalla

    Love it! Well written and funny. I started an embarrassingly similar blog recently and ugh.. wrote a strangely similar article http://bit.ly/anEaWC .

    Oh, love your tagline also… it’s brilliant. Subscribed.

  • http://www.geekintoshape.com George Titswoth

    Thanks man! And, in my opinion, there can never be too many geeky fitness blogs. I dig the site. Reciprocally subscribed!

  • Alma

    I just came across this article and I absolutely loved it. It put things into perspective for me and my favorite part was when you compared it to an mmorpg :)

  • Lean

    Great article! Makes me motivaded :)