Afraid to Join a Gym? Don’t Sweat It!


Staff Writer

Thinking about joining a gym? Don’t sweat it — it’s easier than you think.

For those who might have reservations about becoming a gym member, the first step is to visit the facility, said Adam Shinsky, executive director of the Wheeling YMCA Wheeling in Elm Grove.

“The best thing to do before you join is to ask for a tour and ask for everything a membership includes, including classes,” Shinsky said. “Many times when someone is new they will walk in and see there is a variety of classes. We have classes for any fitness level and for any age.”

Some people may enjoy working out in a group, as there may be other beginners like them in the same class. Others may want to go solo or have a personal trainer guide them. It’s really all about figuring out and deciding what one is comfortable with.

“It depends on what you’re going for. Everyone is different. Some people like to work with a group toward a common goal and enjoy the comraderie. Some people like to get on the treadmill and beat themselves,” he said.

When in doubt, Shinsky said the easiest thing to do is simply get on a treadmill and start walking.

Shinsky said he typically does not recommend people begin working out at home with workout videos.

He believes most videos are geared toward those who are more advanced in their fitness and thinks starting at the gym is better.

“People should also check with their doctor if it’s been a long time, especially if they’ve had any ailments or surgeries,” Shinsky said. “You should get a physical even if you are in shape. The doctor may see something that you’re missing. I’ve seen people who are in shape have heart attacks.”

In terms of cost, gym memberships can vary. At the Y, people can either pay a daily fee, a three-month fee or a yearly fee. The Y offers programs for children as young as 6 months old. It also offers its members free child care from 4-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday while parents work out.

Joe Slavik, manager of the Howard Long Wellness Center of Wheeling Hospital, said he recommends people bring a friend or family member to work out with. He believes doing so is the best way to overcome one’s fear of the gym.

“Nothing is better than the buddy system. … If you don’t have a buddy, I suggest taking a group exercise class,” said Slavik, noting classes allow members to meet new people and get to know instructors.

Slavik said at Howard Long, new members are given guidance on how to use the various exercise machines.

There also is a child care center for children 6 months and older. The facility has a Junior Wellness Center for children 6-12 years old with staff supervision.

“Parents can feel comfortable working out that their children are well taken care of,” Slavik said.

He noted the center has a large age range of people who work out there. He recommends that fearful newcomers try working out during off-peak times.

When it comes to nutrition, Jill Spangler, a registered dietician at Howard Long, recommends that people beginning a new workout stick with a balanced diet containing whole, natural foods. Portion control also is helpful. People should avoid overeating or undereating.

She also said protein drinks or Gatorade are typically unnecessary for those who are only working out for an hour or so per day. Such drinks are designed more for professional athletes or those in heavy training. Water instead should suffice.

“When people start eliminating foods they like or start slashing calories even more, they are setting themselves up for failure. We want it to be a lifestyle change,” she said.

“If you are restricting too much, it can cause the muscle to break down.”

Spangler noted that as a dietician she recommends following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “My Plate,” that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean cuts of meat and protein and low-fat dairy products.

“A lot of it has to do with portion control, too, not only what you’re putting in your body,” Spangler said.

Spangler noted it is OK to indulge a bit, but in moderate portions, which helps lower the calories. For example, a regular-sized Blizzard from Dairy Queen can contain 800 calories. Compare that to a mini cookie dough Blizzard at 462 calories. Spangler said a smaller treat, the Dairy Queen child’s vanilla cone, has only 164 calories.

To help keep track of what one eats, Spangler recommends people keep a food journal. She said today’s technology, such as a Fitbit watch, also keeps track of one’s daily activity.

What does it take to burn off that ice cream? For a 200-pound person, a one-hour Zumba class can burn up to 357 calories. For a 200-pound person, walking at 3 mph for 20 minutes can burn up to 109 calories, while running at 5 mph can burn 363 calories.


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