It happens at the start of every new year. Motivated by a New Year’s resolution, or perhaps lured by a deal on a membership, first-timers flood gym floors throughout the country. For those of us with a focused, efficient routine, these newcomers tend to gum up the works, taking too long on most machines, circuit-training across multiple pieces of equipment during peak hours, or just loitering way too close to your work area.

It can be frustrating because most of them won’t ask questions, and in turn never learn that they’re being disruptive to others— and worse, that their workouts suck. When a newbie does muster the courage to ask a question, it can be laughably ridiculous, like this gem that a new member actually asked me one January when I was a personal trainer: “Which one of these machines burns the most fat?”

As insane as the question seemed to me, I recognized it for what it was: an opportunity to steer the guy right, to educate him that machines don’t burn fat— effort does—and suggest a few interesting things that would make the best use of that effort.


Newcomers who observe you are going to figure out quickly that you know what you’re doing and realize that they don’t. This fact alone is going to be intimidating to a lot of people—and that’s before they feel any negative vibes coming from the regular members.

When you do get a ridiculous question, I’d challenge you to resist the urge to face-palm (as tough as it may sound) and instead take the time to help. It could make the difference between a guy staying the course or quitting—or even worse, bolting for one of those corporate chain gyms that don’t even have barbells.

Remember that you were a new guy once. How much trial and error were you able to avoid because knowledgeable lifters took the time to straighten you out? It’s always a good time to pay it forward. Don’t wish the new guys out of your gym. So many of them are going to quit on their own without any good reason.

Don’t be one more reason they want to quit. Be a reason they want to come back.