So you’ve finally decided to get in shape and exercise? Congratulations, that’s the first step to a healthier and better you! Invested in a new gym membership? Well, don’t let your money go to waste. Here, beginner-friendly tips to help you make the most out of every sweat sesh.

Prepare yourself physically and mentally.

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Before even trying new programs or getting a gym membership, it’s best to consult a doctor to evaluate how much physical activity you can do. Proper assessment of your fitness level helps to set workout goals. Once expectations and goals have been set, it’ll be easier for you to stay focused, instead of wandering around the gym.

Look for an exercise program that’s ideal for you.

After consulting with your doc, you’ll get a better idea of what your capabilities and limitations are, physical fitness-wise. The next thing to do? Ask a trainer for a recommended program that’s tailored for you. Having a routine to follow keeps you on track with your fitness goals, and helps you stay focused on an activity when you’re at the gym.

Need more ideas on a new workout to try? Sign up for one (or two) of the top fitness trends this year.

Wear the right gym clothes.

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If you think that wearing loose clothing will make you more comfortable in the gym, think again. "If you have something very baggy on, it can get in the way of what you're doing, or it can get snagged and caught on something,” says Jessica Matthews, a San Diego-based exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

And don’ forget the most essential piece of gym clothing: your sports bra. Pick one that gives you enough support and coverage. A good sports bra does the work of protecting the ligaments and tissues in your chest from excessive stretching or stress. You wouldn’t want your melons to turn into watermelons, right?

Don’t oversocialize.

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A short, friendly chat with some of your gym buddies wouldn’t hurt, but spending too much time catching up may slow you down on your exercise routine. If you’re working out with friends, it’s okay to chitchat during your warm up and cool down, but it’s best to stay quiet and commit to yourself for the rest of the session.

Mix up your routines.

“Muscles have memory—they adapt, they adjust, and our bodies plateau,” says Debi Pillarella, MEd, exercise program manager for the Community Hospital Fitness Pointe in Munster, Indiana. It’s important to mix up your routines and practice intervals. These shorter surges build your strength, stamina, and aerobic fitness. "They jog the body's systems, making your body wake up and have to regroup,” says sports conditioning coach Fiona Lockhart. If you’ve always been on the treadmill, try the stationery bike some time.

Rest in between sets.
Take dynamic rests
in between weightlifting sets. This doesn’t mean completely stopping, but simply slowing down the pace of your routine. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways such as using a cardio machine, briskly walking around the gym, or doing jump ropes and jumping jacks. Dynamic rest increases your fitness level and endurance, burns extra calories, and improves heart health.

Eat before hitting the gym.

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You need ample energy to do your physical activities, so eating pre and post-workout is key to maximizing your gym time. Whole wheat bread, bananas, omelets, yogurts, and smoothies are some of the healthy food choices you can indulge in before and after your sweat sesh.

Check out this complete list of what to eat before and after a workout.

(Flashbox image courtesy of Solenn Heussaff's Instagram account.)

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