A first-timer’s guide to the gym

Setting foot in a gym for the first time can be a daunting experience. The confusing machines, the glistening biceps and the lycra-clad buttocks of a former Soviet strongman can all conspire to fill the newcomer’s heart with fear and their groin with the manic energy of a herd of startled cattle.

That’s why I put together this guide. With these simple instructions I’ve taken the ‘pain’ out of ‘gympainsium’ and created the ultimate resource for sculpting your body. Join me and you too can look like a leather bag stuffed with walnuts in no time at all.



Cardio is the most important part of your exercise routine. It’s the choke on an old car, the sketch that comes before a masterpiece, and the steel-eyed game of “Zip, Zap, Boing” played by an earnest student drama group. Without your cardio, your heart will literally swell up and burst like summer roadkill before you’ve even grown your first muscle.

The cardio area can feel overwhelming at first. To a newbie’s eyes the machines and noises can make it look more like a robot brothel than a place for humans to become strong. Follow these steps and you’ll soon see that the cardio area is both these things and much, much more.

The equipment:

The Scamper Machine

Source: Cobragym1 / Wikimedia commons. Naff edit by me

The Scamper Machine, with Devil’s Road labelled

This is the first piece of equipment anyone should use, thanks to its intuitive design and naturally pleasing layout. The Scamper Machine (or ‘TSM’ in gymspeak) is like the conveyor belt from The Generation Game, only the prizes are all you and the cuddly toy is the well-earned sweat of the healthy. To use TSM, simply stand on The Devil’s Road (see diagram) and jab at whichever button takes your fancy. It really doesn’t matter! Within moments you’ll be scampering away like the flames of hell are hot on your heels.

In some particularly exclusive gyms, they will be.


The Whirling Percy

From the Argos site. Buy one or don't!

A Whirling Percy

Once you’ve gotten comfortable with avoiding damnation on TSM, it’s time to use the Whirling Percy. These machines date back to Ancient Rome, where they were used to test the legs of children who wanted to join the priesthood. Thanks to modern science, you too can enjoy the all the benefits of the Whirling Percy, without having to appease the heretical gods of old.

When ready to ‘Ride the Percy’, just hop on, slide your trainers into the foottraps and the machine will do the rest.


The Trudge

Trudge. Trudge. Trudge.

Trudge. Trudge. Trudge.

The penultimate cardio machine in this guide is becoming more popular by the day. I am, of course, talking about The Trudge. This high-tech piece of kit is designed to perfectly simulate the invigorating experience of a month-long march to a Siberian gulag. If you’re a member of one of the more expensive London gyms, you’ll also have the opportunity to make use of the quality-assured war criminals that they keep on staff. These helpful professionals will encourage you with their guttural Slavic growls and help lash those pounds away with lengths of knotted Encouragement Rope.


Tugmaster 4000

The Tugmaster 4000. Dangerous, yet beautiful.

The Tugmaster 4000. Dangerous, yet beautiful.

Finally, we come to the Tugmaster 4000. It’s simple enough to use – just strap your feet in and yank at the handle like you’re trying to pull a dog through a hole.

One word of warning, however: if all but one of the Tugmasters are in use, do not use the last one. When all Tugmasters in a gym are used at the same time, they act as a pullcord which starts the gym’s engines, beginning the next stage of its mysterious journey. Activating the engines without prior approval can often cause a great deal of trouble for the gym manager and may result in the termination of your membership, likely without refund. You may also be liable for any damages caused by the newly-sentient, rampaging gymnasium.


Phew! That’s your cardio all done! How do you feel? By now your heart should be pumping, your endorphins rushing and your eyes glazing with the righteous fires of the healthy. It’s time to get strong.



Lifting is the most important part of your exericse routine. It’s the accelerator on an old car, the paint that makes a masterpiece, and the tragic hopes of an earnest student drama group. Without lifting, your exercise regime will cause your limbs to wither away like the dreams of a dying man.

Don’t be intimidated by the Lifting Zone. The air may be so thick with testosterone that it can be used to butter crumpets, but follow this guide and the Musclegods will accept you as one of their own, crooning softly as they hold you to their iron bosom.

The Equipment:

Heavy Bevans

Source: de:Benutzer:ch ivk / Wikimedia Commons. Naff additions by me.

The Heavy Bevans, one of the Gym’s most popular lumps. Pictured with Strongbranch.

Heavy Bevans make up 99% of the Lifting Zone. These great chunks of stuff can be used in myriad ways which will leave you looking like a shaved chimp in no time at all. Here are just a few of the things that can be done with these remarkable tools.


The Liar’s Chair

Source: Rexwar / Wikimedia Commons

The Liar’s Chair. There’s no chair here. Not one at all.

Want legs like a condom full of snakes and a bum like a boxer’s fist? Look no further than The Liar’s Chair. First, take the Strongbranch (see diagram) and pop on as many Heavy Bevans as you think you want sit with. Now, with the Bevans resting behind your neck, take a seat on The Liar’s Chair. Once your bottom is where the chair should be, realise that you have been cruelly tricked and announce “My goodness! Why there’s no chair at all!”
With that, return to a standing position and huff indignantly, astonished that you would be subject to such a cruel jape. Repeat until an apology is given.


Hard Hooray

Spurce: Bench Press imaged released under creative commons by Everkinetic. Amended by me

The Hard Hoorays

Everyone likes a celebration, and what better way to celebrate than by stronging yourself right up?

Once again, you’ll need to pile your chosen Heavy Bevans onto the Strongbranch. When this is all done, sit the Strongbranch in its holder and have a nice lie down on the bed. After you’ve said your prayers but before you fall asleep, grasp hold of the ‘branch and raise your arms in victory. “Woo hoo!”, you’ll say, lowering your arms to your chest before erupting in supportive joy once more, “Well done!”

Keep giving hoorays until everyone feels suitably cheered.


Capricious Acquisitions

Source:   /wikimedia commons. Edit by me

Capricious Acquisitions. Look at how excited he is! Won’t be long until he gets bored. Typical.

Last but not least, we reach the Capricious Acquisitions. These are some of the most difficult exercises to master, but the rewards are worth the effort.

As before, begin by weighing down the Strongbranch with the Heavy Bevans. Now leave it on the floor. Look at it. Think to yourself “Ooh! I’d rather like that.”
Decision made, settle your feet beneath the ‘branch, squat down like you’re using a foreign toilet and grasp it firmly in both hands. Pick up the Bevans by pushing up with your legs then straightening your back with pride. “Look what I’ve got!”, you are to say, beaming with delight. Then let your boredom take hold. Tire of the new thing you have picked up and decide to put it back where you found it. Once you’ve returned it to the ground, take a moment to clear your head and gleefully notice the object at your feet. Pick it up for others to see. Expect them to admire your new toy. Once more, become bored with your trinket and pop it back down. Repeat these actions for as long as your whimsy can be indulged.



These are but a few of the different ways that you can use your local gym. But why stop there? Ever since Martin Gym invented exercise in 1963, people have been discovering new ways to move bits of their body about almost every day. Whether you’re doing gallops, holding Henries or just whirling a set of Baby Bevans around your head like a sweaty helicopter, just remember that determination is the most important part of your exercise routine. It’s the tyres on an old car, the frame of a painted masterpiece and the inevitable career in waiting tables that comes to every earnest student drama group. Without determination, the wolves that live in the walls of the gym will tear your body to flabby pieces before you can even ask “Which way to the changing rooms?”

Good luck, and happy gymming.

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