When the new year rolls around, does your mind quickly turn to self-improvement and goal setting? Many times, our goals have to do with keeping our bodies in shape (especially after the Holiday week-long celebration). I’m sure it’s no surprise that 2 out of 3 top goals for the New Year are “exercising more” and “losing weight”, according to a poll from the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

If you’re thinking about joining a gym or looking to get back into a fitness groove, then bravo! You’ve already made your mind up to do something different this year. Maybe it’s been forever since you’ve stepped foot in a gym, or perhaps you’re afraid that you might hurt yourself, especially if you already live with chronic pain. Fear not – we have some PRO tips for those of you that are new to the gym to get you started.

Recently, I sat down with Mike Klein, owner of the Pittsburgh-based Fitness Factory Gym. Mike has worked in the fitness industry for over 35 years. His experience as a gym owner AND a body-builder (winning several titles including Mr. Oil City in his younger days), makes him the authority on the subject. Mike shares with us his best advice for people who are new to the gym, working through pain issues, or have just been out of the scene for a while:


Self-reflection before heading to the gym for the first time is an important step to understand the “why” behind your decision to join a gym. It also helps to ensure that your goals aligned with what you are looking to achieve. If you have an idea of “what’s driving you to go to the gym” you’ll be more likely to succeed in meeting your goals.


  • As a gym newbie, don’t try to do anything too fancy. Stick to the selectorized (resistance) machines when you are just starting out at the gym. These machines move on an axis and help you define the movement, so you’re less likely to hurt yourself while you get used to the motions and muscles used.
  • Stretch before and after working out. Don’t forget to implement a hot/cold therapy regimen before and after stretching which is really important for beginners. Mike notes that, “This is really underused for muscle recovery for the beginner. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I even encourage icing during tough workouts!”
  • Depending on your goals, start with a set number of repetitions:
    To build muscle mass: do 5 – 8 reps
    For strength training: 10 – 12 reps
    To stimulate and burn fat: 15 – 20 reps


To set yourself up for success, make sure your expectations are attainable. Commit to what you know you can accomplish without having to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Mike suggests breaking your big objectives into small, achievable goals so you can stay committed beyond January. Overcommitting in the beginning can lead to failure in the end.


When first starting out at the gym, try to choose a location that’s locally owned and operated. This way, you will have a better chance of getting 1-on-1 attention that will support you in achieving your fitness and health goals. Mike knows first-hand what it takes to serve members in achieving their greatest fitness potential. His gym The Fitness Factory has been in business for 25 years. (Fun fact: I have been a Fitness Factory gym goer for the past 12 years, even as I battled through the ups and downs of chronic back pain). For me personally, staying local helps me commit to a workout routine and close to a group of people who can help me work through any pain issues that may arise.

If getting fit and healthy is on your mind this New Year, you won’t regret making the next move for your health and making yourself a priority.

Helen Behn is the creator and founder of Spand-Ice: wearable, flexible, gear made for women to get pain relief while staying mobile throughout their entire motherhood journey. Helen started Spand-Ice because of her own personal struggle to relieve chronic back pain without taking time out of her life.