Many gamers yearn for the chance to live in a video game world, whether via some kind of supernatural transportation or total immersion console a la Ready Player One. There are many reasons for this: Some wish to experience the sights and sounds of a video game in real life, others want to experience supernatural strength or flight, and still others want the ability to “level up” and “earn skills” off a skill list, with real, measured improvements backing every positive action.

Am I here to tell you that you can do all of these things, right now? No. But join a local gym or buy a few free weights, and you can come pretty damn close. As it turns out, many of the skills I’ve learned from playing MMOs are directly applicable to the gym. If you’ve played games before, you’ll have a bit of an edge over other people starting out, and before long you’ll begin to see yourself “leveling up” for real.

Getting Started: The Tutorial Sucks, The Community Doesn’t

In many MMOs, especially ones made in the east, dropping in for the first time will bombard players with 20+ different symbols and icons with little explanation as to what they do.

By the time you’ve finished opening all your “Event” and “Welcome” packages, you’ll have 324,700 silver, 30 Blood Aether Shards, 1 High-Grade Awakening Ticket, 250 Mystic Dust, your choice between a Fire, Ice, or Air Engraved Emblem [Soulbound], 6 coupons for pet feed and a 14 day Arctic Steed mount ticket that you cannot, for the life of you, figure out how to redeem.

All the while there’s 60 other players in legendary gear buzzing all around you. Their fancy auras and weapon FX are tanking your FPS to single digits and you’re wondering if you should just quit out.

Going to the gym for the first time is a lot like this. There’s a lot of machines and a lot of weights. There might be some explanation, but only the most basic of instruction. And many people there are much more athletic than you. It’s a bit intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to do. So how do you get started?

Look it up or ask someone.

Traditionally, community-made wiki-pages for popular MMOs (Or games in general) are far more complete and expansive than any in-game tutorial. For the gym, consider visiting or r/Askfitness and post a question on the forums, or search videos and sample routines online. Also, feel free to walk up to someone if you’re feeling confused. If you’ve ever had a newbie ask you for advice in a game, you know how cool it feels to help somebody out. One thing that’s different between gyms and MMOs: Gyms are far more likely to have helpful communities. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that.

Recommended Mods, Optimization, and Leveling

When you start off in an MMO, you start in the beginner area because that’s all you can handle. When you start off in the gym, you find some starting weights that are all you can handle.

When you level up, you move to more advanced areas. Or heavier weights, or more reps. If you don’t, you’ll never progress. And like an MMO, after you finish the tutorial, you’ll clear those first few levels FAST.

One of the odd design choices for the Gym MMO was the lack of a HUD or EXP bar. If anyone knows the developer’s email address, please contact them and ask for it in the next patch.

In the mean time, you’ll be better off using third-party software to mod in some progress bars. Those bars do exist in the base game, even if you can’t see them. And its tough to remember what level challenge you should be taking on if you aren’t tracking progress. My personal favorite is Strong on the App Store and Google Play Store, but there’s dozens of good alternatives.

But the odd thing about these XP bars is they don’t tell you when you level up, only what level you’re currently at. This means its up to you to do the digging. Every time you go, try to push yourself to see if you can add an extra 5 pounds or 2 reps onto your previous best. If you can’t, no biggie, you haven’t leveled yet. And grinding away at a high-level enemy for 2+ hours isn’t nearly as optimal as farming at your level – you probably can’t even use the gear he drops. So don’t try to lift heavier than you’re comfortable with. Take your time. You’ll get there.

Check out part 2 for tips on gearing, builds, and endgame activities.

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I’m a nerd with a wild sense of humor. I’m very good at running tabletop games (Like Dungeons & Dragons), or at least that’s what my players would tell you. I spend about as much time writing new content for those games as I do working on jobs or internships, and love every second of it. I'm a lover of dogs and mint chocolate chip, and my favorite dinosaur is the ankylosaurus. I also play racquetball with friends at least four times a week, go to the gym six times a week, and go for jogs around the neighborhood when I have time, because health is important and stuff. Eat them greens, yo.