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I just recently started Pokémon Go, and I find myself in the situation that all gyms I can visit in the extended area are of such high level that I get one- or two-hit killed when doing friendly matches versus other members of my team. After every match I tried, I get 0 experience points, effectively having no way to level up my pokemon, simply wasting potions and revives. Even if I keep dodging (or trying to), I keep taking damage.

Is there a way to train my Pokémon in my situation?

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    You don't train at gyms. – Wrigglenite Sep 26 '16 at 16:31
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    Well, thanks, then where do I train them? All information I find online is you train them in gyms/arenas in friendly battles. – private_meta Sep 26 '16 at 16:33
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    Gyms aren't for improving your Pokemon. You power them up to improve them. However, I don't recommend doing that until you are a much higher level. Right now, your goal should be to increase your trainer level, which means catching Pokemon, evolving Pokemon, and releasing low level Pokemon. Save your Stardust for when you're a higher level and can start to compete at gyms. – Ellesedil Sep 26 '16 at 16:34
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    I agree with Ellesedil. Unfortunately this game does a lot of things that are counter intuitive if you've played any of the original Pokemon games on GB/NDS. Just focus on leveling up your player and strong Pokemon will come to you. – Kimberly W Sep 26 '16 at 21:19
  • I disagree that you don't train at gyms. If you battle and win at a rival gym you can get the trainer bonus which eventually allows you to buy things like pokeballs and lucky eggs. Why would they call it a TRAINER bonus? You can also get that at your own team's gym if there is an open slot. – ychirea1 Sep 27 '16 at 17:21
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While a bit counter-intuitive, training at a gym is beneficial for the gym, rather than your Pokémon. The "training" you're thinking of is "powering up" in this game.

Training at a gym will raise the prestige of the gym, which levels the gym itself up and allows more Pokémon to be placed inside of it to defend it from rival teams.

Powering up your Pokémon will increase their level by 0.5 (to an absolute maximum of 40, or by 1 up to 80, depending on who you ask), which will increase its stats. As noted in the comments, the maximum level of your Pokémon is capped by your current trainer level. For each time your trainer levels up, you are able to power your Pokémon up two additional times. To strengthen your Pokémon, you need to power them up with the appropriate candy and stardust.

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    I think the max pokemon level is relative to your current trainer level. I know I've had pokemon that were maxed out, that I was able to power up again after my trainer leveled up. – Joel Coehoorn Sep 26 '16 at 21:21
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    @JoelCoehoorn it is. I meant maximum possible. – Vemonus Sep 26 '16 at 21:23
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    So, from what I gather through all replies and comments, now that I'm sort of left behind because I started late, I can't compete in gyms. Because I can't gather that gold coins and not use them in the market to make me rise faster, making me stuck slow at the bottom? Am I missing something? – private_meta Sep 27 '16 at 7:38
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    @private_meta coins don't have very much to do with level progression, unless you're buying an endless supply of lucky eggs. Walk around, spin pokestops, catch pokemon, fill out your pokedex, evolve trash pokemon, hatch eggs. Level 20 is easy, after that it starts to get a bit time-consuming. – hobbs Sep 27 '16 at 8:44
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    @private_meta You are mistaken. First: coins do not let you level up faster. Coins mostly just buys you convenience items, like bigger backpack storage or more storage for Pokémons, stuff that you really do not need as a beginner. Second: while it is true that as a beginner it is much harder for you to win a gym battle, this does not mean you cannot place a Pokémon in a gym. Just get a friend - or several - to help you defeat an opponent gym, or to help level up a friendly gym, and you will have a slot available to place your own Pokémon in the gym, whereby you can collect your daily coins. – MichaelK Sep 27 '16 at 11:19
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You don't train Pokémon in gyms. Gyms are there to get gold each day to buy stuff in the market.

To train Pokémon you need to go in the said Pokémon page and select power up (which uses both dusts and candies).

This way your Pokémon's CP will rises meaning it's more effective in battle. Another way to make the CP rise is by evolving them. This will require a lot of candies but, depending on the species of Pokémon you have, can go up to doubling (and even more) its CP.

From there on you should read about CP, stats and battling to learn more about the game mechanics for gym battles if you are still interested in said subject.

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If you still want to battle gyms but you are not a high enough level, then you will need a group of friends to all battle the same gym at the same time. Your attacks on the defending Pokémon will be cumulative and you will have a much easier time of defeating the incumbents.

Note that your Pokémon do not get stronger by battling.

After you have claimed a gym, go to the store page and click the icon in the top right of the screen to claim your defender bonus. If you have multiple Pokémon in claimed gyms (and they haven't been kicked out yet) you get more stardust and coins.

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    I don't think this is the case when training the gym in friendly battles - group battles only work on opposing gyms. – Tim Malone Sep 27 '16 at 19:26

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