I’ll never forget my first day at the gym. I confidently bought my year membership, paid in full, and strutted my stuff over to the free weights in my roomates old gym shoes.
I was ready!
I was excited!
….I had no idea what to do….
I looked around the room for ideas and inspiration and was met with gripping fear. Everyone was lifting heavy weights, knew exactly what they were doing, and were performing everything with perfect form. Most of all, they were definitely and absolutely harshly judging me for being there. I would like to say this story ends with me getting it together in that moment and getting a great workout in. But unfortunately that is not what happened. At least not for a couple weeks.
The gym is meant to be a place we go to to work on ourselves in a positive way. Where we test our bodies and minds to be physically stronger and more resilient and leave feeling better about our overall being. But often times fear, anxiety, and gym-timidation get the best of us before we even step in the door-or in my case-make us flee to the elliptical even if we make it there
Through conversations I have had with many friends, clients, and class attendees, there seems to be 4 common things that stop people from getting into the gym, along with staying there.
These things include-but may not be limited to…
-Feeling like you do not know what to do & do not know how to do it.
-Having unrealistic expectations of what & where your gym time will get you.
-Comparing yourself to other people.
-Fearing that other people are watching and judging you & that you do not belong.
Before we breakdown these (totally understandable and relatable) themes of gym-timidation, lets get one thing straight. Training, working out, going to the gym, is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. If not more. Working through a lot of these issues is going to be brain over brawn. But guess what? So will your workouts! So take this information, absorb it, use it, and put it to work again and again in the efforts to not only accomplish, but crush your goals.
1) NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO or HOW TO DO IT
I am sure we have all heard a quote or two that works along the lines of “if you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Sometimes I am a huge fan of winging it-but when it comes to going to the gym I couldn’t agree more with having a mapped out and specific plan.
Do your research.
If you are not confident in putting together a routine for yourself-find a good program to follow (or let me make one for you!). The internet and social media channels can be a great source of information-but make sure that information is valid and worth following. This program should align with your goals and current abilities, as well as do-able with the equipment you might have available.
Once you have found a routine to follow make sure you feel confident and comfortable performing the movements. Watch youtube videos, practice with your bodyweight, and understand the mechanics behind what you are doing. While not in everyone's budget-hiring a personal trainer to help you understand your body and proper movement patterns will pay off big time and cut out a lot of the guess work as to whether you are doing something correctly or not. Most personal trainers are able to offer you just a few sessions to learn what you need to!
2) HAVING UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT & WHERE YOUR GYM TIME WILL GET YOU
Building off of the previous theme-be patient with yourself. All of this will take time. And maybe even more than you expect. It is a skill to be learned, refined, and perfected. It takes energy, concentration, and repetition to not just get "good" at working out, but to get the results you are looking for. Do not get discouraged. Do not let this stop you. You will get stronger, your body will change, you will feel better-but it takes time and then some more time, consistency and then some more consistency. Don't give up in the middle of the fight.
3) COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
As hard as it is to control-it is a choice. Comparing yourself to the people around you is something you are actively choosing to spend your time on and give your brain power to. More likely than not you are comparing yourself to someone who is at a completely different point in their journey than you- and more so, you have no idea what that journey has been like or what they have done and given up in order to get there!
Your brain is going to give priority to whatever you allow it to. So bring your attention towards your form, your breathing, your exercise cues, your rest periods.
My #1 tip for staying focused on yourself at the gym?
Get yourself a workout journal and log everything. You have come prepared with a workout-write it down
-how many sets and reps of each exercise.
-what weight you used.
-how that weight felt.
-what your food, water, sleep was that day.
This will not only allow you to challenge yourself to work a little harder with each workout, but give you tangible evidence that you are getting better, stronger, and more confident.
4) FEELING JUDGED AND LIKE YOU DO NOT BELONG
Those people you envy? The ones who are super strong and look good? The ones that I was completely convinced were judging me and you might believe to be judging you? They are there to work. They look the way they do, lift the weight they do, have the abilities they do, because they gave it and are still giving it their complete attention. Believe it or not-people are at the gym to workout NOT to judge you. Sure there will always be a jerk or two hanging around, but here is the thing, their judgment cannot physically effect you-so do not let it mentally or emotionally effect you either.
I work at a powerlifting gym here in Chicago. Not only am I not a powerlifter, but when I started working there I could barely squat 120lbs. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and doubted that I had anything to offer this community. I worked out here everyday, got to know my co-workers and my bosses and learned that no one cared what weight I was lifting, as long as I was in there doing the work.
If we all got through high school alive, we can get through a gym session.
so give yourself time
make yourself a badass playlist
do not expect perfection
and let yourself ease into it, gathering information and confidence as you go.
what are some things that have helped you get over your Gym-timidation? Comment below!