I remember the first time I stepped into a gym.
It was the summer before my freshman year of high school. I tagged along with my two older brothers who were prepping for football season by hitting the weights. I had no idea what I was doing. What’s a lat pull down? What am I supposed to do with that machine? It looks like a form of torture. Thankfully, I had my brothers there to show me the ropes. They installed in me from day one – don’t be intimidated by anyone else in the gym. You do your own thing no matter if there’s a veteran body builder with biceps bigger than your head sitting on the bench next to you.
You belong there just as much as anyone else.
Gym intimidation is real. Even if you’ve been a gym-goer for years, you can still feel anxious about joining a new gym or trying out a new class. Even though I’ve been a gym-goer for 25+ years, I’d be a little nervous about hitting up my first CrossFit class. It’s something new, it’s a big space, it’s loud, everyone is a stranger, and all the equipment is large and intimidating.
I see a lot of people in Cardiac Rehab who have never stepped foot in a gym (or worked out for that matter). Their ages range from 20 something to 90 something. They are nervous and scared to get started. But once I do an orientation to the equipment and they get into a routine, it’s no big deal. It’s like they’ve been a gym-goer for years.
Here are 8 tips to to help you overcome gym intimidation:
Find the right gym for you.
There are so many gym options out there right now. Finding the right gym that fits your budget and fitness needs is the top priority and will make you want to workout. From boutique gyms that offer small classes and a trainer dictating the entire class to large chain gyms that offer strength, cardio and regularly scheduled classes – there’s something for everyone.
Set up an Orientation.
Any good gym will have an new member orientation program. A trainer will take you to every piece of equipment and show you how to set it up. Most of the time, this new member orientation is free. If after the orientation you don’t remember how to set up a certain piece of equipment, you can usually find the instructions written on the machine along with a picture of what muscles are worked. Or you can always ask again, that’s what the staff is there for!
Don’t feel that others are watching you.
My objective at the gym – get in, get my workout done, get out. That’s how the majority of us feel. We don’t have time to watch others. Besides, most peeps are checking out their own gainz in the mirror, not anyone else. I once smacked myself in the forehead with a 45 pound plate and no one started laughing at me. Except me. I couldn’t contain my laughter. Who hits their own forehead with a weight plate?!?!
Know that not everyone knows what they are doing.
Even those who have been working out in gyms for years still don’t know everything. There will always be new equipment coming out that even veterans don’t know how to properly use it.
Have a plan.
Have a plan of what you want to do before you head to the gym from start to finish. Write it down or save it to your phone. YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest are all great sources of workouts to give you examples of exercises.
Start going during off-peak hours.
When first starting out, try to go during off-peak hours (usually mid-morning, mid-afternoon or after 7/8 p.m.) when it’s a little less crowded. You can take your time on the machines without feeling rushed.
Take a group exercise class.
Group exercise classes are a great intro to exercise and the gym. There’s safety in numbers. By all means, find a spot in the back row so you can follow along with what everyone else is doing. You may find yourself moving on up the more comfortable you get.
Have a workout buddy.
Just like there’s safety in numbers in a group exercise class, having a workout buddy can make you feel less gym intimidation. Tag along with a friend who has gym experience to show you the ropes. Or find a friend who is a newbie too and you can learn together.
Trying something new is never easy. Just know that everyone who is at the gym has the same goal – to be healthier and more active. And you all belong there!
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