Get Comfortable and Stay Confident in the Gym
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Everyone is staring at me.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
Oh God, am I using this machine right? I’m sitting on it backwards, I bet.
I look so dumb. People probably think I don’t belong here.
My clothes are embarrassing.
These were just some of the thoughts that almost kept me out of the gym, from getting fit, from finding a happy place away from home.
I have been going to the gym on and off since I was 15. My first membership was to 24 Hour Fitness. I loved it, it was big but not too big, it was never crowded during the times I was able to go, and the staff members were very friendly. But all those thoughts ran through my head every time I walked through the front doors. Even years later, after I’d switched gyms, was in great shape, and had a workout buddy with me most days, these thoughts still made checking in hard.
I stopped going to the gym right around the time I turned 21 and started a full-time job with long hours and very mentally and emotionally draining shifts. When my husband and I converted our 3rd car garage into a makeshift gym, I was so excited! I could get my workouts in while the baby was asleep and my big girl was coloring or swinging from our TRX system. Then I started to get bored. I switched routines, followed some YouTube videos, tried lots of different things. It just wasn’t as fun as it had once been.
My husband surprised me with a membership to Crunch (and a Fitbit, how cool is he!?) after hearing how lackluster my home workouts had become. I thought, now that I’m older I won’t have any of that anxiety and I’ll just rock gym workouts.
Nope. All that social anxiety crept right back in.
I’ll look dumb, I have no idea how to lift heavy weights. I haven’t stepped into a gym in so long, it’ll be obvious that I don’t belong.
My husband knew I was nervous so he went with me the first day. He showed me around, we looked at the kids club, I checked out the locker room, then we left. That was that. I felt better already. I decided to just do cardio the first day I went alone. I popped my headphones in and just took it all in. Want to know what I discovered? No one cared what I was doing. No one was looking at me. They didn’t care what size I was or what color my pants were. I got smiles and nods as I made eye contact with some people, not glares or laughter. And now, a year later, I’m in the weight room six days a week tossin’ around weights and loving every minute of it.
I thought about my experiences and polled some close friends and came up with some great tips on how to get comfortable in a gym and stay confident.
Here are my top 8 tips.
- Write down your personal goals before you even step foot in the gym. Why is it you want to get fit? Write it all down, no matter how small you think the goal is. My first goal in getting fit was to not be winded after carrying my baby up the stairs. Simple. Taking the time to write down things that are important to you will help keep you going day after day. Your list will remind you that you have things to accomplish and those things were important enough that you took the time to write them down.
- When you sign up for a gym membership, ask for a tour (they should offer to show you around before you have to ask). Ask specific questions about machines or areas you’re interested in. My first question was what their busiest and slowest times during the day were. I wanted to come when it was less crowded. I’ve been a member at 3 different gyms and have yet to run into a staff member that was unkind or unwilling to help me. Just ask, you’d be surprised at how comfortable they’ll make you feel.
- Buy exercise clothes that you like and feel comfortable in. The better you feel about what you wear, the less it will distract you. You don’t have to go overboard or get pieces that are super expensive, just things that you like. I personally love Gymshark pants, and Dick’s Sporting Goods always has fun tops on their clearance racks.
- Workout with a friend or family member. Often, not being alone is helpful. When you have someone with you, you won’t be so embarrassed when you realize you’ve just put your face where your feet should have been on that machine. You’ll have someone to laugh at your goofs with, and someone to help figure out how you’re really supposed to sit on that thing. Just don’t forget to laugh at yourself, it can be a real confidence booster. I ran my shin right into some weird multi-use contraption just the other day because I wasn’t paying attention. I felt less like an idiot after I laughed and the man nearby laughed and said he had just done the same thing. It was a conversation starter and now when I see that man, we smile and say hello. I made a gym buddy, that’s oddly comforting.
- Research the types of exercises that will help you reach your goals. There are hundreds of helpful websites, blogs found on Pinterest, and personal trainers on Instagram that can be great resources. Some of my favorite fitness accounts on Instagram are @Ashley.horner, @deniceemoberg, @passion2befit, @erindimondfitness, and @aaron_nimmo. These are the accounts I turn to when I want new exercise ideas or when I need to see how to perform an exercise.
- With all the “fitness” accounts and advice out there, it is extremely important to perform exercises with the correct form. Do some research on things that you’re not sure of, ask a pro for help. Performing exercises incorrectly could lead to serious injuries. The trainers at any gym will be happy to show you correct form. A personal training session would be a great thing to look in to.
- Use the weight room. A close friend of mine says she has an easier time staying focused and feeling less self-conscious when she stays in the weight room because she feels like men aren’t paying attention to her, they’re less judgmental because they are focusing on themselves. “I like to work out in the men’s section cause there aren’t a lot of skinny women in that section and I feel less self-conscious.” … here’s a shout out to all those “skinny” women! You’re rockin’ the fit life! Keep it up because we not-so-skinny women look at you and think “goals!” Also, the weight room is not just for men. Get in there and go for it.
- My last tip is probably my favorite and my best. Make a plan, write it down, and take it with you. Wandering aimlessly through the gym is going to demotivate you and you’ll feel like you accomplished nothing. When I really got serious about getting fit (again…) I wrote out a plan for each session and taped it to my water bottle. I didn’t want to wander, or put half the effort in. Always have backup plans, too. If the gym is packed, you’re going to want to have alternatives exercises. @erindimondfitness, on IG, just posted a great leg/glute workout that didn’t require a whole lot of machines or equipment.
Whatever your goals may be, just keep in mind that everyone had a starting point and I’d venture to guess, everyone has made mistakes somewhere in their journey. But what’s important, is they learned from those mistakes and didn’t give up. Don’t you give up either. Set your sights on reasonable goals, achieve them, then work harder to reach your next set!
What are some of your favorite exercises? My favorite day is leg day so I’m in love with hip thrusters, the leg press, and dead lifts right now! And I am telling ya, my SweetSweat bands are my best friend on leg days! Any other products out there that you just can’t live without?