Remember the first time you first walked into the gym? How did those first few moments feel? It was either a wondrous and fascinating experience or else it was like walking into a torture chamber filled with a variety of complex machinery, unfamiliar people who were all in far better shape than you and kept staring at you as if you were growing a second head out of your shoulder. Sound familiar? This is a case of gym paranoia and it’s more common than you might think.
If you’ve struggled with losing weight your whole life, were never very athletic or involved in sports and have never participated in any physical activity short of taking the stairs at work because the elevator went out again, then the latter scenario probably fits.
In looking around the typical gym environment you have the “meatheads” hoisting up heavy weights in the squat rack and slamming weights down on the floor. The “fluffy bunnies” are powering their way through a variety of cardio machines, hardly breaking a sweat and yet they still look fabulous, and then you have the regulars that walk around soaking you in with their eyeballs inherently telling you that you don’t belong. Or at least so it seems.
The gym can be a very intimidating and frustrating experience for many individuals. Especially those whom it would benefit the most. So how can you get past the emotional trauma associated with the average person entering into the gym for the first time?
Solutions to Gym Paranoia
Choosing a good gym: Choose a gym that fits your needs is also going to be a big part of the process. Bigger commercial gyms are generally not going to be ideal for the average gym goer who has little experience or low self-esteem. Most gyms are setup so newer members get an orientation or are shuttled right into a personal training program or at least have an orientation setup; however, this often does not ease a members fears when they come in by themselves.
One should definitely seek a gym that is open and caring towards new members. One that has an orientation process or offers at least an assessment for newer members to get them started. You can often tell the quality of the gym simply by the front desk staff, as these are the first people to greet you as you walk in the door. If they are smiling and learn your name you can tell this is a good gym.
Start with What You Know: If you’re a newbie, don’t be intimidated, as everyone has to start somewhere. Even the loudest and most aggressive gym goers had to start somewhere. So just start with what you know how to do. Almost everyone has probably seen a treadmill before and should be able to walk. This is an easy way to start any fitness program. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the gym you can probably start a walking program without serious effort and at the same time you can get to know the gym, the members and the staff at the same time. The most important thing is to get started and get comfortable with your new environment.
They’ll be time enough to get into those uncomfortable resistance training programs later. The most important part is to get into the habit of going to the gym and doing something. Even if it’s tying your shoes and sauntering around the gym.
Get Started in a Class: Gyms that have group classes are an excellent way to break into fitness without the frustration of going at it alone. If you find one that offers a descent class that fits your schedule and your budget this can be the easiest way to get started in fitness with some social support built into the program. Trust me, some of Hostyle Conditionings classes are packed with people and the regulars often have their own spots on the floor. It’s very common to develop close ties with these people.
More people find that hard exercise is easier with a large group of people also enduring the suck than going at it by themselves.
Find a Buddy: It sounds like a no brainer, but if you have a friend or partner that is willing to go with you to the gym it’ll be that much easier. Social participation is a big thing in the gym environment and it’s even easier if you’re starting off at about the same fitness level.
The only downside to this is the level of commitment of your partner and scheduling times. Ensure when you choose a partner, choose wisely as you won’t have much success if you and your partner are always at ends with scheduling or if you both have low motivation. Best case scenario choose someone whom is slightly better than you so that they can push you to a higher level.
Hire A Trainer: One of the biggest recommendations to help ensure your success is to simply hire a coach who knows what they’re doing. This can avoid spending a lot of time being frustrated and alone in the gym, plus it ensures you’re going to be exercising safely. Hiring the right coach can be frustrating at times, but within the first session with a trainer you can generally decide if this is the right coach for you. Trainers are a dime a dozen, but the biggest bonus to having a trainer is simply to help keep you motivated and accountable to someone. Plus they can help reassure your fears of exercising. Here’s a recent post from Hostyle Conditioning that we put together about hiring a coach.
No matter how intimidating the gym environment can be the end state is to get you into shape and into a better quality of life. If you spend a little time and get situated in your new environment you’ll find that you’ll not only move better, feel better and enhance your overall body but you may even make some new friends in the process. Don’t be afraid of the gym, just find a good one!