As someone who has been working out for more than a decade, I have a love/hate relationship with January.
In the course of about two weeks, the gym goes from empty to stuffed to the brim. Everyone and their mother be up in the gym just working on their fitness (my apologies to Fergie for just butchering her lyrics).
While many regulars get annoyed at the inconveniences these Resolutioners pose, I have respect for them. Especially the women.
I know what it feels like to be new to the gym. You pull up in your car and circle the parking lot for a spot and once the ignition shuts off, you take a deep breath and try to steady your nerves. It’s a new place full of unfamiliar faces, and you’re not really sure what to expect, but you gather your resolve and check into the front desk.
You hardly pay attention to what the check in lady says because you’re instantly distracted by the guy doing pullups with weights hanging off of him and the bro in the tank flexing in the mirror who looks like he has all the muscles ever.
It looks like everyone here is trying to outdo each other, like there’s an implicit competition to see who is the strongest, the fastest, the best lifter.
Everyone here is in shape - except for you, of course. Well, what better place to get in shape than the gym, right? So you go back to the lockers, change, and get out on the floor.
Now that you’re out on the floor, suddenly you realize that you have no idea what you are doing. All the thoughts you may have had about the awesome workout you’re going to have, being super productive and everything, have gone out the window. Your eyes widen, your heart rate increases, and you notice that you’re flustered. It’s all you can do to not turn around and call it a day.
So you panic and think of something safe: THE TREADMILL! AH-HA! You know what it is, you know approximately what to do (put one foot in front of the other and don’t fall off), and you can use it as a buffer while you think of what you’re going to do next.
You plod along and remember that you hate running. But pain is beauty or something like that, right? So you continue anyway. You try to think of something else to do after you’re done running. Preferably something that keeps you away from the Turkish Meat Market looking guys who will probably look at you like you’re an idiot if you try to lift next to them.
You decide to do abs – you can do situps, plus you want to get a nice midsection for bikini season. You turn off the treadmill and grab a mat, doing some halfhearted crunches alongside other women doing bicep curls with 5 pound weights. You feel slightly more at ease and stay for a few minutes before you wrap up.
You leave but you don’t necessarily feel like you were productive. You’re a bit frustrated because that’s all you ever do, but you don’t know what else to do. And the feeling of inadequacy and discomfort is still fresh in your mind. You’re not defeated but you don’t have as great a feeling about it as you did a few hours ago.
You go a few more times before you decide to skip a workout. The next week you only make it once. Then you skip another, and another, and next thing you know, you’ve fallen off the wagon, you’re demotivated, and you feel like crap because you failed your resolution this year, just like last year. Apathy sets in and you go back to your normal routine and nothing changes.
I get it. It’s hard.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t do it – it just means you need a better plan this time around.
I want you to feel confident in the gym. I want you to go in there and instead of being overwhelmed, I want you to walk in there with your head held high. I want you to be cool, calm, and collected when you see those guys clanging around with heavy weights.
I WANT YOU TO OWN YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND BE THE BADDEST BEAUTY OUT ON THE FLOOR.
All right, ladies. Roll up your sleeves. Let’s make a plan to avoid gymtimidation.
1. Mentally prepare for the gym.
You’re going to the gym. If possible, go into it before you do your first workout and ask for a tour. Most gyms will be happy to oblige and will have someone show you around. That way you can get a lay of the land. Don’t work out. Just go and observe. You’ll be more relaxed and you’ll know where the equipment is, how crowded it will be, and where you’ll be most comfortable for the first day.
2. Write down the workout that you’ll do the first day.
This doesn’t have to be fancy. If you’re going to elliptical for 15 minutes and leave, write it down. If you’re going to do a back workout with lots of supersets and then abs to finish, write it down. Whatever it is, WRITE THAT SH!T DOWN. That way you’ll have something to reference when you’re in the heat of the moment and have completely forgotten what you want to do.
3. If in doubt, ask.
One of the reasons women don’t like to lift is that they feel like people are staring at them and judging them if they do something wrong. No one likes to be embarrassed and it’s completely understandable.
But no one ever improved by sticking to what they know.
Did your mom ever tell you that a stranger is a friend that you haven’t yet met? Approach people at the gym with this mentality and I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to talk to people. It may feel awkward to ask but most people at the gym are super nice and receptive to newbies asking for help. Everyone starts off kind of sucking and most gym regulars recognize this. It’s better to ask and feel awkward for 25 seconds once than feel stupid forever and give up.
If you’re still not comfortable asking people on the floor for advice, consider hiring a trainer for a few sessions to show you how to use the equipment. I can hear you saying right now that you don’t have money for trainers – they’re expensive! But consider this: even if you just spend one session with them and feel more comfortable your next time through, isn’t that money well-spent if it keeps you on track? It doesn’t mean you’re committing to them forever, but it does mean that you take yourself and your goals seriously enough that you’re willing to invest in them.
You’re already paying for a gym membership. You might as well spend a little more to have your workouts be more effective.
4. Give yourself permission to flounder the first workout, but don’t let yourself wallow in self-pity; make a plan to improve in your next sessions.
Let’s be real for a minute here. Your first session, despite all your best planning, might go awry. You might have scoped the place out, written a kickass plan, hired a trainer for help, and still have a crummy workout. Does this mean you should throw in the towel?
Think about it: we’ve all had a really epic screw up. Do you remember learning to ride a bike? I sure as hell do, because I broke my leg doing it. I’m sure you fell too, and I’m sure you didn’t let that discourage you and now you know how to ride a bike. High five!
Or maybe you totally bombed a test in college. Instead of crying in the corner and eating bonbons, convinced your life was totally ruined from a “D”; I bet you studied extra hard for the next one and scraped by with a good grade in the course.
Working out is no different. I think women are afraid that if they’re not perfect in the gym the first time around, they’re destined to never get the whole “fitness thing” down. This assumption is incorrect because it assumes (1) you’re awesome at it from the get-go and (2) you don’t have any room for improvement.
Seriously, if we thought that way about everything, what would be the point of trying anything?
Give yourself a little leeway if things don’t go as planned. Rationally analyze what went wrong so you can think of ways to improve. Don’t let one crappy session convince you to stay home and give up on your goals.
If you’re really struggling, give yourself three sessions to feel more at ease. The first session, like I said, might be less than perfect. The second one still may be uncomfortable. But by the third, generally you start to get into a groove and things get much easier. Hold out and give it a fair shake – you might just surprise yourself!
When January rolls around and you’re in the gym, you’ll probably feel like a fish out of water. If you’ve prepped ahead of time and know what you’re going to do it will be much easier. Go ahead and follow the steps above and you’ll have a much easier time the first day.
Hats off to you for giving this a go. You’re going to be unstoppable this year – just don’t let fear derail your plans.
Full steam ahead, my Mademoiselles! I’ll see you in the gym soon!
Do you have your own methods to avoid gymtimidation? Share it below to help your fellow female fitness femmes out!