Navigating the Gym

Model Released: Woman lifting weights (Photo by Zoran Milich/Getty Images)

What do you picture when you think about the weight section of a gym?  I can tell you that until about a year ago I never pictured myself back there.  To me it was a forbidden territory filled with a bunch of buff guys sweating and grunting while they “picked stuff up and put it back down”.  Surrounded by said guys, and equipment I had no idea how to use, I found myself intimidated, and unable to find the confidence to explore the back of the gym alone.

I was no stranger to exercise after enduring 4 years of constant cardio thanks to my involvement in cross country and track in high school, however my experience in the gym was little to none.  So, walking into the main workout chamber of Urec for the first time, left me feeling overwhelmed.  It appeared as though everyone there knew exactly what they were doing.  During Freshman year I would use the weight machines near the front that I was able to figure out, and if I was unable to determine how to use a machine I would panic and walk away.  It seems kind of funny looking back now, but it’s easy to get discouraged when you lack confidence and feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.

The summer of 2019 marked the first time I paid for a gym membership, which occurred thanks to the prodding of a close friend.  Years earlier she had become familiar with the gym while working with a personal trainer to strengthen her body after an injury, meaning she was able to teach me what she had learned.  Working out over that summer was a game changer for me, and I’m extremely grateful for everything she taught me from how to bench press to how to believe in myself.  I have a bad habit of being negative and saying I can’t do something but whenever I started doing that, she reminded me I had to try.  She taught me to push myself.

In the beginning it felt like every time we went, I learned something new and the joke was that I had my own personal trainer, which was more fact than fiction.  Over time as I gained confidence, I noticed instead of being so nervous I was enjoying learning new things, I was getting to a point where my focus was on myself instead of what anyone else was thinking.  I started to recognize that everyone who goes to the gym is at a different level and there should be no shame in taking the time required to learn new things.

I realized how important it is to set goals for yourself and focus on what you personally are capable of.  My intent isn’t to pressure people into going to the gym if they aren’t comfortable, especially during these strange times (Corona), but encourage anyone who has been thinking about going.  What I’m trying to say is that if you find yourself intimidated by the gym, it’s okay, sometimes venturing into the weight room still means leaving my comfort zone.

 If you want to try something new at the gym but find yourself intimidated by other gym goers think about ways you could make the experience more comfortable whether its bringing a friend, blocking out the atmosphere with music or going when the gym is less crowded. It can be easy to look around at the people lifting huge amounts of weight and feel like you are wasting a station because you aren’t lifting anything close to that.  It took some time for me to acknowledge that’s how I felt in the back of my mind, but once I figured it out, I realized how ridiculous it was!  I had every right to use equipment no matter what weight I was lifting, and so do you!

Check out the article below for some tips on avoiding gymtimidation!

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