Tuesday, 30 April 2013

“I find the gym intimidating”

With summer approaching there are plenty of people feeling a little out of shape and wanting to up their pre-holiday exercise efforts. But for many, the gym is an unknown and, as such, an intimidating environment.

Often a gym can be viewed as an overwhelming place full of gym-regulars that all know exactly what they’re doing. An environment where you won’t have a clue what to do and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. If that’s the case, here are a few simple tips that you can try in order to make yourself feel more confident entering the gym and bettering your life.

Get some professional help
Training with a personal trainer is a great way to gain the necessary education you need to improve your gym confidence. During your sessions you’ll learn an array of exercises, how various machines work, how to target specific areas of the body, the best exercises to help you reach your goals and the general workings of a gym floor. Having someone guide you through everything can be a great way to learn firsthand what you should be doing and not, like so many, waste years training ineffectively. It may be a cost that you assume you can’t afford but view it as a short-term investment. Train with a personal trainer for a few months, learn what you need to learn and then make contact with them again from time to time while training on your own and book a few additional sessions for more ideas and to check up on your progress.

Dress it down
Just because you’re exercising it doesn’t mean you need to wear tiny outfits or dress yourself head to toe in lycra. Many of these outfits can be very unflattering on the wrong figure and make you feel self-conscious before you even leave the changing room. If you’re unsure what your options are, spend some time browsing sports sections of shops and fitness magazines for ideas and inspiration. If you want to avoid the eyes of other gym goers simply wear something discreet and comfortable that fits you well. If you’ve never bought gym clothing before try it on in store and move around to make sure that everything stays covered as it needs to and you can move freely. If you see someone else in the gym with clothing you like, pay them a compliment and find out how to get something similar yourself, “Nice top – where’s it from?” – simple as that.

Turn it up
You can take yourself to a whole new place if you wear headphones when in the gym. It will not only keep you motivated and upbeat but will keep your mind focused on the job at hand. It seems a simple idea but, if you’re conscious of those around you and the gym environment on the whole, headphones can be a great way to escape it all. Better still, The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (2005),also found that listening to music during exercise not only lifted mood but also helped to improve performance. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/tjem/206/3/206_3_213/_article

Avoid the rush
If you’re worried about being an “outsider” in the gym, try to avoid peak times. Perhaps you work 9-5.30 and can’t avoid the evening rush? Then try first thing in the morning. It may mean you’re out of bed a little earlier which can be hard, but just remember why you’re doing it. By getting up earlier and training in the morning the gym is likely to be less busy than the evenings and you can be happy that you’ve completed your exercise for the day before most people’s day has even started. As you become more confident after a few weeks you can then train during the evenings and be happy that you too are now a “gym regular”.

Bring a friend
Training with a friend can be a great way to boost your confidence in the gym no matter what their level of experience. If you both have little experience then you can learn and work things out together; if they’re more experienced than you are then you can get a guiding hand around the gym from a familiar face. Either way, you’ll no longer be alone on your fitness journey. A “gym buddy” can also help to keep you motivated away from the gym. Together you can make sure that you don’t let your eating habits slip too frequently and that you make each gym session that you have scheduled – a friendly nudge can be very useful from time to time.

Try group exercise first
The gym is full of weights, equipment and fitness “toys” – all of which can, if you’ve never used them before, appear very confusing. If it’s a more active lifestyle you’re looking for then group exercise can be a great inroad. There’s something for everyone and even classes that will incorporate some resistance work in them as a hybrid of traditional group exercise and gym work. You’ll get to build a regular, healthier routine and class times will mean you start off with an instantly more structured workout schedule. As you become more familiar with the classes, more confident in your image and want some variety you can gradually wean yourself into the gym.

Get out of town
For some the fear of bumping into a friend of work colleague while they’re “not at their best”, covered in sweat, wearing an old gym top and gasping for air is enough to keep them out of the gym all together. Don’t use this as an excuse; find a gym a little further away and you can exercise in confidence that you can remain completely anonymous. If that’s not an option you can invest in a variety of equipment to allow you to train at home. Things such as multi gyms, dumbbells, kettlebells, powerbags or a TRX are all very versatile pieces of equipment that you can use for full body workouts in the privacy of your own home.

The Truth...
The truth is there are plenty of reasons and excuses to not exercise if we look for them; being intimidated by the gym is just another excuse. If you want to change the way you look and feel about yourself then you can’t let it be the be all and end all. Find a way around it. Those who want to exercise will find a way. Those who don’t want to exercise will find an excuse. Just remember, everyone, in every gym had their first day in the gym at some point. Now look at them – that can be you in a matter of months. Leaner, more knowledgeable and more confident – stick with it, remain consistent and these things will come.
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