Starting anything new can be intimidating. Heading into the weights area for the first time, is no exception. Not only is it an unfamiliar place, it’s a semi-public one too.
- Many of the clients have been going a lot longer than you.
- You don’t know all the rules.
- You’re unaware of the etiquette.
- You may not know anyone there
- And you’re completely new to this.
It’s okay to feel nervous, but don’t let nervousness hold you back. The gym, and the weights area especially, doesn’t need to be as scary as it might seem at first.
Follow these few simple tips and enjoy a stress-free experience that will get you closer to your goals faster.
Pick Your Gym Wisely
Whether you’re completely new to the gym or are already attending regular classes and using the cardio equipment, paying close attention to all the options is vital.
Love the gym you already go to? Then that’s a great start. Finding someone to talk to about an introduction to the weights area should be easy. It’s highly possible you’re entitled to a free training session, as many gyms offer these out during sign up. It’s a great place to start and If you’re lucky, things will go smoothly from there and you won’t need the rest of this article.
However, if you find your current gym is unfriendly or hands-off (which may not have mattered until now) it’s time to go shopping.
Gym Shopping Can Actually Be Fun.
Most places will offer cheap or even free trial memberships to get customers through the door, feel free to take advantage of these offers, that’s what they’re for. There will always be times you encounter pushy salespeople, but bargain with them, tell them you’re shopping for a new gym and trying out lots of other places, then watch the bonuses pile on to their original offer.
In fact, even if you love your gym, it’s worth shopping around every so often. Free towels water bottles & protein shakers are some of the lengths places will go to in order to secure a new customer, so try to wring the best deal out of every place you try.
Of course, you don’t have to choose the cheapest place, but getting a discount (and establishing yourself as a person who’ll hold out for one) doesn’t hurt.
If there’s a good one in your local area, you should seriously consider choosing a women’s-only gym. Lots of them only do cardio and yoga classes, but that’s not true of them all.
Some gyms also have a women’s only weights area within a mixed gym, which can take some of the pressure off. I think we all know that guys can be pretty gross at times, and the last thing you want is some meathead ruining your me-time. (Don’t worry, not all men are like this, but some are. That’s why it’s so important to check out the weights area before deciding)
Keep your eye out for gyms offering nutritional advice alongside their personal training sessions. It’s important to remember that good nutrition goes hand in hand with a good training routine. For some quick nutritional advice, why not check out our articles on the benefits of Bananas, Oats and how to avoid pesky sugar cravings. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” you’ll know that the path to success is often seen as 30% Training 70% Nutrition.
The main thing that will make the biggest difference when sticking to a workout routine is whether or not going to the gym is a pleasant experience. Picking the right one is crucial to your success. If you find yourself unhappy somewhere, look for a different place to go.
Take Advantage Of Your Personal Training Sessions
As your intro to the weights area, most gyms offer customers one or two sessions with a personal trainer this is so customers can get used to the equipment and ensure there’s not going to be any accidents.
Take advantage of these sessions, because they’ll make you feel instantly at ease–plus, no one will offer unsolicited advice when the trainer is right there, and if they do, the trainer should tell them (politely) where to stick it.
Like with every profession, not all personal trainers are created equal, some of them will be bad at their job, and being able to read the signs is important. The most obvious one, for a woman, is going to be this: you say something like ‘I’d like to build my arms up because I’m planning to lift a car single-handedly’ and they nod and then go on to explain how to work on your abs and thighs.
Your Workout Should Be About Your Goals
Not whatever a personal trainer thinks your goals should be. It’s your body, and you get to do whatever you want with it. Now, that’s not to say that if they suggest working on a weak spot you totally ignore them–but a gym-employed personal trainer is there to guide and to stop you from hurting yourself, not to advise on how to live your life.
What you should get out of an introductory session is advice on how to target the areas that are most important to you, and instructions on how to use all the equipment safely and correctly. You should also gain the confidence to wander over to the weights area and start your routine without a second thought, because you know exactly what to do.
If you’re worried about making a fool of yourself in front of the trainer, firstly, don’t worry too much. They’ve seen many uncoordinated clients in the past. However, feel free to head over to YouTube and search for instructional videos to get a feel for what to expect. That way, you’ll be prepared in what to expect when you head to the gym for your session.
It’s really important to drop any sense of shame before entering the weights area. When starting out, start from the bottom. Don’t worry about what everyone else is lifting–worry about what you can lift. If you have to start with 500g dumbbells, then start there. Imagine how awesome it will feel when they’re the 5kg ones!
Weight lifting workouts aren’t about lifting the heaviest weight possible, save that for the Olympics. They’re about building strength to your muscles. Which is hard, if you hurt yourself. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting at the level you’re genuinely at. If you haven’t lifted anything heavier than a bag of groceries for a while, then obviously start at the beginning.
Anyone who you’d actually want to talk to or befriend in the weights area will understand that and wouldn’t judge you–they probably started in a similar place.
It’s also worth remembering that you’re there for yourself. This can be hard if people who, in comparison, are “professionals” surround you. Especially, the particular type of person who’s lifting their own body weight over in the corner whilst grunting & making plenty of noise. This is almost always a guy, and it’s a useful skill as an adult woman to learn to ignore men when necessary, but doubly so at the gym.
This Is Not To Say That All Men In The Weights Area Are Bad People
I bet there’s at least one person out there who met the man of their dreams when they offered to spot for them. But, remember they can be loud, they are sometimes pretty gross, and at times they don’t wipe the weights, or the benches, or anything else they use and it ends up covered in their sweat.
This is, unfortunately, life–but take it as a sign that it’s okay if you drop a weight or sweat in public. If other people don’t care how they seem in public, why should you worry about it?
But also, please wipe down the equipment you use. That’s just manners. There’s no reason to become one of the grunting barbarians you might encounter during your fitness adventures. Chalk them up to experience and laugh about them with your friends over coffee.
An important life lesson that applies here is this: most people are so worried about what they’re doing themselves (or alternatively, so self-absorbed) that they won’t even notice you unless you crash directly into them. You’re not being watched, and you’re likely making less of a spectacle of yourself than you think. Your workout time is your time, and don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Don’t Neglect Your Recovery
It can be tempting, once you get the first sweet, sweet rush of endorphins from a weights-based workout, to go back every single day so you’ll feel that good again–even if you’re sore and tired. It’s easy to ignore what your body is telling you in the first flush of excitement, but it’s the worst thing you can do.
You will feel awesome the first time you use weights. Guaranteed, you’ll walk away feeling like you can take on the whole world and win–and you can! But, not all at once. If you fail to take rest days, especially in the beginning, you’ll hurt yourself in the long run, and at the end of the week you’ll dread going back to the gym again.
Listen To Your Body
Pace yourself. Make sure you get enough protein after a workout, if you’re vegetarian or you don’t eat enough at meal times, it might be wise to invest in some whey protein powder & for vegans have a look into the plant based protein options. Ultimately, remember that fitness is a long game. You can’t force it, and you’ll run into diminishing returns pretty quickly if you try.
Don’t forget your nutrition; make sure you’re fuelling your workouts with the correct food and that your post workout meals contain the correct macros to aid your recovery. Dependant on the time of day you choose to work out, there are tons of post workout snacks or breakfasts to tickle your taste buds.
For some inspiration, take a look at some online retailers which specialise in sports & fitness nutrition: Musclefood (They even do protein pizzas & Protein Beers), Myprotein, The Protein Works, Go Nutrition, BodyBuilding Warehouse and many, many more.
Take care of yourself. Don’t worry about what other people might think or see. Learn how to use the equipment and how to move your body safely and effectively, and choose and environment that makes you comfortable and happy. Do all of these things, and you’ll be well on the road to being the fitter, stronger person you want to be.
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