While there is plenty of practical advice for less experienced gym goers (how to safely perform exercises etc.) this post focuses on how to get over any psychological hurdles, and how to stick it out.
Joining a gym can be intimidating at first. Rows and rows of people much fitter and stronger than you will be staring at you when you walk in, ready to laugh at every mistaken attempt you make. Right? No, nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, very few people care at all about the people around them at the gym. As long as you aren’t putting yourself or someone else in danger it’s unlikely someone will even notice you. For many people, the time they spend at the gym is the only time they get to themselves, away from colleagues, external pressures or stress, and they aren’t going to waste their ‘me time’ on you.
This is not to say that everyone at the gym resents your presence there, if you’re stuck with something or you’re waiting on a certain piece of kit then ask someone for help or how long they’ll be. Obviously, wait until they’re not busy or distracted, don’t wait until someone is holding a loaded barbell above their head and then ask them a million questions.
When I first joined a gym, I’d stick with treadmills and cross trainers, occasionally using the weights machine I understood and nothing else. After some research, and picking a quieter time, I nervously explored the free weight room. I half expected to get shouted at, but I didn’t and now I lift weights 6 times a week and I’m completely comfortable and at home in this environment.
It can be easy to start full of motivation and good intentions, and as time passes you stop going to the gym and give up your new habits. But, like diet, your new-found fondness for the gym should be a long-term habit, rather than a short-term obsession that you’ll give up on.
Make it a Habit
To ensure you visit the gym regularly I recommend a few things, one is being organised and prepared. Pack your gym bag the night before, make sure everything is ready to go first thing so you aren’t looking for one of your shoes while trying to brush your teeth and get out the front door. If you have everything ready to go and take your kit with you, you’ll be less likely to talk yourself out of a session after work.
The other important thing to learn, as a beginner, is the mindset you need to adopt. You need to realise that getting fitter should be a lifelong change of attitude rather than a quick fix hobby. You may start to see changes to your body quickly, or it may take some time. Everyone is different. But keep with it, when you look back at where you started you’ll be amazed.
I’m a firm believer in setting goals in life, it doesn’t matter if it’s the gym, at work or something else. Having a clear goal gives you focus, and you either achieve it (great, go you!) or you don’t (you know where to improve next time).
In terms of fitness this is often ‘I want to lose weight’ or ‘I want to be bigger’. These aren’t great goals, they’re far too vague. Ideally, you want to think ‘By my birthday I want to fit into this new dress’. This gives you a time frame and is more specific. It’s one thing to set a goal, and quite another to achieve it. For this you’ll need a plan to follow, check out our plans section for help achieving your goals.