Amy Newton explains how to feel at home in the gym, a space that seems at times determined to make you uncomfortable.
‘I don’t belong here.’
‘I’ve got no idea what I’m doing.’
‘I’m not as good as x over there.’
‘I’m going to make a fool of myself.’
‘I should have made more of an effort with how I look.’
We’ve all been there, right?
And the feeling can feel part and parcel of the gym experience for some – but it isn’t a necessary evil. You don’t have to shudder as you step into the free weights section; you don’t have to feel embarrassed about trying to do your body some good.
First things first, you’re not alone. I’m a personal trainer and I’ve felt it too. Many times. Even last week! And that’s okay.
I’m going to take a guess at what you want to get out of going to the gym – getting stronger, toning up and building a shape that you love, plus the confidence to go with it. Am I warm?
Straight up – if you want any of those things, you need to be training with weights. Safely, with good technique and consistently enough to see results. As in barbells and dumbbells, not just the machines.
The cardio machines aren’t going to give you what you want. Cardio is important but it just isn’t the whole story.
Unfortunately, weights can be the most intimidating bits, so I’m here to help.
I’m Amy from The Warrior Programme. Rewind four years and I was working in an office, post Law degree, working for a big broker, working my way up… but it wasn’t lighting my fire. Lifting weights had been a thing for me for a while, so I chose to leave and set up on my own doing just that, and teaching others how to do it.
How did I get started on the weights? My degree had been intense, and I’d been pretty depressed and demotivated to do anything remotely healthy. Everything I ate was processed rubbish, I didn’t move from my desk and I wasn’t sleeping well. As a result – no surprise – I put on three stone. The same day I realised this, I vowed to do something about it. I expanded my activity levels, sorted out my diet and committed to making an effort every single day. I lost the weight and then started to develop a curiosity for the ‘weights bit’ in the gym, as I’d read that it was where you had to go if you wanted to ‘tone up’.
Fast forward to now. The Warrior Programme is not just me, but five coaches, in a gym I own, helping women to take charge, to use weights safely and effectively, and ultimately to get what they want.
Enough about me. Let’s set the scene for you – you’re going into your gym, you normally use just the cardio machines, or follow a generic, ineffective programme you got on your induction and today you’ve decided it’s the day to go into the weights bit. How can you handle this gymtimidation thing?
1) Have a plan
Don’t go in there and expect to do a session on the fly. It will all look far too complicated and busy, you’ll get overwhelmed and then head back to cardio.
Have a plan – do a bit of research. Check out our blog for some tips, or watch YouTube videos. You don’t have to fork out on a PT to get started. Decide which area of your body you’d like to work on – say glutes, aka bum, and simply Google ‘exercises for glutes with dumbbells’. Read through everything carefully, print screen it on your phone, write down the order and the kit you’ll need in a little notebook and there’s your plan of action. Try practicing form at home without any weights so you’re not trying to figure it all out there and then. Check the credentials of the person whose advice you’re taking first – if they’re not a qualified Personal Trainer, I would look again.
2) Know that you belong.
When we’re nervous, we tend to hold our breath, so before you head into the gym, take a deep breath.
Repeat a positive affirmation in your head – ‘I Am Strong’ or ‘I Have The Body of My Dreams’ – even though it might not feel true right now, turning your thoughts around in a positive way will help you move closer to where you want to be. Pick something that resonates with you.
3) Try not to compare yourself.
We can ALL fall prey to Comparisonitis, but you don’t know what you don’t know.
The woman you’re feeling intimidated by may look surly because she’s working really hard, or she’s had a s**t day at work.
If she looks super ripped and you don’t, this doesn’t mean anything bad about you. She’s been working on this for years – this is your day one. She might have had three kids and felt lethargic and overweight five years ago, and every day she’s ground away at it. She’s not judging you – she remembers how she felt on her first day, and even if she’s not smiling, she’s probably still thinking ‘hell yeah’ whenever a new girl walks in the gym. I know I am.
4) Choose an outfit that makes you feel good.
Not just one that works on Instagram. Please, please trust that so much of social media is posing and lighting.
Choose a colour that lights you up, something that fits you now (not that you wish did, because it’ll just make you feel rubbish). Something that makes you feel supported and comfortable.
For me, it’s leopard print. Every time.
Make up – there are no rules and there (should be) no judgement. Full face or none – whatever works for you. I do both, depending on how I feel. It doesn’t make you any less serious just because you’re lifting in mascara.
5) Start with dumbbells – much less scary than barbells and you can build a whole workout with just a few of them.
When you’re doing your research the night before, pick exercises that you can do in a similar area and with similar kit. Saves messing about with kit – time-efficient and less chance to feel awkward!
For example – 4 sets of 10 dumbbell squats, then, 4 sets of 20 walking lunges with dumbbells, 3 sets of 10 each side dumbbell split squats, 3 sets of 10 each side step ups (keep it slow), followed by 3 plank holds (with good form).
When you’ve done your first weights session, feel proud of yourself! You’ve done a scary thing – right out of your comfort zone – and into a journey that will transform your body and your life.
Over time, your body will change shape. You’ll build more muscle, get stronger and be able to do more cool things in the gym – but the biggest shift you’ll probably notice is in your mindset. That was certainly the case with me, and so many of the women I’ve trained over the years.
Confidence. Self-worth. Determination. To get somewhere in the gym – and get what you want – and you 100% can, whatever that is, will help you grow all three.
Then, the magical thing is that this translates into your ‘real’ life.
Without weights, I would not have:
*Started my own business and grown it into what it is.
*Changed my appearance to match my true identity.
*Had the guts to go after the partner that I truly wanted.
*Made more friends who are just awesome.
And that’s just a few things!
Weights will stop you from playing small, so charge yourself up with a bit of my confidence and belief in you today and head in there. It is an investment that you won’t regret.
To find out more about how to beat gymtimidation, check out The Warrior Programme at www.thewarriorprogramme.com
Words: Amy Newton
Illustration: Livi Wilson