I get questions sent in all the time. Sometimes they’re easy enough to simply send a reply. Other times, they take a little longer, and require a string of emails to help. I do what I can.
And then there are times like today where I feel an open response will help many people with a similar question.
Recently, a lady wrote in the following:
My fitness struggles include being intimidated in the gym… For example, the best gym I have access to is on a military base, and the weight room is often crowded with experienced people, and I don’t necessarily know proper form for all the things I want to do in the gym, and don’t know how much weight I can handle.
So, when there are a ton of people using the weights, I feel like I’m in the way trying to learn.
Today we’re doing something a bit differently. Before I give you my advice, I’m calling on 3 ladies I respect to contribute their ideas and offer insight.
Knowledge Is Power – Going From Clueless To Confident
We’ve all heard the cliché ‘knowledge is power.’ But is it true? I asked Brenda-Leigh Turner to contribute to this one. Here’s her take:
— Brenda’s Thoughts:
Feeling uncomfortable at the gym is absolutely normal, and even the most experienced people feel insecure from time to time! With that said, I’d like to dive into the largest chunk of advice first.
She said she feels uncomfortable because she’s not sure what how to exercise yet. I wouldn’t say this is necessarily feeling intimidated as much as confused and clueless!
The simple solution to feeling clueless and confused in a gym:
Hire a really good trainer for a few weeks. If you don’t want to commit to something major just tell the trainer you only want 30 minute sessions once a week, to start feeling more comfortable at the gym.
Also, when they ask you what your goals are, be sure to tell them “I REALLY want to know what I’m doing when I come in here. I’d like you to help me LEARN.”
Working with a trainer for just a few sessions will increase your confidence in the gym 99% of the time.
Whether you do or don’t hire a trainer, read some exercise books to learn good form on basic lifts like squats, lunges, pushups, pullups, deadlifts, dips.
I highly recommend Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding for anyone feeling like a deer in the headlights at the gym!
Knowledge is power, and your ticket to feeling like Scarface when you walk into the gym. It takes time to learn what works for you, but discovery and application is one of the best parts of fitness!
Make The Process Easy, Be Consistent, and Practice
Sometimes we know what to do, but our processes and habits are all messed up. When you have the knowledge, but no action behind it, our intentions fall flat.
Luckily, Kate Galliett weighs in with her tips and ideas on how to feel the fear and do it anyway.
— Kate’s Thoughts:
Good for you for making the jump into the weight room! Developing your physical strength is important. Not only does becoming strong mean you have more muscle (which is what changes your shape), building better posture, and helping you do everything from carrying in all the bags at once from the car, to performing the most physically taxing parts of life with greater ease.
I’ve seen time and again with my clients, that when they start getting physically strong, they start getting mentally strong too. Realizing they *can* do it, and applying that knowledge to other areas of life.
Here are my thoughts on how you can make the transition into the weight room:
Nerves are okay! You’re not going to get rid of them until you go a few times anyways, so embrace those nerves. That anxious, slightly-elevated heart rate feeling is a sign you’re really living & pressing your boundaries a bit. It’s a good thing, and know that everyone has felt that at least once or twice when they stepped into a weight room – even the ones who’ve been doing this forever.
Make the barrier to entry as low as possible by choosing only 5-6 movements to start with.
As a beginner, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of those movements and you won’t have to worry about knowing 84 different exercises, as well as what weights you should be doing on them, all while feeling a little nervous as you get started. 5-6 movements. Learn them. Master them. Then learn 5-6 more. Here’s a good article on finding a few good movements to begin with.
// Check out Kate’s FitSmart Podcast she did with Rog Law and I.
Get Connected and Make Decisions That Keep You Accountable
The gym can be an interesting place to make connections and solidify habits. It can also be hard to get into those routines that will make you successful. Dani Shugart gives her advice here:
— Dani’s Thoughts:
As for intimidation, the people you see at the gym don’t go there everyday just to pass judgment.
They’re trying to fit everything in and get a great workout just like you. And while it’s true that serious lifters usually don’t like to chat in the gym, you’ll find that most of them love to share their knowledge on proper form and lifting techniques.
They’ll even become a valuable support system over time if you can find the courage to break out of your shell for a moment and ask them about an exercise.
Keep going to the gym at the same time everyday and you’ll connect with people who will motivate you to keep coming back.
Remember, good connections don’t necessarily mean chitchatting at the gym, but they do mean familiarizing yourself with people who will acknowledge you kindly, tell you that you’re looking good, or doing a good job.
But you have to see each other there regularly in order to get to that level of comfort. Connections are essential if you’re new to the gym and want to make going a habit.
If you’re hitting the gym at a time in which it’s just too packed to use the equipment you need to use, and learn the things you need to learn, then figure out a different time to go. Packed gyms derail workouts whether you’re experienced or new.
If all the equipment you need to use is occupied, or if you simply can’t concentrate on what you’re doing because there’s too much hustle and bustle, then either find out the least busy hours, or invest in attending a quieter gym.
Driving to a less convenient location or paying for a more expensive membership will be worth it if it means you’ll be able to train yourself in an environment that supports your efforts and goals.
Putting It All Together
The equation is pretty simple here.
Get some knowledge, put it into practice, and then find a way to keep yourself consistent through positive feedback and accountability.
The only way you get good at something is through experience and practice. Anyone can read all they want about how to squat properly, or do a proper overhead press. But if they don’t start actually doing something, they’ll never make any progress.
Don’t Waste Any Time
I had a vivid dream toward the end of April. I remember time speeding up so quickly, and seeing my friends and family grow old and pass on.
I began feeling sad, and thinking about all the things I “ought to do” but keep making excuses about, or putting off.
I immediately rose to consciousness, and started scribbling on a notepad the following:
“Your work matters.”
“Do not waste this life. Make every second count.”
“The only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves.”
This might seem obvious, but for me this was a HUGE wake-up call. Am I simply going through the motions?
On the surface, I didn’t believe so, but my subconscious told me otherwise.
Most of the things we worry about, especially about whether people are judging us in the gym, or if we’re doing something with 100% proper form is so small-scale it ain’t even funny.
Yes, it may seem big to us on a personal level, in our heads and hearts, but in the grand scheme, it’s usually something we’re giving more attention than necessary.
I’m not saying your fears, or emotions aren’t important and worth thinking about. I’m not saying you should simply ‘be tough and suck it up.’
But you should weigh things out on a larger scale and ask yourself ‘what if…?’ every once in a while. What if you don’t follow through and get over your intimidation in the gym?
In LGN365, I encourage you to really dig deep into your ‘why’ for wanting to exercise, and change your shape. The bigger your ‘why’ is, the more likely you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
The more you desire something, the more likely you’ll build the habits and routines necessary to succeed.
So don’t let the fear, or intimidation you experience derail you from doing what you truly want to.
Go get it.