When I first started going to the gym, I didn’t hate it because I was already short of breath from climbing a flight of stairs to the gym. I didn’t hate it because people didn’t wipe their gross sweat off of equipment. I didn’t hate it because I felt like my heart would explode from running either. I hated it because of gymtimidation.
Gymtimidation is real, and I am ready to fight anyone who says otherwise. By anyone, I mean Urbandictionary. Gymtimidation, for me, is feeling intimidated at the gym because I don’t know what I am doing, the machines are too complicated, all the weights are so heavy, I’m not in good shape, and everyone else is judging me.
Overtime however, I have learned to get a handle on my gymtimidation with baby steps. Here is my journey, and what worked and did not work for me.
At first, I decided to go the gym alone. I was too conscious of myself to go with anyone. I would squint so hard at the tiny instructions on the machines, and sometimes still do things wrong. I was so conscious of myself the entire time. The worst part was the weights section where I would go straight to the lightest dumbbells, and even those were too heavy for me. I always felt like everyone was staring at me, so I would carry the weights to an unoccupied room, and do my workouts there.
Since this was clearly not working for me, I decided to go with a friend who knew his way around the gym. He worked out almost everyday, and I thought I might learn a thing or two from him. But mostly, I wanted a friend to go with. This absolutely did not work for me because I got even more intimidated. It did not help at all that I would have to reduce the weight to a quarter of what he was using on every machine. LOL. Also since he had been working out for quite a while, he could not relate to my newby problems. I just felt like he was pushing me too hard. If you work well under such conditions however, you should totally go with a friend who knows better.
Next, I decided to go with a friend who was equally lost as me. My best friend and I decided to go to the gym together, and this worked out perfectly for both of us. Now both of us could squint at instructions together to figure things out. We spent a lot of time going around the rec to just familiarize ourselves with the machines. We would observe other people at the machines too, lol. We also went to a few group fitness classes, which are FREE at our rec. Some of the classes were more cardio-geared like zumba and HIIT, while some classes were helpful for beginners like us in lifting weights. We also followed some Youtube tutorials and came up with our own workout routine. Going with a friend helped me not be so self-aware all the time.
I have had to start working out on my own because our schedules are at conflict. However, I do feel much more comfortable in the gym. I am no longer as conscious as I used to be.
I do wish that I had known some things earlier, like there is no shame in starting with tiny, tiny weights. Everybody started with the tiny weights. It is also okay to not know how to use a machine. The rec center actually gives a FREE floor orientation to students. One of the student workers or trainers will walk around the gym with you, and explain the basics of the machines, and even give you tips on how to get started. If I had know this then, my life would have been so much easier. I have also realized that absolutely nobody is ever staring at me, or even looking at me in the gym because one time I tried to lift a 50 pound dumbbell and almost died, and NOBODY noticed.
It is also important to remember that there are other ways of staying fit and healthy. Maybe you are more of a runner, or a yoga person. Or maybe you incorporate exercise into your life in other ways. The only important thing is to stay healthy.