I can’t say I remember the very first time I walked into a gym. I say that because my relationship with the gym began as a complicated series of ups and downs that began in high school. I’d go for a little while. Use the elliptical in the dark theater room where no one could see me, then hurry away. Due to a lack of results (due to a lack of structure and effort in general), an abundance of intimidation and an overwhelming sense of frustration, I’d stay away for months. Then, I’d get motivated, jump back in, only to have the same result. I didn’t go anywhere and as a result, my overall fitness and well-being suffered.
I understand the roller coaster ride that a gym membership can feel like, I’ve been there. But, I’ve also overcome it…below are a few tips if you’re in the same place!
Stop Worrying About What Everyone Else Thinks
I spent so much time worrying what I looked like while exercising. I thought I looked silly, someone bigger trying to do activities that I perceived as being meant for a smaller, more in shape population. I felt like the regulars probably thought I was a joke. Here’s the thing: I was wrong.
You see, people at the gym – for the most part – are there for their own results. They’re so focused on what they’re doing and how they look while doing it that they don’t have time to pay attention to the form or heavy breathing of the people around them. Most importantly, they haven’t always been gym junkies, they had to get their start somewhere as well! If they actually had the time to focus on what you were doing, they’d probably commend you for it and want to be a support; I know I feel that way. Stop worrying about the people around you and focus on yourself.
Eliminate the Intimidation Factor
Gyms and the equipment inside them are only intimidating when they are not understood. Remember my years-long relationship with the elliptical? It existed because I was scared to try out the machines. I wasn’t sure how they were supposed to work, I didn’t want to do them wrong and therefore I was intimidated. It made my gym experience stressful and inadequate.
If you’re new to a gym, or want to add a little variety to your workout experience, ask for help! Whether you approach someone using a machine – who, in most cases will be happy to answer any questions, ask an employee for help or sign up for a new member orientation – even if you’re not new at all. Take the time to learn about the machines and weights and to do a little research at home about why they’d work for you. When in doubt, ask a trainer or consider signing up for individual instruction to maximize your workout potential.
Find What You Love and Commit
You’ve probably heard it before, but that’s because it’s true. If you don’t find an activity that you love, that you see or feel results from, you won’t stick to it. Find what you love, rowing, biking, running, lifting, yoga…anything. Make it a staple of your routine. Make a commitment to stick to the activity of your choice or sign up for something in the future that leaves you no option but to stay on track – a 5k, a walk-a-thon, anything…your choice. Visualize the benefits of your chosen activity and don’t loose sight of the reason you’ve started your new routine.
Mix it Up
This might seem like it’s in conflict with finding what you love and committing to it, but it’s not. Doing the same thing day after day without a break in the routine leads to a lack of results and the feeling of being dragged down; it works against what the idea of total fitness really is. One or two days a week, find a way to mix up your routine. If you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with different machines and options, this should be no problem. Incorporate some lifting or core work, get outside for a family walk or jog, try out that rock wall or rowing machine and set a distance goal. Whatever you do, add some variety to your routine. Your muscles and mind will thank you and you’ll have the stamina to continue for the long run.
Fitness is a journey that starts with that first – or many first – steps. It’s something that has ups and downs and something that’s so different for everyone. The one common factor? We all had to start somewhere. That’s where my fitness journey is the same as yours and everyone else’s, at the beginning. Get out there, forget about negative experiences in the past and think about what drives you. Are you hoping to accomplish a specific fitness goal? Want to look better for swimsuit season? Hoping to be able to keep pace with your kids or grandkids? Want to live a healthier, fuller, longer life? Don’t let factors that can be easily overcome hold you back. You deserve the best, you deserve to find yourself and to live an active lifestyle. Think about the tips above and get started today. Most importantly, keep going; you’ve got this.