Gaining Confidence in the Gym
Do you ever walk into the gym and feel intimidated by large muscles, foam rollers and fitness buffs? That was me when I first started going to the gym. I was worried about people judging my smaller weights or my ever-improving form. I was too scared to go into the weights area to just experiment with some free weights so I spent my time on the machines, not seeing much progress.
I struggled to stay motivated and I was stuck without 'gains.' I never really wanted to be really muscly but just wanted to lose weight and get stronger. Fortunately for me, I have always been very talented at falsifying confidence so I was able to step into a gym without a problem - it was just the free weight area.
I can tell you that now, I have no issues with confidence in the gym as I have built up my knowledge and comfort through finding a supportive gym. Hopefully these tips and tricks will make you feel more confident.
Choosing the Right Environment
It's really important to choose an environment that you're comfortable with. Many gyms offer a free 3-day trial or even sometimes a week so you can see how you fit in with the other members. Are you the kind of person that gains inspiration from REALLY fit people or does it put you off? Is there enough lighting? Is the temperature comfortable for you? Is there enough space? Does the gym offer a guest pass system? All of these are factors which need to be considered, to ensure your comfort when choosing a gym.
My gym, Anytime Fitness in Basingstoke, has the perfect environment for me to feel comfortable. There are members with large muscles, for me to gain inspiration and tips from but there are also members who are very early to fitness. I like to try and guide them through their fitness journey which, in itself, gives me motivation. The gym itself is quite small and compact, which I really like. There's no space for me to 'slack off' as people are often watching - which for me, drives me on. It's 24/7 so I can choose to workout whenever I like, if I don't fancy seeing others and the individual bathroom/shower cubicles means there's no locker room pressure.
As with any gym, the more you go and the more you talk to people, the more you'll get out of it. I only know the names of a few people at my gym but that doesn't stop me from greeting the other regular gym goers with a British nod and the occasional 'hello.'
OK great. You've chosen a great gym environment and you're feeling confident in your decision but you still need to actually go..what's next?
Before even leaving to go to the gym, ask yourself whether you are feeling up for a workout. Have you had enough to eat/drink? Have you had enough sleep and feel mentally well to go? There's nothing worse than turning up to the gym to find that you are too tired to do anything and it can really knock your confidence. Have a date set for you to go and make sure you prepare yourself to be ready for that date.
Perhaps make yourself a gym playlist and get an early night the day before. Tell a close friend that you'll be going, just so they can help you prepare. Mental preparation is the key to confidence.
Do you know which exercises you'd like to do when you go? Do some research beforehand and have a think about which body area you would like to work on. Write your programme on even a bit of scrap paper, just to help you keep your focus. Don't worry if people notice it - any reputable gym goer will write down their programme. When an individual brings in a notebook and pencil to the gym, I immediately gain respect for them. It's how you record your weights, your programme and if all else fails, at least you look like you know what you're doing!
Have a think about what you're going to wear. I've fortunately always been comfortable in trackies and a baggy t-shirt but as I have progressed at the gym, I prefer a tighter fit to increase my confidence as I get 'muscle pump.' Having said that, there are times that I love to visit the gym in a baggy hoodie with my headphones in, just to get my workout done. Learn what's best for you. Maybe buying yourself a really nice shirt, will make you feel good and look good will give you confidence at the gym.
Awesome! You've got your gym and you're prepared. You've picked a good time to go when it's quiet (ask the gym manager/staff for their quiet times) and you step/wheel into the gym! You're almost there!
In the Gym
By knowing your exercises beforehand, you will be able to change it if someone is on the machine you're trying use. You'll know you can just jump onto your next exercise and keep an eye out for the machine to become free. This saves the awkward standing around waiting for a machine. If someone is doing that to you, it's probably because they're waiting for you to finish your set before asking you how much longer you'll be on the machine. Don't worry if someone asks you - it doesn't mean you're taking too long or doing something wrong, it probably just means they need that machine/bench for their last exercise.
Keep to your programme and know how many sets you have left. Many times I have moved over to another machine because someone wanted to jump on and I didn't have the confidence to say I was still using it. If you feel comfortable, try to not let that happen. You pay your membership, just as much as they do, even if they are 6'5'' and 150kg of pure beef. Perhaps try and suggest that you could switch in and out (they do their set and you do yours while they rest). I've done this many times and actually, it's a really good way to start talking to someone in the gym. The more people you know, the more comfortable you'll feel. It's like turning up to a party without knowing anyone, except the party is full of sweaty people and the drinks are protein shakes.......doesn't sound like fun....until you just let loose, get to know someone and become one of those sweaty people :D
If you're feeling a bit anxious, try and grab an unused workout room to allow you some space. If in doubt, ask a member of staff. They are there to assist you however they can. If you're due to have a shoulder session but you can't find your weight/there is no bench free, ask a member of staff and they might suggest some other exercises that will work on the same muscle group.
One of my favourite things to remember is that one day, your warm-up weight will be someone's personal best. Don't worry about the weight that you're using - it's a lot easier to say than do.....People use lots of different weights for lots of different exercises and everyone started from the beginning.There are times when I sometimes use the smallest weights in the gym, especially when performing a drop set. When I see people in the gym using very small weights, I never think that they are weak but I just assume they are trying to improve their strength/mobility/flexibility -something that we are all trying to do at the gym.
Confidence grows, the more you visit. In summary, try to remember these points:
- Keep going - perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.
- Choose the right gym for your own motivations
- Talk to people and get help when needed
- Know your workout beforehand
- Get some good tunes, to 'tune out'
- Bring a notepad and pen
- Dress to impress.....yourself
- Pick the right time to go
- If in doubt, ask about
- Don't worry about the number on your dumbbell
- Everyone started without knowing anything and with time, comes knowledge. Go out there and smash it!