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How to overcome gym 'fear' for newbies?

Stepping into the gym for the very first time can be extremely daunting and intimidating. All the grunting, sweating, weights dropping, complicated-looking equipment and copious amounts of protein shakes/supplements can have you hiding in the cardio corner on a treadmill for 30 minutes and then leaving - this sums up my first experience anyway. What's wrong with staying in the cardio section anyway, you ask? Nothing really...buuut you are missing out on a whole other style of training the gym has to offer - resistance training.

Why venturing into the weight section is so beneficial?

By now, most of us know that some form of resistance training has many great health benefits, but what exactly are they? Well, let’s see...Increase muscle mass and strength (protecting your joints and bones), increase metabolism/metabolic rate, improve insulin sensitivity, improve bone density, assist in weight management and fat loss, boost serotonin and dopamine (the happy chemicals), reduces stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and the list goes on and on Firstly, I’d like to clear up two misconceptions about resistance training -
    • The fear of getting ‘too big’ (mostly from women). This statement makes me giggle a little. Resistance training does not make you ‘bulky’ ladies! You don’t need to worry about getting ‘too muscley’ - trust me I have been trying for a looong time - it’s damn hard and takes ridiculous amounts of food, training and consistency. Unless you are eating an entire box of donuts to yourself on a daily basis - you don’t need to worry about getting ‘bigger’. Men ‘bulk’ up easier due to their levels of testosterone, woman have roughly 1/20th of the testosterone levels of the average man. We aren’t built to bulk.
    • Wanting to only ‘tone’ up. Let’s clear this once and for all - there is no such thing as toning, you either build muscle and lose fat, or gain fat and lose muscle. That simple. The more muscle you build, the more energy your body uses throughout the day, the more fat you are burning, which makes it easier to stay lean. Additional muscle built is also what creates the ‘toned’ appearance that so many people crave. Muscle is your friend and secret weapon to looking and feeling fantastic!
So, if you are keen to start some resistance/weight training, but just don’t know where or how to get going, here are some tips that might help overcome those newbie nerves.

No one is really looking at you.

Although you might feel like a fish-out-of-water under a big spotlight, truth is;
  • Most people at the gym are just as self-conscious as you are regardless of their size.
  • They are so focused on trying not to kill themselves with their weights, they wouldn’t even notice you (unless you break gym etiquette and stand in front of their mirror space - little tip - don’t do this!).
  • Most people have completely zoned out to their playlists, and I highly recommend doing the same thing. Creating an awesome playlist that gets you pumped, gives an incredible sense of being ‘unstoppable’ and a buzz like no other.
  • Everyone has to start somewhere. Being fit, healthy and strong is a journey not a destination. You just need to keep focused on your own journey. You should be your only competition.
For the most part, the old saying stands - “Act like no one is watching”..because they really aren’t.

If you don’t know how to use something, just ask.

It’s completely normal to have no idea what you are doing when you first step foot into a gym, and really no one expects you to. The gym staff are professionals, who are extremely knowledgeable and more than willing to help. On top of this, most gyms offer a free session with a personal trainer, running through how to safely use equipment, perform all exercises correctly and will create a program for you to start with - take advantage of this great resource. You’d also be surprised how helpful other gym members can be - remember for many of them, this is their passion/hobby, so any chance to talk about it and give advice, they will gladly take.

Choosing the right gym will make the world of difference.

When looking for a gym, take the time to get all the info you need. Take a gym tour, check all the amenities suit you - including opening hours, classes, equipment etc. Most importantly go with your gut, if the energy and environment of the gym feels right for you, you are more likely to want to go and make the most of your membership. The best advice is to “Choose a gym that has a friendly atmosphere, where BOTH the members and staff are welcoming. This will allow you to build friendships and coming to the gym will be more like a hangout whilst training with your friends”, says Sai, manager of Plus Fitness Five Dock.

Set small, achievable goals.

As tempting as it is to get into the gym, all guns blazing, 2 hours a day, 7 days a weeks, this will probably result in burning yourself out within the first 2 weeks of your membership. Start slow and set yourself very achievable goals that you know you can commit to, whether that be 3, 2, or even 1 day a week. This way you can start to build a consistent routine (which might I add is key) and add in days as you go. Slow and steady wins the race - treat this race as a marathon and not a sprint.

Learn to walk, before you run.

If you have never lifted a single weight, other than some heavy groceries, jumping straight into the free weight section might be too much of a leap. A great starting point is to use the pin-loaded resistance machines. They are a safe and easy way for you to learn the range of the movement without putting stress on your joints, ensuring you are using the correct muscles and minimising risk of injury. After your first few weeks of using the pin-loaded machines, you should start to feel a bit more confident and might even try substituting some exercises with the free weight variations. For exercises that do not have pin-loaded machine, try starting off with some body weight movement, focusing on controlling your muscles through space and letting gravity be your resistance. This will help you become familiar with the motion and feeling of the exercise, before moving onto more complex resistance training methods such as free weights.

Educate yourself.

With information so readily accessible, there really isn’t anything we can’t learn more about - all you have to do is search. When I first started training, I found myself a basic spilt-body program online that was recommended, claimed to achieve the results I was after and just looked pretty good. So there I was in the gym ready to go, I looked down at the first exercise and had no idea what is was or how I was meant to perform it. Don’t be put off by the names of exercises, you can do a quick google search on your phone and find all the information on that one specific movement. Personally, I find video demonstrations most effective. Watch carefully and replicate with a weight that you are comfortable with - monkey see, monkey do. Bodybuilding.com has a great exercise database, as well as a wealth of info around specific programs, muscle groups and training tips.

Lastly, enjoy yourself!

Don’t forget why you started, or let your doubt stop you from doing something, find your confidence and own it. When you find pleasure in working out and you don’t look at it as a ‘chore’, you can really enjoy what you are doing, treating it as ‘you’ time and embracing the process along the way. Happy gyming! Corinne