How To Trade Gym Intimidation for a Successful Workout

Let’s face it: the gym can be an intimidating place. I remember my very first time walking into a gym and how out of place I felt. I was certain everyone was watching me as I fumbled my way around the machines, having no clue how to go about working out. I felt like I’d entered a different world that spoke a different language. So freaking intimidating. Thankfully, I didn’t give up and I learned to love lifting so much it became a lifestyle. 

Where to Start?

If you’re anything like me, you go gung-ho on something new only to crash and burn a week later. Start slow. You don’t have to crush your first several weeks in the gym. In fact, if you push yourself too hard you’re going to feel so incredibly sore that you may never go back. Take your time getting familiar with the machines and learning the lay of the land. Take a walk on a treadmill or look up a couple of simple exercises on Pinterest or Instagram before you go. Start light and grow from there. Don’t go in trying to lift the heaviest weight you can. Ease into it with light weights and casual cardio and add intensity as you go.

But everyone will look at me!

As for all of those people you are SURE are watching you? Most likely, they’re not. I promise you, they’re too concerned about their own workout to care about anyone else’s. However, if there is that one guy (or gal) who’s being a creeper and keeps glancing in your direction, put your earbuds in and ignore them. Ignore everyone. Really. Ignoring each other is actually good gym etiquette. The Schwarzenegger wannabes, flexing in the mirror are entirely too focused on themselves to notice anyone else and chances are, they don’t know as much as they think they do anyway. Ignore them ALL. You do you!

Have a goal

If you really want to get the most out of your workout, it is best to go in with a plan. You know the  phrase, “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Or, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” It’s true. It kinda sucks to have to plan beforehand but you won’t regret the extra effort. Jump onto Pinterest and look up workouts for beginners. Or arm workouts. Or glute workouts. You get the idea. And if there are exercises that you aren’t familiar with, google them. Google and Pinterest will be your friends. Instagram is also a decent place to find ideas. You can also save Instagram posts and categorize them in whatever way makes sense to you. I have mine categorized by body part, that way if I’m ever stumped on what I’m going to do that day in the gym, I can pop into Instagram, and -voila- I’ve got my workout planned.

 A big part of planning ahead and having a realistic goal in mind. Losing 20 lbs in a month is probably not a realistic goal and when the end of the month comes and you haven’t reached your goal, you’re going to be frustrated and possibly quit. So make sure your goals are realistic. Goals also don’t have to be about your body. They can be about performance. Walk a mile by the end of next week. Get brave enough to pick up a dumbbell. Finish an entire workout before bailing. As you go along your goals can get loftier. You’ll begin to conquer those small goals and need something bigger. Whether you choose a performance goal like a new PR (personal record) or a body composition goal, just make sure that it’s attainable.

Gym Lingo

I remember in my early days of going to the gym I was so confused by the language. Sets, reps, PR’s, supersets….it felt like I’d stepped onto a different planet and they all spoke gym. Learning to speak gym isn’t hard and it will seriously help you when you’re writing up your plan. So here goes:

Warm-up: in weight lifting, this means doing several reps and even several sets at a lower weight than what you plan to use. For cardio, it means starting out at a slower speed or incline before going all in.

Reps: the number of times you do a specific exercise.

Set: the number of cycles you do of the reps. 

For example, if you say you did 3 sets of 12 reps of squats, you did 12 reps, rested for 30 seconds to a minute, did 12 more and rested, and then did 12 more. 

Superset: when you perform an exercise and go straight into a second exercise with no rest. 

Giant Set: when you perform 4 exercises back to back with no rest in between.

Working weight: the weight that you plan to use for your exercise. 

For example, if you are doing a bicep curl and start out at 5 lbs, move to 10 lbs and finish your warm-up at 15 lbs then 15 lbs would be where you start your workout and it would be your working weight.

Going to failure: failure is when you are performing an exercise and you cannot get another rep with good form. Your muscles are taxed to the max and depleted beyond another rep. 

Negatives: When you lower the weight in a very slow and controlled motion, slower than what comes naturally. 

For example, when doing a bicep curl you resist the urge to let momentum take over by resisting the weight as it goes down. 

Spotter/spot: a spotter is someone who is there to aid another during a workout. This usually happens when someone is going to lift really heavy and they’re not sure whether they’ll be able to get the weight back up. You may hear someone say, “Hey, can you spot me?” or, “Can you give me a spot?” 

Work in: when someone wants to use the same machine as you they may ask to “work in”, which means they want to use the machine during your rest period, and then you use it during their rest period. 

Pump: a pump is the feeling you get after working out a specific muscle, kind of like it might explode. (It won’t! I promise!) I once had a client tell me after an arm workout that her arms felt like popeye! She had had a successful workout and the pump was real.

That’s a beginning to gym lingo. There is much more but those should get you started. 

Be Consistent

One of the biggest downfalls of gym-goers is the lack of consistency. If you truly want to see your body change you must be consistent. Going once a week just isn’t going to give you the results you want. Shoot for 3 days a week in the beginning and up that to 4-5 as you feel confident. Depending on your goal, 3 days a week may be sufficient. Put it in your schedule as a non-negotiable. Don’t cancel on yourself! There will be days when you absolutely don’t feel like going but go anyway. On those days you have to rely on discipline instead of motivation to get you there. Tell yourself you’ll just go for 10 minutes and chances are, once the 10 minutes is up you’ll be so into it that you’ll go ahead and complete a full workout. And then you’ll leave feeling like the badass that you are!

This should be enough to get you started. The gym is a place where you’ll always be learning and growing. Even those of us who have been lifting for years still learn something new from time to time. Take this new knowledge, lock in a gym membership and go chase your goals! I believe in you and your 6 month from now self will thank you!

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