Overcoming the Gym Stigma
There is often a negative stigma associated with fitness centers, but the key is to find the right gym for you. There are many resources that fitness centers can offer that you might not have access to at home: a wide variety of equipment, group classes, personal trainers and the community within each gym. If you are new to working out, check into gyms that offer a variety of activities: weights, cardio, group classes, basketball courts – all of these resources can help you decide what type of exercise you enjoy. This is important, since it will be a big determining factor on whether you keep up with your workout routine. Here are a few tips that might help your transition to working out at a gym a little easier.
1. Go in with a plan – It will be easier to navigate through your workout and be productive if you plan ahead. Before you leave home, decide which muscle group to focus on, how long you plan to be there and the type of workout (HIIT, kickboxing, weight lifting) you want to complete.
2. Grab a buddy – Going to the gym is half the battle, but you still need to push yourself while you’re there. Bring a workout buddy for extra motivation and accountability, and to have a little more fun. You’ll be surprised how fast the time goes!
3. Get a new outfit – This may seem a little superficial, but confidence is key. If you feel uncomfortable or find yourself playing the comparison game, an easy way to boost your confidence is to wear your favorite workout outfit or update your existing wardrobe. The last thing anyone else is worried about is what you’re wearing, but it can make a difference with how you feel!
4. Track it – Invest in a fitness tracker. This is a great way to keep yourself accountable and encourage a little friendly competition—with friends, family or even with yourself. Use the tracker to monitor your heartrate, increase your daily step count, and to set reminders that motivate you to get off the couch and start moving.
5. Hydrate – Make sure you drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water daily, especially if you plan to participate in physical activity throughout the day. Staying hydrated reduces the effects of fatigue and the frequency of headaches.
6. Set yourself up for success – Prior to your workout, eat nutritious meals and try to stick with water (or at least avoid sugary sodas and alcohol). Don’t forget to warm up with some dynamic stretches before you exercise and to cool down after by stretching and foam rolling—this can make a huge impact on how you feel the next day, which increases the likelihood you’ll stick with your workout.
7. Don’t expect changes overnight – Set realistic expectations so you aren’t discouraged when you don’t see an immediate change. Working out is a lifestyle change that you slowly incorporate into your weekly routine, so it may take some time to see the numbers on the scale move. In the meantime, look for signs of progression that don’t involve a scale, like increasing the amount of weight or reps you can perform, higher stamina or energy levels throughout the day and looser-fitting clothes.
8. Use All of Your Resources – Most gyms have all the equipment you need to have a successful workout, but one excellent resource that often gets overlooked are the personal trainers. Using a personal trainer may seem intimidating, but remember that they entered the training industry to help others reach their fitness goals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to let them critique your form! Even if you don’t use a trainer, remember that the mirrors are your friends, too. You may see a few gym-goers use the mirrors for vanity, but the they’re really there are to help to with your form, which prevents injuries and aids your progress.
9. Form – In case you didn’t get it from the previous tip, your form is extremely important. It can make or break your workout and has the power to dictate your results. You can lift heavy weights, really fast, but you won’t benefit from it—slow, in-control movements are the best way to get results and reduce your injury risk.
10. Community - Just remember, you are not alone on your fitness journey. Everyone in the gym is there for a reason. Their specific goals just might look a little different. No one is there to judge your fitness level or your outfit, no matter how much you think otherwise. If anything, people want to share the tips they’ve learned along their fitness journey, so feel free to strike up a conversation with someone and see what you can learn.
If you want to improve your health and don’t have a current membership, find a local gym and give it a try. You’ll want a gym and exercise plan that feels comfortable to you, but also remember that sometimes, making a positive change requires you to get out of your comfort zone.