As a personal trainer I hear the same worries and concerns from women and men looking to train in a gym; ‘I am scared of the gym’, ‘I might drop a weight on my face’, ‘what if I go all red and sweaty and split my trousers?’, ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger guys intimidate me’, ‘weights rooms are for the steroid induced bodybuilders’.
The newly launched campaign by Sport England, This Girl Can, backs up my theories with research. When they asked millions of women why they thought exercise was not for them, the strongest theme that stood out was ‘fear of judgement’, despite ‘75% stating that they wanted to be more active’. The campaign focused on profiling real women doing all kinds of sport that makes them feel happy in order to break down the unobtainable barriers many see when embarking on sport – real inspiration, from real women.
So, it got me thinking, how can gyms help improve their judgment factor when it comes to new recruits?
If you are the brave few who make it into the Game of Gyms, then you have a whole world of confusion to contend with, for example; etiquette – how long can I be on one machine? approaching machine hoggers, to general concerns on fitting in – Am I fit enough to join a class? How the hell do I use this machine? shorts or leggings?!
There are many ways gyms and personal trainers could clean up their act and make it more friendly, for example perhaps introducing group weight basic classes (so you are in it together so to speak) or pairing up options to someone with similar goals to spur each other on,or making it less scary by sharing new experiences together. Even using social media to provide top tips for gym goers or get them involved with community challenges etc.
Hopefully we will see more of this coming into play with gyms (I am sure some already have introduced these options), but in the meantime here are my top tips to read before embarking on your gym visit that will hopefully help you feel at ease and less judged:
– Everyone is in the same boat. What you are thinking or worrying about 99% of other people are thinking too – it’s just most people block it out and focus on themselves and their goals. Yes, even the avid ‘gym bunny’ who looks ‘gym perfect’ has insecurities, it’s human nature.
– No one important is looking at you. The paranoia that everyone is watching your every mistake, forget it – those Johnny Bravos pumping iron with their big guns – they are more interested in their own reflection than watching you! Plus, anyone who is worth their salt will offer a friendly hand or advice – don’t be afraid to ask, gym goers aren’t all monsters!
– Plan your session – whether it be going to a class or doing your own routine, the more organised you are, the more in control you will feel. Not everything will go to plan, but at least you have a starting point.
– Ask for help – most gyms offer a free introduction to new members, this is your chance to ask any questions about the equipment, health and safety, general etiquette at the gym and about group training options or classes and the abilities required. If you want to get a one on one experience and have someone to mentor and guide you, a PT is the best option.
– Stepping out of your comfort zone is a step forward – Remember new challenges are scary, you need to step out of your comfort zone in order to achieve your goals, whether than be loosing a few pounds, training for a race or just simply to feel happier and healthier.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, just sweat!
Lucy Dalton, certified personal trainer and spinning instructor