Dealing with gymtimidation

What is gymtimidation, you ask? Have you ever walked into a new gym and felt so completely overwhelmed by all the new equipment, people and layout that you’ve considered shouldering that gym bag and hiking right back out of there?

Trust me, I feel you.

I recently moved to be closer to work, and ended up canceling my existing gym contract, only to sign up with a new gym. And despite having been shown around on the regular tour when I applied, walking in that first day was a complete scare.

Here’s what I’ve realised:

Know how to sign in and out

Okay, internal cringing here. I moved from a gym that used wristbands, where you had to swipe yourself in both in and out. The gym that I visit now? Not so much. So my first day had me looking like an idiot, trying to swipe my card at a turnstile that wasn’t automated. I’m pretty sure the guys behind the desk had a good giggle at my expense. Also, a very awkward conversation (on the same day) left me with the knowledge that I was not required to sign out.

Get familiar before you go hard

Know the lay of the land, so to speak. The first few times you join the gym don’t have to be your most intense sessions. Learn to understand where the cardio section is, where the group classes are held, where the free-weights section is, and where the weight-machines are. Identify the ones you’ll be using most – in my case, the rowing machine, the squat rack and the leg press – and get comfortable with moving around the gym. It saves serious time, and saves you from wandering around like a lost puppy.

Earphones in, cap on, head down

To me this is a more physiological “don’t look at me, I’m ignoring you” trick. Blast some Eminem, Jay Z or even Kanye, if that’s what you’re into. Focus on the beat of the music and your routine that you’re aiming for, and let everyone else just sort of fall away. It’s hard to think about people staring if you’ve got some hardcore tunes pumping in your ears.

Have a plan

Don’t walk into the gym without knowing what it is you want to do. It doesn’t have to be a super crazy, detailed routine, but have a general idea of what you’re aiming for. It means that you’ll know which machines you want to use, and which parts of the gym you’re likely to use, so you can scope it out when you first walk in, and you’re less likely to be overwhelmed and unsure.

Go during the off-periods

To me this tip has more than one reason. When you go during peak hours, there are more people, duh. That means that there’s less opportunity to use the machines that you were planning to use, and also there are way more eyes. This, to me, is a major reason to hit the gym super early or super late.

Head in with some colleagues or mates

I’m in the very fortunate position that many of my colleagues attend the same gym as I do, which means that I was able to tail in behind them during a couple of lunch-breaks. It really helps tag along with someone who knows what they’re doing, where they’re going, and what’s going on.

If you’ve experienced gymtimidation and have some extra tips that I haven’t listed, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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