I’ve always hated gyms. Hoards of people running in place for hours on end never seemed healthy to me and people who could bench press three of me were intimidating. So, up until last month I did all of my weight training workouts in a 3 x 5 foot area in our bedroom with a set of dumbbells, a stability ball, a pull up bar. I had good success doing my at-home workouts and believe that anyone can get a great strength building workout using just bodyweight exercises. Doing a circuit of push ups, planks, lunges, and squats will definitely get your heart pumping and your muscles throbbing. But, if you’re like me, you will eventually want to take your workouts to the next level.
The more I got into weight training, the more I wanted to do traditional lifts like barbell back squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. I’d been doing versions of these with dumbbells for a few years but in order to progress, I would have to find a gym with the equipment I needed, which was something I dreaded.
I spent a few months half-looking at gyms near me and found that my options were either cardio-geared places like Planet Fitness, which wouldn’t have the weight training equipment I wanted, or serious Olympic weight training gyms that I just didn’t feel ready for. Then I remembered that there are hotel gyms that offer memberships to local residents. Gyms in high-end hotels frequently have a wide range of high end equipment to appeal to their guests and are usually less crowded than regular commercial gyms. I scheduled a time to tour the gym at a Hilton near me and knew as soon as I walked in that this was the gym for me.
Now that I have a gym that fits my needs and my personality, I’ve learned that I didn’t hate the gym, I hated the gyms I’d been to. Going to the gym regularly has not only improved my fitness and physique but has given me increased confidence in my ability and in my body.
The first few times I went to the gym I was timid and cautious with the equipment because I didn’t know how to use it all. To overcome this I would bring my phone with me into the weight room and would pull up videos on YouTube so I could learn how to use equipment I was unfamiliar with and how to have proper form on new exercises. The more comfortable I got with the equipment, the better I felt about my workouts and the harder I pushed. I also started smiling more and making eye contact with other gym members. It wasn’t long before people I thought were intimidating were introducing themselves and complimenting me on my workouts.
The locker room was another reason I avoided the gym. The idea of changing in front of strangers and showering in a public stall caused me to have junior high flashbacks. But, after doing it a few times, I realized that everyone is just trying to change clothes and get on with their day. No one is judging your body and if they are, they don’t deserve the power to make you feel bad about yourself. You are at the gym making healthy choices and you should be proud of that. So, now I walk from the locker room to the sauna in my bikini instead of hiding under a towel – something I never would have done two months ago.
So, if you’re like me and think you hate the gym, you may just need to find the right gym, whether it’s one with aerobics classes, a CrossFit box, a high-energy cardio gym, or a small private hotel gym. As my trainer says, it’s not where you train, it’s how you train. Once you find the right gym for you, I recommend taking advantage of the customary free training session you get with most memberships so you can learn how to use all of the equipment, even if you don’t think you’ll use it right away. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel and the more likely you’ll be to stick with your program.
Remember you have as much right to be at the gym and use the equipment as every one else. Just because you’re not as strong or not as fast as someone else doesn’t mean you don’t belong.
Finally, smile and enjoy your workout! If you don’t have fun with it, you won’t stick with it. A workout you enjoy and do consistently will do more for you than one you hate and therefore only do sporadically.
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