I love going to the gym, as you’ve probably noticed, but it’s because of how I feel afterwards. The endorphins flying around my body make me think I’m KING OF THE BLOODY WORLD, but whilst I’m there, nope, not so much a fan … and here’s why in one (possibly made-up word): GYMTIMIDATION.
Do you go to the gym and worry that other people are judging you? Do you avoid the free weights area because it’s full of buff men grunting a lot and you don’t quite know what you’re doing? Do the machines scare the bejesus out of you? You’re not alone. I have felt like that for a long time and over the last five months I’ve found some ways to cope with it so that I can still have a good workout without the stress.
If music be the food of love and all that … crank it up high my friends! I’ve recently been sent some new wireless headphones (that I’m going to review on here soon) and they are brilliant. So as I walk up the stairs to the gym, I pop them over my ears, select my gym playlist on my phone, and that’s me zoned out for the next 90 minutes. I can highly recommend spending some time creating the perfect playlist because it’s what’s going to a) keep you motivated through your work-out and b) distracts you from anything else going on in the gym – including man-grunting.
I literally spend all my money these days on gym clothes. It’s a bit sad, and I’m trying to break the habit by venturing out into dating clothes these days, but it’s a hard habit to break. But the reason I am so concerned about gym clothes is not because of how I look to other people, but because of how they make me feel. The right gym clothes will skim over your perceived flaws and accentuate all that good stuff #Bootay. Finding decent gym clothes when you’re bigger like me, however, isn’t easy, but it’s trial and error. The main thing – get a decent sports bra and again, I’ll do another blog post on that because it’s so important. But when I have my favourite gym clothes on, I feel like … well, like I belong in the gym as much as the young, thin, fit people do. I saw a pair of gym leggings online today for £125 (crazy right?) but I tend to shop at Sports Direct or supermarkets, and have found some good kit along the way that makes me feel super confident.
Sometimes I like to cover up and wear dark clothes, and other times I like to let it all hang out – I just wear what I feel like that day and don’t really care what anyone else thinks. That confidence has been a long time coming but I’m so in the zone, I honestly just wear what I like – it will happen to you too:
3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP
I emailed my (female) gym manager and told her about my issues with the gym as a female member, in the hope that maybe she’d just get where I was coming from. Lack of smaller weights, stretching area in the middle of the gym being ridiculous, lack of staff (particularly female staff) to help and support, and finally, I also explained how the free weights area was so male-dominated we, as women, felt intimidated. It didn’t work – I felt she got rather defensive instead of understanding how I felt, but I’m still glad I wrote to her because maybe someone else will write to her too and it will help her see that it’s a good idea to try and at least see how to make a gym a comfortable place for women to be. We deserve to be there as much as anyone else, so it’s only in their best interests. Especially when a brand-new gym has opened up opposite! But don’t be afraid to speak up. If you’re lucky enough to have PTs milling about the place, ask their advice – on how to use machines, on how to create bespoke workouts, but I’m sure they’d be happy to help with anything you’d need.
I’m lucky enough to be able to go to the gym whenever I want, work permitting, and so after it became apparent that Monday nights in particular were really busy, I switched to daytime sessions. It means less people, all machines and free weights are free, and I can concentrate more on what I’m doing without worrying about all ‘the other stuff.’ So if you’re able to be flexible about when you train, maybe think about going when the gym is a little quieter.
5. GO WITH A FRIEND
I love training with a friend because you can have a laugh, whilst still working out of course, and it just takes the pressure off you walking into the gym and feeling like the new girl at school. But a word of warning though, if you’re serious about your exercise goals, make sure your gym mate is someone with the same dedication and determination as you – it’s easy for a session to become just a life catch-up, and then your squats never get done. Save the chat for the coffee afterwards, and just enjoy working out with a like-minded friend. It’s also good for motivation – we all need a kick up the butt occasionally and sometimes when I haven’t felt like working out, knowing my friend is going is all the motivation I need.
The reality is that 99% of gym-goers are there to work out and not stare at fellow exercisers. I promise you that they most people don’t go to the gym to look at what you’re doing, rather I think that sometimes it can look and feel like people are staring because they’re mid-set, or they’re thinking about what exercise to do next, or yes, sometimes they’re looking because a woman, or man, is good-looking. But if you look closely, most people also have their headphones in and they are zoned out too. I’ve found myself looking at women having personal training sessions, but it’s only because I’m interested in what they’re doing (so I can steal the routine!) … I’m in no way judging. In fact, I may have even smiled and given a thumbs up to a mother and daughter working out last week – I’m pretty sure it put them off, but I wanted them to know I was supporting them.
I read once about a man filming a woman from behind on a treadmill and trust me, if that ever happened to me, or I saw that happen, I would shove that phone so far up his rectum he’d be taking photos of his lungs. Stuff like that is rare though, and I’ve never seen anything like that all at my gym. But if you do see it, call me – I’ll come straight over. I’ve got your back!
Gyms are not the domain of just the muscular and perfect anymore. We are all there to better ourselves, and finding your inner confidence is key, and the gym is going to help you create/enhance that, so stick with it.
You might think that all gyms are full of beautiful supermodels or Arnie-wannabes – trust me, they’re not. A lot of them are full of people just like you and me – overweight, a little older, and out of shape. Oh, and don’t forget, you’ve seen what a hot, sweaty mess I look like after a workout, and you’re never going to look as bad as that!
Just go for it. I promise you, you’ll be so glad you did. Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your goals. You’ve got this.