Gym intimidation factor – friendships and memberships

How was your Valentine’s Day?  Many of us are just recalling why we made our New Year’s resolutions, and hopefully decided to recommit.  For people trying to improve their health, going to the gym is a deal breaker – but why?  Most of us beginners are very self-conscious and feel more than a little intimidated by all the beautiful people (body builders, lean runners, etc.).  The stereotype of not going to the gym unless you absolutely HAVE to, or are maintaining a great shape, really doesn’t exist anymore.

I see all ages, body shapes and sizes, physical challenges, and huge variations in ability levels, so don’t worry about standing out in the crowd.  Another consideration is that everyone is focusing on improving their own body, not watching you and making a judgement.  I watch everyone, not for how much or how fast, but their techniques on how they do whatever I might be able to use.  I know from experience that people may be doing less because of an injury, or possibly our wonderful, winter weather causing an arthritis or carpal tunnel flare-up.  Judging others disappears after awhile and you judge yourself – using others’ abilities or inabilities to question if you could push yourself to do better.

When I see people who have good definition of a muscle group I’m working on, I’ll go ask “What exercises helped you develop your ___?”, and even ask for other advice.  Don’t be intimidated – these individuals worked hard to get to where they are at!  I have never had anyone get upset at me for asking.  Two words of gym etiquette here:  timing is one.  Wait until the person you want to speak to has paused between their sets (repetitions of an exercise).  Not only will they lose their focus (everyone is focusing on themselves, remember?), but it could be dangerous if you startle them.  I try to get eye contact during a pause to start my conversation.  Second word: brevity – muscles cool down and stiffen if you wait too long.  Even if people are willing to explain a lot, keep that thought in mind; I offer my name and ask if they would be open to any questions I might have later, and leave within 3 minutes.

Many of the people I have talked to are now friends and acquaintances.  Another person to trade smiles with and keep me motivated.  I have actually had times when I was bored and my first thought was to go to the gym for some relaxation.  Yes folks, when going to the gym becomes a habit that you simply don’t question IF you should go, it actually becomes something fun.  I enjoy taking up to 2 hours every day – just for me.  I made the time sacred.  No phone out on the floor; simply an ipod and my favorite, upbeat music.  

I enjoy working out next to someone, or teaching others what I know, but my true friendships understand that I’m not only there to socialize.  My gym membership reminds me of how important I am.  When going to the gym is an escape from your cares and reality, or a ladies’ night out, it gets easier to create a connection with fun and enjoyment.  Don’t ask if you should go to a gym – most us need to have time alone with ourselves.

I’ve caught myself thinking crazy things, creating multiple scenarios, then taking the outcome I wanted most and reinforcing my efforts towards it.  I let songs bring up thoughts and future goals, I’ve dedicated many to my husband and even some to my students, as I look back on my day or week.  It becomes very therapeutic for your physical and mental health to have that “alone” time.  What’s holding you back?  Find a gym that meets your needs (which will change as you learn more) and has people you can smile at.  If they see you smile, you’ll almost always get a smile back – especially in Texas!


About Heather Sanders

Credentialed Middle School Teacher & Special Education Degrees in Social Work and Biology Networking Professional Hope-giving Encourager
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