OK SO THIS POST IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT, BUT IT IS SOMETHING I HAVE WANTED TO TALK ABOUT FOR A WHILE. IT IS SO EASY TO FEEL INTIMIDATED AND CLUELESS WHEN ENTERING A GYM TO WEIGHT TRAIN AS A WOMAN. HERE IS HOW I OVERCOME THAT FEELING!…
Discovering weight training
Funnily enough, I am currently using the gym that I initially joined years and years ago. I remember walking in and being shown how to use the cardio machines and a few of the assisted weight machines. I was also shown where the dumbbells were and the mats for some ab work and that was it.
Now don’t get me wrong, everybody in the gym has a different goal. Not every woman has the itch to weight train & for some, a few cardio machines and a dumbbell station may be ample. However, even then when I wasn’t really clued up on a barbell, I knew I wanted to ‘tone up’. What I didn’t realise at the time was that for me, the easiest way to ‘tone up’ would be to lift.
Anyway, I Googled a few exercises and tried them out when I went to the gym. They were usually the typical arm exercises (bicep curls, shoulder press etc) but all completed with a dumbbell and all completed with a lighter weight because ‘I didn’t want to get big’. I remember how I used to quickly drop the weights and run to a cardio machine if a younger male walked in the gym or if I thought they had seen what I was doing. When you are trying something new, and its not just that new exercise your trying, but it is also a new gym and new surroundings, we all know how intimidating it can feel as a woman and how silly you sometimes can feel.
So I went to Uni, left that gym and joined one with a friend in Cardiff. It was there where I started to look into ‘weight’ training as I know it now. We started a programme (I didn’t even realise these existed before) and we went religiously. It was at this point where I started to get an itch for it. It was the first time I had seen my body shape drastically start to change. I noticed that the heavier I lifted, the more I leaned out the more I dropped fat.
After being a member of some commercial gyms (the big chains) in between leaving Uni and moving out, I decided to go back to basics and join the first gym I ever went to when I finally settled back to where I am now. In my personal opinion, the Council run gyms/Leisure Centres are the best. I found this in Cardiff and I found it where I live now. If you want a basic gym, no riff raff, no high prices and nothing fancy then they are by far the best. The memberships often mean that you have access to multi site gyms. They are never as busy as the commercial chain gyms, you can get in, get your work out done and get out. It can be almost impossible to follow a programme in a busy gym as you have to base your workout around what machines are accessible ( & this always used to put me in a bad mood!)
I knew I wanted to weight train in my new gym, but I still felt pretty intimidated (mainly because the ‘heavy’ weights are in a completely different room to the cardio machines and you hardly ever saw women in there!) My husband joined the same gym and I asked him to take me to the ‘men’s gym’ (as I called it then) and take me through some exercises. It was at this point where I really started to enjoy using barbells, squat racks and cables. From that point on I was hooked.
The more I went and the more I familiarised myself with the machines, the less intimidated I felt and the more I loved it. Now I love changing my workouts up, trying new exercises (even if they don’t work out!) and experimenting in the gym. I never ever feel uncomfortable there and have finally got to a place where I genuinely enjoy working out. It has become a major part of my life and more of a hobby than a chore.
So here are my top tips to getting the most out of the gym as a woman who wants to weight train:
- If you don’t know ASK! Some of the first things I ever learnt were from swallowing my ego and admitting to the gym instructor in Cardiff that I had no clue what I was doing. When myself and my friend joined that day, we had a printed out programme in front of us with the names of the exercises, but not a clue on proper form and technique! We asked a gym instructor to help and he was happy to. Utilize your gym and ask the instructors..that’s what they are there for and more often than not, they love to be asked and to help. If you feel completely out of your depth, tell an instructor what you want to train that day (i.e. upper body, lower body, arms, legs etc) and ask him/her to show you a handful of exercises. This is where you can start to build up your confidence and your knowledge; build on these exercises, keep asking questions and start to build yourself a mini programme. You don’t need to worry about switching it up until you have mastered the handful of exercises that you are learning. Keep it simple! Having a gym instructor help you will hopefully ease the initial uncomfortable feeling you can get when you start a new gym. If you really want to commit yourself, you can purchase personal training sessions.
- If the gym is completely new to you, devote a whole session to just familiarising yourself with the equipment. This doesn’t include the induction! Ask a staff member when the quietest time is and try and go at least once at that time. Use the session to try out new exercises, so you don’t feel uneasy having to perform these in front of a busy gym for the first time
- Take a friend! If you have a friend who is willing to go with you, jump at the opportunity. However, make sure that friend is as committed as you and has the same goals…otherwise they may be more of a hindrance rather than a help. Having a friend that can ‘spot’ you i.e. check your form and assist you with your last reps if need be can be a massive help.
- Find a goal and pre-plan your workouts. Not everybody has the same ideal shape and therefore not everyone needs to be doing the same workouts. Google, Youtube and Instagram search fitness models, professional athletes and so on to find your goal. You will never look the exact same but you will start to notice what you like and dislike, and can roughly base your training around this. For example, my ideal shapes are those of Heidi Somers and Jamie Eason.
- Never enter a gym without an exercise plan. Unless you have an amazing memory or a wealth of knowledge regarding exercises, going into the gym without a plan can be so demotivating. I have done it before and its not good! Have a specific plan in front of you i.e. if you are doing an upper body and lower body split, search for different exercises on websites such as Bodybuilding.com (or follow a whole plan from there) and stick to it.
- Mind over matter – It is so easy to turn away from an area where a bunch of men are hogging the weights. I used to do it all the time and the reason I used to is because I thought they would get mad at me for unracking all of their weights to put my little weights on (ridiculous, I know!) You have to remember that you are paying the exact same price to be there as they are. More often than not, they won’t even notice you (no offence) and if you approach them they are probably happy to help anyway! I often ask someone to help me move a bench or to unrack weights. It sparks a conversation and immediately removes that intimidating feeling so many women can feel when lifting…you will never know unless you try.
- Don’t forget every gym is different; they all have different equipment and machines. Everybody who is new to a gym will find they have to familiarise themselves their new playground. This may be as small as knowing how to adjust seats on machines or as big as knowing which piece of equipment does what. No matter what stage you are at, everybody is new at some point.
- You will always be learning. I am nowhere near where I want to be. To progress I have to learn and switch up my workouts. I often try out a new exercise to find out it’s not how I expected or my form is off or it doesn’t feel right…but that’s normal! Nobody is looking at me and laughing. If I see someone trying something new in the gym, I am often only looking to see if I can copy it!
My main point from this whole post is that your gym is your playground. It is there to have fun with, experiment with and enjoy. Surely going to your gym (especially when it is warm outside) to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes isn’t all fun, right? Pick up a weight…I dare you!
So I hope you enjoyed this article! They are the things that definitely helped me!
Thanks for reading