As we sit down to celebrate Christmas with our family and friends, I’d like to share a quick note to those who are already looking ahead to 2013 with hopes of taking control of their health and fitness — once and for all.
Dear New Year Newbie,
Welcome! I know this was a big, scary step for you to take after all these years of saying “tomorrow’s the day.” I know because I’ve been there. It wasn’t the new year when I took that first step in to the gym. But, for me — like for you, it was a brand-new start.
I’ve walked in your shoes, and I know that it can be hard to take that step, wondering what those other people must think of you when you walk through that door. But, don’t be too scared. Most people in the gym are there for the same reason: To take control of their health and to reap the benefits of exercise.
Now, you may hear people bemoaning the presence of the “Resolutionists.” I won’t lie to you: it’s true that some people will roll their eyes or make snide comments about your presence in the gym, knowing that many who “start fresh” on Jan. 1 don’t last through February.
But, I also promise you: it’s not everyone. Some people will welcome you to the gym and provide encouragement and advice (sometimes unsolicited). A majority, though, will go about their business, lifting weights, running on the treadmill or punching the heavy bag. They probably won’t even know you’re there. Because when they’re in the gym, they are there to do work — and, truthfully, they don’t care what anyone else is doing.
That last type? That’s me.
I go to the gym to get stuff done. Don’t be offended it I don’t make chit chat or approach you and say hello. Granted, if we make eye contact, I’ll absolutely smile and say “hi.” And, if you come up to me with a question, I’ll take out my headphones and answer. (OK, if I see someone looking really lost, I’ll ask them if they need help.)
I do know it’s scary to go to the gym alone because you’re afraid everyone’s looking at you, judging you. Rest assured, they’re not. Most people are like me: They want to get a good workout in, so they’re really not judging (or even noticing) the other people who walk through the door.
But, I do offer a few words of advice to make your first days in the gym a little smoother:
- Learn the gym’s rules. If there’s a 30-minute limit to the cardio equipment, observe it. If you have to pre-register for a spin bike, do so. If there are certain lockers reserved for specific members, don’t use them.
- Learn the “culture” of your gym. There’s a certain cycle/personality of every gym at different times of the day. For instance, I’ve learned that I’d rather lift in the morning because that’s when people are less chatty and more business when it comes to the gym. And I seldom have to push through a crowd of gossiping guys (and, yes, at my gym, it’s always the guys) to get to the weight bench. It may take time to really figure out the pulse of your gym, but you’ll be glad you did.
- Use common courtesy. Don’t stand around blocking equipment while you’re chatting or resting or (for whatever reason) texting/gabbing on the phone. Be aware that there are other people in the gym, too. And be respectful. Oh, yeah, please (dear, God, please) wipe down the equipment after you use it.
- Take advantage of the gym’s resources. Many gyms offer information, get-to-know-the-gym sessions, classes and nutrition resources that will help you reach your goals. What’s even better? Most of it is free.
- Learn how to use the machines or weights or whatnot. If you don’t know how, ask. You’ll save yourself a lot of time — and injury. There is gym staff for a reason. And, if they’re not helpful, find another gym (if you can) where they are. Other gym-goers will most usually help when you ask them — as long as you do so courteously and appropriately.
- Have confidence. Know that you’re there for one reason alone: you. And have faith in your own strengths and abilities. One thing about this new life you’re stepping into: You’ll quickly learn that you’re stronger than you ever imagined.
- Forget them. Stop worrying about what other people in the gym are thinking about you and do what you know needs to be done. Once you get past that “ohmigoshwhataretheythinkingaboutme” hurdle, you’ll have a much more pleasant gym experience. Trust me. As soon as I realized no one really cared what I was doing in the gym (unless I was in their way), I stopped dreading the trip and started looking forward to it.
- Don’t quit. You’re not going to be perfect at everything you attempt in the gym. I’ve failed at a lot — T2.5 often has to teach and reteach (and reteach) me how to do a lot of things. As someone who strives (STRIVES!) to be perfect in everything, this is hard for me. But, I grow so very much in the learning that it’s worth every failure when I finally succeed. So, please, please don’t give up. Love yourself to know — truly, deeply — that this is the best gift you could give yourself. And you are worth the work and the time and the money.
So, please, try not to be too nervous about the gym. I know that it can seem to be an intimidating place. But, once you get to know your gym, you’ll grow to love it and the feelings of empowerment and strength it can help you realize. And, if you ever doubt your strength — or your place in the gym — tell yourself, “I am worth this. I deserve this. I belong here.” Because you are, and you do.
I’m not an expert by any means, but I do know about my experiences (and my successes and my failures). And if you’d like to reach out and ask questions at any point along your journey, I’d love to answer them.
P.S. I’m really proud of you for setting these goals and making this commitment to yourself. You deserve only the best, and I’m excited to see how far you can go!