For many, the prospect of heading to the gym can be anxiety-inducing. The mere thought of it can send shivers down the spine and knots in the stomach. The gym is often perceived as a place of judgment and body image concerns, rather than a hub for pursuing health and fitness. For me, it was no different; I preferred to work out at home, in the confines of my bedroom or a dimly lit basement, following online fitness instructors. The fear of being seen or judged held me back. It wasn’t until last spring, when my mother invited me to join her in the gym’s women-only section, that I began to see the gym in a new, more inviting light.
Amidst the camaraderie of fellow gym-goers, I found a newfound motivation. It was the first time I associated fitness with joy and support. Over the summer and into the fall, that motivation continued to grow. Here are some valuable lessons I’ve picked up along the way:
1. Start with Simplicity
The gym can be an overwhelming place with various types of exercises and equipment. Starting out may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Begin by selecting 3-4 exercises and stick with them for at least three months. Begin with three sets of 8-12 reps, increasing as needed. A good weight for your exercise should challenge you by the time you’ve completed about 70% of a set. If you’re unsure about exercise selection, you can find “shy girl workouts” on platforms like TikTok. These workouts often use dumbbells and are designed to keep you in one spot in the gym. Most gyms offer machine orientations, where staff can guide you through using the equipment.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Creating a workout plan is one thing; sticking to it is another. Avoid overcommitting, as trying to follow a demanding six-day fitness program can be discouraging. Gradual changes in isolation, such as adding new exercises or resistance, are often more effective. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many changes at once, as it can lead to burnout. Trust your own judgment and control the difficulty level of your workouts. Additionally, choose a convenient gym time that aligns with your schedule.
3. Focus on How You Feel, Not How You Look
While exercise can impact your physical appearance, its effect on mental health is equally important. Concentrating on your mental well-being can lead to profound highs or lows. Regardless of your physical results, it’s vital to consider how you feel about your body and your progress. Regularly check in with yourself before, during, and after each gym session. Are you feeling stronger and more energetic? Paying attention to your body can help you tune into your needs in the moment.
4. Find a Gym Buddy
Having a workout partner can make the gym experience less intimidating and more enjoyable. It can also help you stay motivated and on track. Sharing your successes and encouraging each other can be rewarding. Whether your gym buddy is more or less experienced, supporting each other’s fitness goals can make the journey more fulfilling.
5. Prioritize Nutrition
What you eat is just as crucial as your exercise routine. Ensure you consume enough food, particularly on gym days, to sustain your energy. High-protein meals and snacks are essential for building muscle and keeping hunger at bay. Protein sources like eggs, Greek yogurt, natural protein bars, and quinoa can be included in your meal prep. While protein powders are an option, be cautious of flavored varieties containing excessive processed sugars. Pay attention to the nutrients in your diet to help you feel your best.
Embarking on your gym journey can be less intimidating when following these tips and insights. If you need workout inspiration, consider following fitness accounts on social media. Good luck on your fitness endeavors, and always remember – you’ve got this!