Raise your hand if you’ve ever walked into a local leisure centre, clocked the swathe of fit lycra-clad gym bunnies congregating around various bits of complicated machinery and felt like walking straight back out?
If you’ve just mentally stuck your palm in the air, take solace in the comforting thought that you’re not alone. Feeling confident in the gym can be hard, especially if you’re new to exercise.
Building confidence takes time, but with a bit of perseverance, you can push past your self-doubt and ace your gym schedule. Here, we’ve found some useful tips for getting the most out of that expensive membership.
1. Have a personal training session
One of the worst things about going to the gym for the first time is the feeling that everyone’s got one eye on what you’re doing.
If you’re the type of person who self-consciously fiddles around with the dumbbells for a few minutes, before resigning yourself to a 15-minute power walk on the treadmill, it might be a good idea to book in for at least one session with a personal trainer.
A qualified trainer will listen to your fitness goals and can coach you through a set of effective exercises that you can take forward into your future solo gym sessions. That way, you won’t be left feeling like a lemon when you’re confronted with a gym floor of people who already have their personal routine down.
2. Do your research
Are you a fast and furious cardio fan, or would you prefer to lift hard and heavy? Not all gyms are made equal and some boutique studios might have a specialism in a particular sport or type of training, so it’s good to do some research ahead of time.
Check out the classes and facilities each gym has to offer and bear in mind that a smaller studio offering step-by-step classes might be less intimidating than joining a bigger space.
Take advantage of any intro offers or free day passes too, so you can get a feel for the atmosphere before you commit to signing up.
3. Bring a friend
They say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and that’s totally true when it comes to the gym.
If you’re feeling nervous about showing up to a bootcamp class, or even just giving the treadmill a try on your own, rope in a buddy to come along and soak up the awkwardness with you.
Even if you spectacularly mess up and are left red-faced for reasons outside of the workout, the two of you can always laugh about it over a protein shake afterwards.
4. Get a proper gym induction
If classes aren’t your thing and you’re genuinely keen to crack the gym floor, make sure you ask for a gym induction on your first day.
Although most of the machines will have some form of instructions on them, it’s worth getting a quick demonstration from a staff member who knows what they’re doing and can show you the correct form for avoiding injury.
As well as being a good primer for the gym equipment, a brief induction around the building will also help you to familiarise yourself with the whereabouts of everything you need – from lockers to toilets to showers.
5. Find a workout that you love
There’s nothing worse than counting down the minutes on your fitness tracker and praying for a boring workout to end. If you’re not sure which kind of fitness is for you, there’s no better way to find out than to experiment with a variety of different types.
Whether it’s boxing, reformer Pilates, weight lifting or running, seeking out the type of class that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning is the best way to ensure your commitment won’t slip – even if it’s pouring with rain outside.
Finally, although it can be disheartening to feel like everyone on the gym floor is much fitter than you, it’s good to remember that everyone has been a beginner at some stage.
Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far and actually showing up to the gym. Even if you get tangled in a resistance band, send an exercise ball bouncing across the room or gasp your way through a warm up, cringe safe in the knowledge that you’ve just taken the first step in prioritising your health and wellbeing.