Recently at the gym, I was talking to one of the trainers. I commented to him that the gym was abnormally quiet, just a handful of people worked their little hearts out. What he said in reply got me thinking. He said: “it’s the same regulars here today, there’s not an overweight person in here.”
I hadn’t noticed the physical shape of anyone there, I was focussed on my workout. While I didn’t take that comment as judgmental, but rather an observation of the gym culture at that moment, it did put me right back into my pre-exercising head. I wondered why I didn’t feel like I “belonged” at the gym when I started this journey. I remember being fearful of the gym, all that equipment that I didn’t know how to use, all those fit bodies…like they would all stare at me and judge me while I worked out. I wish I knew then what I know now.
So I’m writing this to the fearful 242 pound couch-potato Me of the past…
from the dorky gym-lover of the future…
Myths and Fears of the Gym
Myth #1: Everyone will stare at me or worse yet, they will laugh at me.
Everyone at the gym is there to get their sweat on. No one is looking at anyone else. Chances are, many of them have the same insecurities as I do. The gym is just a place to go to work all your frustrations out, and show a little love to your heart and body in the process.
Myth #2: I’ll be embarrassed by my red-faced sweaty face.
Sweat is just our body’s way of cooling our internal rising temperature as we exercise. If we are sweating, that means we are working hard. If we are working hard, we are achieving our goal to get our heart rate elevated. As our heart rate elevates, we are actively burning calories. Further to that, the calories we burn at the gym are just a small part of the calories we burn after we leave the gym. Are you sweating during your workout? Congratulations, you are working hard! Personally, when I see someone sweating a lot during their workout, I have a lot of respect for how hard they are working. It motivates me to work even harder.
Myth #3: No one will show me how to use all that equipment.
There are always attendants & trainers walking the floor. Most gyms will show you free of charge how to use each piece of equipment. You probably have a friend who knows how to use them all. Ask them. Ask a stranger at the gym how to use a piece of equipment. People are happy to help.
Here my friend Kristine helped me out one day by showing me how to stretch using a roller after my run. Like a weirdo I took pictures of her so I’d remember how to do it for next time. ha!
Another day, my friend Linda showed Bon and I how to use a Squat rack…
I’m very thankful for their help!
Myth #4: The weight training area is for Men. Women will get big and bulky if they lift weights.
I bought into this myth big time. I used to think the weight training area was for “muscle heads”. If anything, strength training is especially important for women as we naturally have less muscle mass than men do. Further to that, as we age, we lose muscle mass. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine: “Loss of muscle mass, also known as Sarcopenia occurs as a result of aging. After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. Percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.”
Ladies, don’t worry about getting big and bulky because of weight training. We just don’t have the genetic makeup for that (or the testosterone). I also didn’t realize how hard it is to build a lot of muscle. I used to picture body builders when I thought about strength training; however to achieve that form, you need to follow a very strict diet and spend a lot of time focussing on each muscle group. It’s not a reality for most of us. So muscle your way into that strength training area and reap the benefits of improved body composition (muscle is more dense than fat, so it takes up less room), improved resting metabolism, sharpened mental focus, reduced signs and symptoms of chronic conditions (arthritis, back pain, diabetes, depression), improved muscle strength and tone (which leads to improvements to daily life activities), improved posture/mobility/balance, reduced risk of osteoporosis, improved blood-pressure, and increased self-esteem. The benefits are endless.
Hire a trainer to show you how to lift with correct technique or join a class. There are also tons of free online resources. My favourites: http://www.bodybuilding.com and http://www.coachcalorie.com
Before you know it, your confidence will rise to the point you no longer feel out-of-place. Our bodies are incredible machines that adapt quickly & positively to increased demands. Adding strength training to your exercise program has huge positive benefits for your future health. Think of it as an investment towards aging with vitality. Everyone belongs in the strength training area. What makes one person more privileged to be there over another? Nonsense. 😉
Myth #5: I don’t have time to go to they gym.
Time management is tricky within our busy lives. Once you really look at the benefits of exercise and how it will positively affect all aspects of our life, isn’t it worth it? Even 30 minutes 3-4 times a week can produce big results. Don’t have 30 minutes in one chunk? Split it up into 10 minute segments. It takes about three weeks to turn an activity into a habit. Just keep at it, and before you know it, exercise will become an essential part of daily life. I often think about how exercise is essential for my positive mind-set. I wish there was a camera showing people their facial expressions before and after a workout. Exercise releases endorphins. There’s a reason they call it “Runner’s High”. You actually feel a high when you are done! ha! How great is that?! Go get your daily exercise high. 🙂
Myth #6: I don’t “belong” at the gym. I’m not one of those fitness junkies.
Oh my, did I believe this myth. Now that I’ve travelled this road to reclaim my life for 10 years now, I now understand the importance of a well-rounded balanced approach to health, happiness, and vitality. It’s not about a number on a scale or a short-term diet. For me, it requires a lifestyle of eating healthy (I follow the 80/20 rule), cardio, strength training, flexibility, and a focus on those elements that feed my soul and mind with positive. The old me would have read that last sentence and rolled my eyes. I just didn’t realize the joy that would come from living this way. The idea that another’s health and well-being is more important than my own is ridiculous. I used to believe taking that time for myself was selfish. It’s not selfish to take care of your body, mind, and soul. It’s essential for health and happiness. Of course we all belong at the very place that houses equipment to improve our cardio/muscular health.
Myth #7: I’ll go to the gym when I’m more fit.
I had to take the power & intimidation out of the word “gym”. It’s just a space to sweat and work. That’s all. What I’ve gained from that atmosphere is something I didn’t expect. Although I prefer to workout alone, I have gained social interaction I didn’t expect. The people I have met at the gym are amazing. There are no classes of people there. Those business professionals who sport a suit in their day jobs wear sweat pants just like I do. We are all the same, working towards a common goal. It’s not about your external appearance, it’s about pushing yourself a little further every time. Gaining confidence with each workout. It’s about feeling pride within your efforts. Why does one have to be at a certain fitness level to enjoy those elements? Again, ridiculous nonsense.
If you share any of these myths that I once believed, I hope I encouraged you to think about the gym atmosphere in a different way. Go try it out if you’ve been fearful to do so…what do you have to lose (except a bunch of calories burned and a whole lot of stress of your shoulders)?
From my heart to yours,