Is one of your biggest reasons for not starting an exercise regimen the fear of going to an unfamiliar gym? If so, you are not alone. I believe this is a fear of most new gym goers whether they will admit it or not. My first time ever attending a gym I felt the same way. A new place full of unfamiliar equipment and unfamiliar people can be intimidating. No one likes to be the “newbie” at anything they do. And then there is the fear that everyone knows you are new and that you don’t know what you are doing. This even stems out to changing gyms and attending one that you are unfamiliar with. It is difficult because it is different and out of your normal routine and comfort zone. So to help with this I will tell you how I handled it and what I recommend to others.
First, when starting a gym usually the person who signs you up will show you around and point out some of the different equipment. You can always ask this person if you get started and are unsure of what to do. Usually most gyms also have trainers either onsite to help or to hire if you really need a starting strategy.
Next, I used to start on the cardio equipment for a warm up when I first got there (you should do this anyway). Most of the time the cardio equipment is somewhere along a wall and you can usually see the gym activity from an outside perspective. This will help you become more comfortable with your surroundings. While you are doing mindless cardio whether its biking, walking, running, or stair stepping, you can be checking out the gym patrons and some of the equipment they are using. Even if you start for the first couple weeks just on cardio equipment you will begin to notice that the same people usually attend the gym at the same time every day. After awhile you may even start to make friends, or at the very least, feel comfortable with the routine of seeing familiar faces.
Once you start feeling a little more comfortable try out some equipment. Maybe start with the simpler machines and observe others using some of the more complicated equipment. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need help!
I know it feels like everyone is watching you when you are in a new gym, but I promise that really is not the case. Most people actually do mind their own business and are lost in their own thoughts, listening to their own music, or zoned out while exercising.
The other myth is that everyone in a gym is going to be young and in amazing shape. I have never seen this be the case and I have been to quite a few gyms in my time. Any gym I have ever gone to has had a decent mixture of young, old, overweight, skinny, muscular, and relatively equal gender distribution. A lot of the time it depends on what time you go to the gym too. Usually early or late morning brings an older crowd while evenings and nights usually have a younger crowd.
If you do decide to start at a new gym and you have gave it a few weeks and you really don’t think you will ever feel comfortable, maybe try a different gym. Some gyms are designed to be family orientated, some are more for powerlifters, some are equipped with mainly machines and not so many free weights, some are really big, some small. Experiment with a few area gyms and see which suits you better. Don’t get discouraged easily! Finding the right gym can be like a therapy to de-stress, a place to escape, or meet new peo all while getting a healthier more active lifestyle!