That first step into a busy gym can be one of the hardest steps to take in your life. You enter an unknown environment, surrounded by unknown others, doing an activity which is, to some extent, unknown.
As you walk nervously towards the rack of dumbbells for the first time, every single person will have felt the butterflies: an ever-present mental prang that everyone in the gym is now looking at you, judging and analysing your every move.
Although the reality couldn’t be much further from our initial perception, it is completely normal to feel certain negative thoughts rushing through your head when you pluck up the nuts to lace up your trainers and hit the gym. I have been training in busy gyms for over 3 years, and I still get the tummy-drop occasionally in the weights room (and that’s not just from dropping the occasionally Ripper during a deep squat….)
Over the years, I have accrued a pretty extensive list of negative thoughts I have experienced myself with regards to training in the gym, and thought it might be useful to share what people are actually thinking…
Thought #1 – I Don’t Know Where To Start, So I’ll Give it a Miss…
Reality: Everyone starts from scratch and some point. No one is born with an innate ability to smash out a 100 kilo Bench…
One of the biggest fears you will inevitably have on your first day at the gym will be that of the unknown; the prospect of going into a room filled with complicated-looking machines, unfamilar faces, and questionable noises being omitted from the dude in the squat rack.
It is scary, and takes a hell of a lot of getting used to, but remember that everyone’s been there; even the most hardened of Gym Nuts were beginners once. Don’t give in to the temptation to avoid the unknown; if you swallow it up and get out of your comfort zone, I promise you will thank yourself later!
Thought #2 – Why Is Everyone Staring At Me?
Reality : No one is looking. It’s All In Your Head…
I used to get a mega-prang approaching a bench that every other dude around me was watching my every move. Being a lanky 6″5 runner, I always felt eyes boring into the back of my very ginger head thinking ‘he shouldn’t be here; he’s just a lost lamb who couldn’t find his way to the treadmills’.
I thought this for a good 6 months before I had the epiphany: no one gives a shit about what you look like, what you’re wearing, or whether you ‘look’ like you should be there. Most gym-junkies will have nothing but respect for the fact you are trying to make positive changes in your life.
Thought #3 – These Weights Are Way Too Light
Reality : Those Weights are probably perfect, so stop being so damn self-concious
The World Of Fitness is plagued by the perpetual myth that one’s success or failure in the gym is defined by how much load they can shift, whether it’d be a squat, bench, or deadlift.
For years, I felt ridiculously embarassed about how puny the dumbbells I was pressing were compared to Mr Bulging-Biceps on the bench next to me. I remember these thoughts invading my self-confidence with ease, to the point at which I was put off even going into the weights room on occasions. To the trusty treadmill, Robin…
It only clicked about a year ago: the instant realisation that those weights aren’t too light. They are what’s right for you and you alone, and take no notice of the bloke in the corner handling a 50kg dumbbell as if it’s a lollipop stick; as long as you are challenging yourself slightly beyond your previous session, you will make the Gainz.
Don’t become an ego-lifter; trust me, they are worse than flat-earthers ….
Thought #4 – That Looks Too Complicated…I’ll Pass
Reality : Variety is the spice of life. Don’t stick to what you know; branch out & ask others to help explain a machine or exercise variation
Walking into the weights area may feel like going into some weird room full of complex-looking instruments of torture, particularly if you aren’t aware of what does what and how they work!
Throw your body a physiological curveball by trying a new piece of equipment to work your muscles in a novel way, therefore helping to maximise progress and avoid a training plateau. All it takes is a simple question or two, and you could find yourself with a spicy new routine that is more effective than before.
That said, remember that consistency is key with any successful training programme; don’t make too many radical changes too quickly. Every now and then, broaden your movement capabilities by switching up the exercises you do for a particular muscle group!
Thought #5 – Not Feeling It Today…I Guess I’ll Just Suck It Up & Crack On
Reality : If you ain’t feeling it, it probably doing you more harm than good…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you shouldn’t hit the gym when its blowing a gale and driving rain outside. If you’ve woken up in a bad mood, or it’s just one of those days, you would probably benefit hugely from a big ol’ session to sweat it out. You’ll no doubt feel a million times better for it!
What I mean here concerns during a session, when your body is probably screaming at you trying to tell you something. I know I myself am very guilty at ignoring signs my body is trying to tell me, and pushing through the pain without considering the damage I could be doing to my body…
Learn to check in and tune to your body’s signals throughout a session to avoid pushing your body over the edge and increasing your risk of injury and overtraining. It takes time, again, but eventually you will become the Alan Turing of your internal signals to help optimise the relationship between your training and health in the long term!
Don’t believe that age-old saying; there definitely is gain without pain. Be sure not to push your body too far over the edge…
The Final Word
There are so many grim thoughts that you may or may not experiencing when lacing up your trainers and heading to the gym.
Next time any of these 5 thoughts come into your head, or any others that may detract from your day-to-day experience in the gym, try to step back and be rational about how you are thinking.
More often than not, you will be caught up in a maze of negative mindests that are not true in the slightest…