This isn’t going to be another one of those preachy articles or Insta posts that guilt you into going to the gym or make you feel terrible that you don’t go. Trust me, I’ve been there and only recently I’ve begun to find my feet in the gym. It’s true that exercise and the gym can seem extremely scary and for as long as I can remember, I have hated sports, especially PE in school. To me, sport and competition go hand and hand, and when you are a bit clumsy like me, and as my dad has always said “like a pig on stilts” (always get a giggle out of this because I am the least graceful person you will ever meet), you were pretty much ruled out of any team or sport you tried, because you were considered not good enough.
It never sat right with me that teachers and coaches would pick the most talented people every single time, instead of considering the not-so-talented sportspeople who still put in 110% effort and show up every single time. Don’t get me wrong, I understand how teams and competition works, but at the end of the day, under-14 camogie isn’t the be-all and end-all, and there is no harm in boosting a person’s confidence by starting them out on the team.
So, where am I going with this? These things I have just mentioned have been my experience of sports growing up and I have developed this negative connection to exercise because of it. Having recently spoken to a good friend, she reminded me that exercise is so so much more than sports and competition. It’s about getting some fresh air, moving your body and helping you release all of those happy chemicals in your brain that make you feel like you could take on the world. Whether you are roller skating down the prom in Tramore, bringing your doggo for a walk in the park or out picking daisies, if you are out and about, you are exercising!
I have been terrified of the gym all my life. I never knew what to do, and always felt self-conscious going in there. That and the lack of respect and direction from instructors has left me overdoing things, hurting myself and not wanting to go back. So, this year, 2022, I’ve decided it is going to be the year I put myself first and start looking after myself. I bit the bullet last week and joined a gym (probably the 20th gym membership I have had over the past few years) and you know what? It turns out, gyms are actually not that scary! Who would have thought?
So besties, if you are like me and want to put yourself first and are considering joining a gym as your first step, join me as I am going to share a few tips I have learned so far, and we can tackle the beast that is the gym together and reframe our minds around the way we think about exercise!
Tip Number 1: Find A Gym And Instructors You Are Comfortable With
This is so so important. I have been in so many gyms where the layout was just wrong, the equipment wasn’t great or there were just too many people always there. Another huge issue was gyms with instructors that just had no interest. It is their job to show you around and build a plan for you to help you achieve your goals, so don’t be scared to reach out to them to ask for help. My new gym has trainers who actually come in to check on you during your workout to see if you understand your plan and to make sure your form is right and you aren’t overdoing it. It’s the little touches like that, that make you feel more at ease. So, don’t be afraid to shop around. A lot of gyms offer to pay as you go options. So why not pay for one session, have a look around, get a feel for the place and make a call then whether the gym is the right fit for you?
Tip Number 2: No One Is Looking At You
Sorry to burst your bubble, but in the gym, no one is going to even know you are there. This was a big thing for me. I have anxiety so going to a new place, where I would be doing new things always pushed me into an anxious spiral. Everyone has always told me when you are in a gym, you have tunnel vision and the only person you think about is yourself. Let me tell you, I made it my business this time round to take notice of this, and well, I could be walking around butt naked and no one would even look up from their workout. (This is just an exaggeration, please don’t go strutting around in your birthday suit in a gym). Having this fact in the back of my mind made me a little less scared to try new things because, at the end of the day, every single person in the gym is there to exercise, so you are all in the same boat.
Tip Number 3: Set Goals For Your Goals
It sounds a bit mad, but hear me out. We will all have goals we want to hit in the gym. Whether you want to be squatting your own body weight in 6 months, or you’re like me and just want to be able to do 1 proper push-up, it is so important to set mini-goals for yourself so you leave each and every workout with the extra bonus of nailing a goal. So for example, my plan includes an upper body workout section. Each session, I track what weights I do with how many reps per set. My goal is just to do 1 extra rep or a heavier weight (when I can) each session until I can do 1 pushup. So, regardless of if I can do my end goal, I can happily pat myself on the back when I leave the gym because 1. I showed up and 2. I smashed some form of a goal. Sounds doable, right?
Tip Number 4: Show Up!
Speaking of showing up. I can’t say this enough, but consistency is key. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would enjoy going to the gym, but yesterday, I found myself watching the clock for finishing time at work so I could be out the door and on my way to the gym. Whether you have the energy for a full hour-long workout, or can just muster up enough energy to walk for 15 minutes on the treadmill, chances are if you can get your butt in the door, you’ll do more than you thought you would and you will feel great for it.
Tip Number 5: Listen To Your Body
She does a lot for me, so the least I can do is listen to what my body has to say. If you are sore after a workout, that’s a good thing. It means you are working muscles you haven’t in a while and your hard work is paying off. But, if your body just isn’t feeling it, listen to her. Take the day off and give her time to recover. My plan is to start out with 3 workouts a week with a 10/15 minute walk at lunch most days with the doggo. Build yourself up for success, and not for something that will put you off the gym.
That’s all I have for the moment, but I will be sure to keep you updated on any new lessons I learn from the not-so-scary gym. I’ll leave you on this though, the gym is a fantastic outlet for any type of energy you have built up. Whether it’s excitement, anxiousness, anger or anything in between, going to the gym to throw a few weights around, hitting the punching bag or sticking in those headphones and running/walking, I guarantee you will leave feeling better.
Best of luck besties and remember, if you give the best you can, that is ALWAYS enough!
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