By JOANNE HENSON
Recently I’ve had a number of conversations with people who say they’d love to get fit but feel intimidated by gyms. I wrote an article earlier this year about how you can get fit without a gym membership, but if you’d actually prefer to exercise in a space designed for it, here are some tips on making your first few gym visits less daunting:
- Check out a few gyms before joining, and consider checking them out more than once, at different times of the day. Each gym will have a slightly different mix of members, and you’ll probably find that the mix changes at different times of the day – for instance, retirees in the afternoon, younger office workers in the early evening, hardcore bodybuilders later on. Find a gym and a time where the members feel most like you and you’ll instantly feel like you fit in.
- Get to know the layout, and how the equipment works. All gyms offer free inductions to new members, so use that time to ask lots of questions. Then don’t be afraid to ask for more advice as you go along. The staff would far rather be answering questions and helping than sitting around with nothing to do.
- Get advice on the best exercises for your goals too – don’t waste your time on a treadmill if you actually want to tone up your arms (clue: you should be in the weights room!). Get a staff member to tell you what is going to work best, and to check your technique – the better the exercise choice and the better it is performed the quicker the results.
- Don’t go mad on the first few sessions! Ease yourself into your new regime. If you’ve joined a gym before and then stopped going, it could have been because you went too hard too soon and then associated the gym with suffering and soreness. Give your body (and your mind) time to get used to moving again.
- Wear something really nice! It’s tempting if you’re not very happy with your body to throw on some old leggings and a baggy tee-shirt, but that will just make you feel frumpy. Buy some colourful, flattering kit and wear it. If you look good, you’ll feel more confident and more comfortable in the gym environment, and you’re more likely to look forward to getting to the gym and looking the part.
- Be patient. If you’re looking for big changes to your body it won’t happen immediately. Read enough women’s magazines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you can change your body shape in a month, but in fact it takes a lot longer than that to see results from exercise. You’ll start feeling fitter pretty quickly, but the toned arms and thighs, the flatter belly and the smaller dress size will take a bit longer. So hang on in there and don’t get disheartened.
- And finally, despite what you may think, other gymgoers are not looking at you. They are too busy checking themselves out in the mirrors!
Joanne Henson is a health and weight-loss coach, specialising in helping people with a history of failed diets and fitness regimes to change their relationship with food and exercise for good. From unhealthy beginnings she overcame her own obstacles and now motivates and inspires others to become the healthier, leaner, happier people they’ve always wanted to be.