The right mindset when you’re a newbie at the gym

For the last 3 years I’ve been working out regularly, so I can’t say I’m a beginner. But still, Yoga and (mat based) Pilates require almost no equipment and most of my training sessions at the gym were personal training sessions, so all equipment was prepared for me and I didn’t have to do anything but use it.

A few weeks ago we decided to get a gym membership at our local gym in Hertford. Even though we have some dumbbells at home, the gym is the only place close by with access to a pool, a sauna and of course classes and equipment.

We registered and we started going to classes and use the gym floor for our exercises. And I realized that now I’m on my own. I don’t have someone to put the plates on my exercise bar, no one to set the TRX to the right height or move the resistance cable up and down. I have to learn to do it on my own, I’m a newbie now!

I was really intimidated and nervous, but then I asked myself what would I tell someone who’s really a beginner? And that is exactly what I told myself:

“You are awesome for being here.

You are strong.

Ask for help, no one is laughing at you.

You’re here, make the most out of it.”

Being new anywhere is stressful, but the gym is a special case. It seems like everyone is confident, they know what they’re doing and they are working hard. And you’re just over there, trying to figure out how to change the weight on the resistance machines.

The day I discovered the assisted pull up machine

I had a few classes where I felt like a total beginner.

I didn’t know how to fix my saddle during the first spin class, but I took the courage to go and ask the instructor. Not only she helped, but during the class she came by a couple of times to ask how I’m doing and give me tips. Instructors are happy when they can help make a difference. So ASK questions, they will actually appreciate getting out of their routine.

I went to 2 aerobic classes, where everyone else was a regular and they knew the choreography. Except for me. I never felt so uncoordinated in my whole life! My first feeling was frustration, but then I calmed down, took a step back and decided to make the most out of it. It was impossible to pay attention on how to move both the arms and legs, so I stuck with the legs. The awkwardness faded and I enjoyed myself.

At my first GRIT class (Les Mills strength exercise class, with own-branded equipment), I didn’t know how to load the bar with plates. The engineer in me managed to do it by observing how the loaded ones look and understanding how they might fit in. I wasn’t that smart to take them off though, I kept pulling and pulling… :). I didn’t ask for help, but I got there 10 minutes before the class so I had time to check how others are prepping.

At the first BodyBalance class I had to ask why people have 2 mats (I only had one!). I brought my own mat to the first Yoga class because I had no idea where to get the mats from. It took me a while to figure out where everything is and how to setup the resistance cable machines. And I’m still not sure about some of the equipment.

3 weeks later, instructors started to know me, I say hello if I meet a Yogi on the street and I’m not “the new girl” anymore. I’m that girl that can hold crow pose in Yoga class and can squat heavy weights in the gym (after she manages to setup the damn weights).

One of my fav exercises for the obliques

So if you’re a beginner, here’s the best advice I can give you.

  1. Ask the instructors for help, they will be happy to give you assistance.
  2. If on a break, a fellow gym goer might help if there are no instructors nearby. I would definitely help.
  3. The fact that others might laugh at you is just in your head. They either don’t care or don’t even see you.
  4. Whatever class you’re at, make the most out of it. Even if you then decide that you won’t be doing that again, give it your best when you’re there.
  5. If you have a free induction session as part of your membership, use it. It’s the easiest way to learn how to use the equipment.
  6. Don’t make scenarios in your head and enjoy!
  7. The initial awkwardness will go away, I promise! I’m one of the shyest people I know and I managed to get over it. If I can do it, anyone can.
  8. Remember, you are awesome for being there.

How did it felt when you were a newbie? What advice can you give to a beginner?

Newbie at the gym? Here's some advice on how to get over the gym shyness that every beginner experiences

4 Comments

  1. This is such a brilliant post! I can definitely identify with that feeling of being an absolute Rookie – but it’s totally ok to be a beginner..everyone starts somewhere!

    1. Author

      Yes, everyone is a beginner at some point! We just have to keep going and things will eventually get better. Maybe having a beginner buddy might help?

  2. I totally know that feeling when you go to the class for the first time and the choreography is all new to you. The beginnings are never easy but you get used to it and you get better and better. It’s true, people don’t really look at you, they are just doing their own exercises and nobody will laugh at you, that’s for sure. My first gym session was with an instructor who showed me how to use certain equipment and tools. It was a free session which everybody who joined the gym was entitled too. If you are a newbie, it’s definitely worth making use of any free sessions that gym may offer.

    1. Author

      Yes, definitely, those free inductions are good! Gyms now offer a few things to make it easier for beginners. Anything you do for the first time is awkward, we just have to understand that this is how it is, not get discouraged and go the second time too 🙂

Leave a Reply