Based on a true story…
You walk into the gym. From your first step in, every eye turns to you.
You’re a newbie and they can smell it on you. Someone mumbles, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
You fumble your way over to a machine. You don’t really know how it works, but you’re pretty sure you’re sitting in it backwards.
You go to push the weight and it doesn’t budge. But you push so hard you accidentally let out an audible fart.
The scent lingers so you move to the other side of the gym. You meant to start with dumbbells anyway.
The dumbbell you select is way too heavy, but it’s too late, you’re committed.
You stumble a couple steps and drop the weight, knocking over a whole row of dumbbells. The entire gym stops moving and everyone bursts out laughing at you.
That’s when you notice the worst part of all:
You’re totally naked.
Then you wake up…
Other than the part about being naked, this story isn’t too far off from how you may feel in the gym.
You might not be naked, but you feel just as vulnerable. (If you are naked, that’s another issue requiring a different list of suggestions.)
It’s totally normal to feel this way.
My goal is to show you how to move past those fears and intimidations, by keeping these 4 thoughts in the back of your mind.
1. They’re More Afraid Of You Than You Are Of Them
This might not apply when it comes to… say… grizzly bears, or even spiders (worse than bears in my book). But it works in the gym.
When you workout, you start looking inward, scared $#¡†less everyone is watching and judging you. The truth is, no one is watching you.
You know why?
They’re too busy looking inward, scared $#¡†less, thinking you’re watching and judging them.
The fact is, more people feel this way than don’t. So you can be confident no one is paying much attention to you. They’re too concerned with themselves.
Sure, there may be a jerk in your gym from time to time who goes out of his way to make everyone feel inadequate. He’s probably compensating for his own insecurities. Don’t worry about him. He’s a jerk. You’re part of the 99% who isn’t like that, and everyone else thinks he’s a jerk, too.
2. They Don’t Know What They’re Doing
Most people in the gym aren’t experts.
There’s no way they’re watching you and criticizing if your scapulae are retracted properly on the concentric portion of your bench press.
Even with experts, if they don’t know your program or your goals, it can be difficult to tell if you’re doing something “wrong,” or just different.
But as far as everyone else, they aren’t even sure about what they’re doing, let alone if you’re doing something wrong.
And, again, they’re probably not paying attention anyway.
There are some people (normally guys) who will go up to others (normally girls) and offer unsolicited advice. There’s no place for this. (The exception being if they’re actually coaching someone out of doing something dangerous.)
If you run into someone like this, they’re probably just a jerk trying to impress you with their knowledge (so they can get in your pants.) Try to find a polite way to tell them to shove off. The rest of the gym will applaud you.
3. Those Who Know, Understand
There is a small percentage of people, like myself, who might notice if you’re doing something wrong.
The good news is, we’ve been in your shoes, and we get it.
We understand it takes time to get comfortable with different movements.
We don’t expect a beginner to look like a professional athlete.
We know what you’re going through, and we’re just glad you’re there at all. We hope you stick around long enough to see some results.
There’s no reason to be intimidated by someone who genuinely knows his/her stuff, because we won’t be judging you.
I’ve been to gyms that are filled with impressive looking physiques and a couple massive egos.
A guy will throw weights around excessively and bark like a dog. A woman is all dolled up like she’s going to a club and stares down her nose at everyone.
They’re the exception, not the rule.
Ignore them and go about your workout confidently, knowing everyone is too distracted by those jerks to be paying attention to you.
4. You’re A Badass
Don’t gloss over this. It’s important.
I was at a hotel gym the other day when a very overweight man came to the entrance.
In a wheelchair.
I don’t know if he was in a wheelchair because he was overweight, or if he became overweight because he was confined to a wheelchair. It doesn’t matter.
He had trouble with the door, so I opened it for him. He was very nice and we chatted awhile.
While we talked, he started doing some exercises that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. I didn’t say anything and I wasn’t judging him. I just would have programmed his workout differently.
There was no reason for me to say anything about his exercise selection, or his form. Why?
Because he was in there, doing it, and not making excuses.
He was a badass.
I don’t care who you are – man, woman, young, old, fat, skinny, fashionable, fashion-less, rich, poor, healthy, or a regular at your doctor’s office. If you can manage to get yourself in the gym at all, you’ve already overcome the most difficult part.
You’re a badass.
It might take a few days of being extra sore.
It might take a few weeks to feel like you have any idea what you’re doing.
It might take a few months to start hitting your goals.
But today, you’re a badass. Embrace it.
Then you can overcome any intimidation the gym gives you. Eventually you’ll wonder why you ever felt intimidated in the first place.
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