A few months back, I started coaching a new client named Anna. Anna's been a marathon runner for the past 10 years or so but in the last couple, calf and hip injuries have started to appear and she's had to spend more time on the sidelines than she'd like.
Like many runners, Anna always focussed her efforts solely on logging miles. Whilst she was aware of the benefits of strength and conditioning with regards to injury prevention, her participation in this type of training equated to pretty much zero at the time of contacting me. I asked her the reason for this. Her very honest response was that she always wanted to do more strength work, but felt intimidated by gyms and never felt confident enough to train in one on her own.
This isn't uncommon and I can 100% see why many people feel uncomfortable in these spaces. Strength training, of course, doesn't have to be carried out in a gym but they do offer the equipment and an environment that's conducive to making progress. If like Anna, you'd like to do more work in the gym, but feel nervous about visiting or joining one, here's what I'd suggest:
Research the facility - Gyms vary widely with regards to their atmosphere and vibe. Look at their social media to see how they present themselves. Then take an in person tour before you make any decisions. If there's a marketing banner of a massive bodybuilder at the entrance, or lines of people screaming whilst doing biceps curls in front of the mirrors, it's probably not the place for you!
Go in with a training plan - You'll be a lot more comfortable if you know what you're going to do when you hit the gym floor. Prior to training, you could sit down, write out a programme listing exercises, sets, repetitions etc, and take that information in with you. If you're unsure of what to do, search the internet for workout routines from reputable sources, or of course use any of our content :)
Remember that everyone started as a beginner - This is really important in terms of feeling at ease. There will inevitably be seasoned lifters in a gym and these may be the individuals that make you feel unsettled. Just remember, even they started from scratch and they'll know how it feels to be a newbie. Headphones in is generally accepted for avoiding unsolicited training advice from unqualified gym goers.
Get a gym buddy - For a little support and the accountability factor, why not train with a friend. Ask around your friendship groups or you could even post on Facebook. You may just find someone who's looking for exactly the same thing.
Work with a trainer/coach - With professional guidance and someone who's used to the gym environment, you'll gain the benefits of training whilst feeling completely comfortable at the same time. If you're in the London area and interested in one to one coaching, please feel free to contact us here.
By Marc Brown