June 10, 2019 at 02:00PM by CWC
I remember when I got my first gym membership in a suburb of Dallas. I was a teenager, and started off fitness-wise by running around my neighborhood—so going to an actual gym was a big move for me. Walking in for the first time, I felt completely overwhelmed. Everyone around me was slaying their workouts and navigating the gym like a pro, and meanwhile I didn’t know my way around those weights machines or the cardio section—at all.
Obviously, being a noob to the fitness world can be extremely intimidating, whether you’re starting a new gym membership or trying a workout class for the first time. There are machines to figure out, workouts to plan, and tons of people around you that seemingly know exactly WTF they’re doing. How’s one supposed to deal with all that on top of doing their exercise, which should be hard enough?
In actuality, it’s all about your mindset—and your form. “A lot of people get intimidated when they’re going to do anything for the first time outside their comfort zone,” says Ryan Johnson, principal and co-founder of Homage Fitness. “In particular, at the gym, there’s an added level of vulnerability because it has to do with the intimacy of your body. And we carry around this hyper-awareness and body consciousness of ourself, and, walking into the gym with that energy, you think that everyone is going to sense this.”
Not only that, but since everyone may appear like they’re professional fitness gurus, it’s common to feel like you don’t belong… and that it will be obvious to everyone around you. “If you fight that notion and realize that everyone else in the gym is dealing with their own body vulnerability as well as figuring out what they’re doing in the gym—and quite frankly doesn’t care what you’re doing—it helps mitigate those feelings,” adds Johnson.
What helps, then, is to go into the gym or your class with an actionable plan. “If you just go in there completely winging it, then you’re going to walk into the weight room and see a sea of equipment and choices and people doing all different things, and you could immediately get intimidated,” he says. “When faced with this wall of decisions, the first thing you’ll want to do is leave or hop onto a cardio machine for a hour.”
“Focusing on form makes you more dialed into your own workout, and you’ll have better breathing, better muscular contractions, and you’ll be focusing your energy inwards—then that’ll wash away any self-consciousness you may be feeling.” —Ryan Johnson
Stick to proper form, and your nervousness should fade away. “You should be paying attention to form more than what other people are doing or whether they’re looking at you because, first of all, for safety,” says Johnson, noting that there’s a myriad of benefits that come along with lasering in on how you’re doing a move. “Paying attention to your own form ensures you’re going to have a safe, effective workout. Focusing on form makes you more dialed into your own workout, and you’ll have better breathing, better muscular contractions, and you’ll be focusing your energy inwards—then that’ll wash away any self-consciousness you may be feeling.”
It’s true—the very first time I took a Barry’s Bootcamp class (very intimidating, BTW), I focused on doing the weight lifting moves properly, even though everyone else was seeming to bang everything out so quickly. And I got an amazing (injury free) workout because of it. “It’ll not only prevent injury, but it’ll help your workout if you just do you,” says Johnson. Very true. As someone who quickly learned to focus on doing my own moves—and doing them properly in perfect form—I no longer care (at all) if other people are looking at me. Because, they’re not.
Thankfully, Well+Good’s got your back in terms of intel on nailing the most basic fitness moves to knock out in the gym. Courtesy of trainer Megan Roup, here’s how to do a proper squat, a curtsy squat, and side lunges, to get you started. Get ready to slay that sweat sesh.