So! You've bought yourself a Chop Shop Physiques gym membership (Welcome, by the way!). With just a tap on your phone, you now have 24/7 access to two gym locations and a wealth of machines, equipment, and space.
However! If you're reading this, there is a good chance you understand what I mean by "gym anxiety". A sensation of fear might be holding you back from achieving your full potential.
According to Routine Excellence, the four main reasons people experience gym anxiety include: feeling like you don't belong, not knowing what to do, feeling like others are watching or judging you, and comparing yourself to other people. Regardless of why you're feeling nervous, here are some things you can do to help alleviate some anxiety about going to the gym.
When you don't know where to go, you can easily feel out of place. To be honest, nobody is watching you and thinking "wrong place, bud." Everybody understands why you're here - for a good workout! They know because that's why they're here, too.
If you're scared of looking lost, consider requesting a gym tour! At Chop Shop, our gym equipment is organized so that everything that works legs, for example, is in one area and everything that works chest is in another area, etc.
If you're not comfortable asking for a tour, my best recommendation is to get to some higher ground. You can climb onto the StairMaster (back of the gym, against the wall!) in our Stony Plain location, OR, you can hop on a cardio machine in the loft at our Spruce Grove location.
From up high, you'll be able to see the entire gym and you can get a good idea of which machines are where.
When you come to the gym without a plan, you risk not thoroughly targeting the parts of your body you intend to. If you're most comfortable training legs, you might feel some subconscious pull leading you to a squat rack even when you planned to work out, say, your back and shoulders.
Coming to the gym without a planned workout is like driving to a new location without a map. You'll still get there, yes, but you'll enjoy a stronger sense of purpose and satisfaction if you get to cross things off a pre-made list.
By planning your daily routine(s), you avoid over-training or under-training certain muscle groups. Over-training happens when you don't give yourself enough rest after training, so you become more fatigued, your performance may suffer, and you put yourself at higher risk for injury.
Under-training can lead to boredom and stagnation - you don't feel yourself getting stronger or building more stamina. Your workouts begin begin to feel like they're not serving you. If you're under-training, you can easily get discouraged. Try to avoid both scenarios by creating some structure ahead of time and sticking to it!
It is extremely important that you exercise according to your own current ability. The amount of weight that the person next to you is lifting should have no impact on the amount that you lift.
Especially when you're new to resistance training, it's important to use good judgement when choosing which weights to work with. Your frame size, muscle mass, mobility, general health, age, and coordination all contribute to how much weight you'll be able to lift right away.
Even with regular training, your genetics are unique and play a major role in the rate at which you'll build up strength. The idea is to avoid injury so you can keep crushing workouts and building strength. If you go too heavy too soon, you can injure yourself and set yourself back a few days/weeks (or longer!) as your body recovers.
If you used to lift weights and are returning to the sport after some time, you might feel discouraged to find that you haven't retained 100% of your strength. Not to worry: You have a solid foundation already and with consistency and effort you will see your strength return.
You can avoid the perception of judgement by coming to work out at "slow" times. The gym is usually busiest in the early evening, around 5 PM, which is when many people get off work or finish their classes for the day. The gym starts getting roomier around 7 - 8 PM.
As you might expect, even fewer members are present during nighttime. If you're not big on working out when lots of other members are present, see if your schedule allows you to visit the gym when it's the least busy!
If you struggle with body image in any way, you may find it easier to work out when you're not focused on your appearance. A loose-fitting shirt, some indoor shoes, and some comfortable athletic pants are all you need. Add a sports bra to that list if you need chest support.
Alternately, many people find that they feel more confident when wearing outfits specifically designed for the gym. Investing in well-fitting gym clothes in colours you enjoy wearing can hep boost your mood and help you head to the gym feeling stylish.
We also form psychological associations between the clothing we're wearing and the activities we do while wearing said clothing. If you're not totally comfortable wearing tight things, consider a trendy "Pump cover" instead of a skin-tight suit, for example.
The truth is that you don't actually need to speak a word to anybody if you don't want to. Some people come for the atmosphere and the community, and other people come for the workout alone. You are more than welcome to tune out anything and everything while you're here. Put on your favourite music or a good podcast perhaps, and focus entirely on yourself.
You can stay as long as you like, or you can have the world's quickest session - no questions asked. We may say hello to you at the front (if you come during staffed hours) but you are never obligated to answer and have a conversation.
Hopefully after reading this, you feel at least a little bit less tense and more ready for the next time you show up to exercise. You're welcome here anytime!