Let’s face it, getting in shape is much easier said than done. We’re all busy, we lose motivation, and sometimes even when we make it to the gym, our workouts are not as productive as we hoped they would be. Going to the gym seldom matches the experience we see blasted across social media with fitness models smiling ear to ear while flawlessly executing perfect squats or lunges. In fact, going to the gym can actually be a huge source of anxiety for many people.
Enter: Weightroom intimidation.
Weight room intimidation speaks to feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, or intimidated (obviously) at the gym. The phenomenon can stem from numerous reasons, but most likely due to inexperience with strength training or weight lifting equipment. Typically, the usual suspects of professional-looking grunting bodybuilders hogging every machine in the weight room don’t exactly make approaching the bench press any easier.
Additionally, weight room intimidation does not discriminate between males, females, age ranges, or individual fitness level: anyone can feel apprehensive to jump into the mix. But we shouldn’t let our nerves get in the way: strength training is a great addition to our healthy routines for numerous reasons.
Pros of Anaerobic Exercise
The stigma that weightlifting is only meant for rugged body-builders has lost steam, and its wake is a new thriving inclusive culture embracing the physical benefits of lifting. This new understanding of strength training has been reinforced by a new generation of social media fitness influencer celebrities who have built their platforms off highlighting its overwhelming health benefits.
There are scores of health benefits that come with incorporating strength training into our exercise routines. While cardio exercises like running, biking, and swimming are great for burning calories and endurance, strength training is more impactful in stimulating muscle growth to achieve the “toned” look we all want for our summer bodies. Anaerobic exercise (strength training) is just as powerful as aerobic exercise (cardio-based training) in releasing endorphins, which improves our mental health by combating anxiety, stress, and depression.
Physically, strength training builds lean muscle mass, which revs up our metabolisms, which helps us lose fat quicker as well as improves our energy levels to keep us from feeling as fatigued throughout the day. Weight lifting also proves to be the “exercise that keeps on giving”, in that you will continue to burn more calories throughout the day after your work out is done. As your muscles increase in size, your body will naturally burn more through calorie reserves to fuel your body and maintain your muscles. This undermines the traditional belief that cardio-based exercise will help you lose weight quicker by burning more calories.
Furthermore: incorporating strength training into your regular routine is also great for improving everyday quality of life. Weight lifting is proven to:
- build overall strength, which improves endurance for day to day activities.
- Lowers blood sugar by regulating insulin levels
- Protects joints and improves bone health, which can help combat illnesses like osteoporosis that are commonly associated with aging
- Reduces the probability of common diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and arthritis.
Here are some tried and true strategies that will help you not let weight room intimidation get in the way of reaching your fitness and health goals!
While the time-old “failing to plan is planning to fail” expression may be slightly dramatic for this circumstance, preparing ahead of time is a great way to get the most out of your work out. Sometimes weight room intimidation can stem from something as simple as not being able to find what machine to start with or feeling lost among other gym-goers who have set routines. Gym anxiety can also easily result from inexperience: not knowing how to properly use a machine while a steady line of people are waiting for you to finish your set.
Thanks to its status as one of the most popular verticals of social media, fitness content are literally everywhere. Take advantage of it! Watch YouTube tutorials about certain exercises or save an Instagram work out to try from one of your favorite fitness influencers. Resources and routines are everywhere, giving you an easy-to-access plan for any gym session.
Since weightlifting is foreign territory for many of us, there are simple ways that you can gain experience with lifting weights before jumping straight into hardcore weight training. One great alternative is to begin by taking group fitness classes that utilize strength equipment.
For example, the LesMills classes like BodyPump, which focus on using low weights and high repetition exercises that target a specific muscle group or part of the body. In doing so, you will learn proper form and teach your body how each movement should feel to properly train your muscles while also not risking injury. These classes also can help develop preliminary muscle strength to train optimally.
Especially considering the latest developments with exercise equipment and technology, many weight machines take a little experimenting with before understanding how they work. While getting your lay of the land, make sure to be cautious!
Many weight room injuries come from overexerting oneself, so especially if you are a newbie, start with light weight and high reps. As you get more comfortable with the exercise or equipment, increase the weight incrementally.
Weight room anxiety can kick in two-fold when every machine is taken. A great alternative to get your work in is by modifying your work out to dumbbells instead, which are usually still open even during peak hours. When planning your workouts, think of ways you can either substitute them with dumbbells
Another extremely effective strategy for weightlifting that typically utilizes dumbbells is super setting. Supersetting means quickly alternating between two different exercises that target the same muscle group without rest to hyper-stress the body, stimulating more muscle growth through exhaustion. Most superset routines can incorporate dumbbells as at least one of the movements, ensuring that you will still get an impactful work outdone even during your gym’s peak hours.
Digitize Your Workout!
For a little extra guidance, take advantage of the countless fit-technologies that can help guide you through your work out. Fitness-based applications or technologies like wearables have recently surged in popularity due to how effective they have proven to be in areas of coaching, tracking, and motivating their users.
For strength training apps, in particular, several popular applications have distinguished themselves as the most useful. For example, JeFit easily tracks your work out splits and advises users what muscle groups to exercise on particular days. Other coaching applications like the Nike Training App or sWorkIt operate by using your feedback and fitness goals before designing your customized plans to follow.
Not only can they give you the expert guidance and motivation to get you through your lifting session, but they also can help you keep track of your fitness goals and progress. In fact, modern software for gyms has been designed to integrate with these new applications so that all your workouts can be logged in one place. Tracking progress and seeing results is imperative in terms of keeping our motivation and also willing to step out of our comfort zones at the gym.
And of course, don’t forget your most important technology for any work out: streaming music player and headphones
Just like with anything, tackling a new challenge with a familiar face by your side can make it slightly less daunting. Finding a work out buddy will keep you motivated and make you more confident to head into the weight room without reservations. You can also take advantage of planning partner workouts together as well as having someone there to spot you to take on more challenging weights.
Bonus Tip: Buy a New Gym Outfit
This is my extremely biased advice coming as someone who lives and breathes for cute activewear, but I absolutely swear by “look good, feel good” in the gym context. Just as weight room intimidation is the product of our own minds, our own self-confidence can help negate it as well. When my workout outfit is flattering and makes me feel confident, I am way more willing and excited to jump into the middle of a packed weight room!
Don’t let weight room anxiety stop you from achieving your fitness goals. Just like with trying anything new, we often overthink how scary something is before we try it. With a little planning and preparation, you can put yourself in the best position possible to build new healthy habits and routines.
About The Author:
Laura is a Marketing Specialist for Perfect Gym Software. She is a native born Los Angeleno recently relocated to Warsaw, Poland who spends most of her time at the gym, on an airplane, or online shopping.