I still practically shit myself whenever I work out in a new gym. It feels like the record skips and everyone is staring at you.
You don’t want to feel judged by all the gym regulars. Totally fair. Nobody likes feeling judged.
Unfortunately, until gym culture becomes more welcoming (it does seem to be on it’s way), most commercial gyms are going to feel like this i.e. terrible.
Thus, the only way to be “fit enough" to feel like you fit in is to actually start going to the gym.
You can totally get fit by most definitions at home. If you eat lots of veggies and protein and run up a steep hill/stairs a few times a week, you’ll get pretty damn lean.
However, there are too many bloody distractions at home! This makes it infinitely harder to build consistency. At the gym there is only 1 thing you can do. Plus, heavy weights really do make progress that much quicker.
This post is about working your way up to the gym mentally because you are there physically. There is no “must be this fit to enter” sign at gyms.
Everybody has to start somewhere.
And if anyone judges you, you can always tell me-- I will personally flick them in the testicle... metaphorically... or literally... or both.
Just for some personal flare, here’s a brief history of how I stopped being terrified of the gym:
Once upon a time I was a beanpole with essentially no muscle in my upper body.
Oh, and I had never bench pressed before GASP!.
Day 1 looked like this:
Walked into the gym, peed myself a little. Felt massively intimidated by the amount of weight guys were lifting. Peed myself a little more, then asked my buddy for a spot as I put some Ritz cracker sized weights on the bar. Benched it a few times. Repeated this for a few sets. Meandered around the gym clumsily trying to figure out the machines.
I repeated this routine several times a week, peeing myself a little bit less each time. I eventually came to enjoy lifting things.
The point is, it does get easier. And it's totally normal to pee yourself a little, metaphorically and/or literally.
The mental barrier is seriously a motherfucker. If you can conquer that, oh man, you’re goin’ places.
If you aren’t mentally ready to make that leap just yet, I hear you.
There’s nothing wrong with needing a little more time to hype yourself up. This is a normal part of change-- it even has a name: the contemplation phase.
That said, I want to help you barrel through the contemplation phase and start getting actual results. I’m guessing you want that too.
There are two ways to expedite the contemplation phase.
Method #1 is to buck up and just go for it. Grab a friend who also wants to “work their way up to the gym”, and charge through those automatic glass doors like the badasses you are.
It’s going to be uncomfortable. That’s normal. Don’t even worry about what the best workout is. Just hop on whatever exercise you feel OK doing. The goal here isn’t to burn calories or build muscle, it’s to expand your comfort zone. And seriously, having a friend who is also scared shitless is sooooo helpful.
Method #2 which is easier, but more counterintuitive is to divide the habit of going to the gym into mini-habits. If you find yourself going back and forth about whether you’re going to go or not, this trick works wonders. This is the trick I use to get myself to workout on the days I’m really not feeling it, FYI.
Here’s how it works:
Rather than say “OK, I'm going to go to the gym and workout for an hour”, say, “I’m just going to drive to the gym. I don’t even need to get out of the car. I’ll just pack my gym bag, drive to the gym and then come back home.”
Going to the gym is a VERY complex habit; there are many steps to it. Now, obviously driving to the gym isn’t going to burn any fat. It will, however, remove several barriers to going to the gym.
The funny thing about this strategy is that once you pull into the parking space, you very well might be like, “Well, I might as well. I drove all the way here.” However, if you don’t have this thought, that’s fine too.
As long as you’re moving forward, as long as you keep TRYING, you’ll get there. I don’t care what yoda says!