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Getting Comfortable in the Gym

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How do you feel about gyms? Do they intimidate you?

I had done a poll on my Instagram page a while back asking if my followers feel uncomfortable stepping into a gym and majority of them voted YES.  I know that’s true for so many of us. Even I feel a bit awkward any time I step into an unfamiliar gym, even though I consider myself a gym vet. I totally get it. It’s nerve wracking. It’s confusing. It’s intimidating. Let’s get rid of those gym jitters and start accomplishing some goals! I’ll walk you through some tips to ease your way into a gym and feel confident. 

I do notice a lot of times, those that are new to the gym tend to gravitate towards the cardio machines. They’re fairly easy to operate and they’re less intimidating than all the weight training machines. This can potentially hinder any progress you’re hoping to see! Weight lifting is very beneficial and helps build muscle. The more muscle we build, the more calories we burn. The good news is, those weight training machines will usually have diagrams on them showing you what body part it’s used for and instructions on how to use them. Also, most gyms have machines grouped close together according to body part (i.e., chest machines, leg machines, back machines, etc). 

So how do we commit to exercise and get comfortable in a gym? Here are my biggest tips:

  1. Find a gym that’s close to your house (or work). If you pick a gym that’s 15-20 minutes away because it’s pretty and has great amenities, I promise you the novelty will wear off after a month and you’ll stop going. There is nothing motivating about having to drive that far to work out. If it’s inconvenient, it’s not going to keep you committed. My gym is within 3 miles of my house. When I was working, my gym was on the way to work so it made it easy to drive there in the morning before heading to work. 
  2. Find a gym that you’re comfortable with. You don’t buy a car without a test drive, right? “Test drive” some gyms in your area. Visit at the times you’d likely be working out – whether that’s in the morning or evening – so you can get an idea of how crowded (or what kind of crowd) it’ll be. Is it clean? Are most of the machines operating? Make a checklist of what’s most important to you and see which gym best suits your needs. 
  3. Once you’ve found a gym and are a paying member, take a day JUST to get familiar with the space. How are the machines laid out? Where is the leg area? The chest area? Are there bands? Stability balls? A stretching area? Get familiar with it all. 

Ok. We’ve become familiar with our gym. We know where everything is. Now what? How do we plan our workouts? How do we know how to use the machines? Let’s dive into this a bit. 

We have the world at our fingertips. We can literally google anything these days. Between google, you tube, and Instagram – there really is no excuse not to know how to use gym equipment. All you have to do is search “gym back (chest, arm, leg, glute) exercises.” There are tons of demos you can watch. Pick videos that use the same machines your gym has. 

Great! Now you know how to use the machines. So your next step is to plan your workouts. I recommend “splitting” your body parts into different days/workouts. I usually like to work a bigger muscle group with a smaller one. For example, chest and triceps or back, biceps and shoulders. When you plan your workouts this way, there’s no confusion when you walk in to the gym. 

Let’s say Monday you’re going to train chest and triceps. You know exactly what machines (or exercises) work chest and which ones work triceps. So you will only focus on those, instead of aimlessly walking around and sitting on every machine you see (not productive)! I recommend picking 4-5 exercises for chest and 4-5 for triceps. I usually alternate; one chest exercise followed by a triceps exercise and so on. Pick a weight that is heavy enough for you to repeat ~10x without sacrificing your form. Your last 3 repetitions of an exercise should be challenging. If they’re not, you can increase the weight. I recommend doing 3-4 sets of each exercise. Let’s break it down: 

  • 4-5 different exercises per body part you’re training 
  • 3-4 sets per exercise 
  • ~10 reps per set 

The gym will probably feel uncomfortable the first few days or week(s) – give it time! The more familiar you get and the more prepared you are before going in, the more comfortable you’ll feel. I prefer to mix up Protea’s Vegan Aminos in a water bottle to get in some BCAAs and electrolytes during my workout. It helps me with endurance during my workout and also helps to prevent lean muscle breakdown during any workouts I do fasted. They’re also great for muscle recovery which is very important post workout.

Now get in there and get working on those goals queen! You’re capable! You’re a bad ass! You got this! 

Article written by Protea Nutrition Athlete Annie P.

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