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A Gym Guide for People Who Hate the Gym

you do you at the gym

There are plenty of reasons to avoid the gym. It can be expensive. It’s hard to carve time out of your schedule. The ice cubes in your mojito keep bouncing out of your glass while you’re on the treadmill … we totally get it.

But if you stay away from gyms because you find them intimidating or embarrassing, you’re not alone. Many women can feel this way. Let’s unpack some of the common fears of going to the gym and then let them go. There are burpees to get to. (Groan.)

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Everyone here is a fitness model, except for me

Not true! A quick look around any gym and you’ll see that’s total nonsense. Sure, there’ll always be four people who look like they stepped out of a bodybuilding magazine, but most gym-goers are just regular folks trying to improve themselves.

If you’re telling yourself, “It’s too late in the game for me” or “It’s going to take too long to get fit,” here’s the thing about time: It’s going to go by anyway. A year from now, you can either be right where you are today or the person the next newbie mistakes for a gym expert. Up to you.

People are judging my bod and I want to hide

Ironically, the best way to boost your gym self-esteem is to remind yourself no one cares about you.

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Think about it. Most people are so wrapped up in themselves they don’t have time to notice you, let alone judge you. If they’re not looking at themselves in a mirror, they’re trying to finish their workout and leave. Or they’re on their phones. (For some reason people at the gym waste a lot of time texting.)

On the flip side, the people not obsessed with themselves are usually pretty nice. You might even make a new friend!

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I don’t know how to use those darn contraptions!

you do you at the gym

Workout equipment is confusing as hell. Some machines look more like robots from a car assembly line and others look like medieval torture devices.

All those balls and bands and kettle bells look vaguely useful, but how? You don’t want to look stupid, or worse, hurt yourself because you did something wrong. Luckily, this problem is the easiest thing to solve.

Instead of trying to figure out which way is up for every piece of gym equipment, decide what your fitness goals are. Do some research as to what gym stuff you’d even use. Then, watch any one of the hundreds of expert instructional videos available online.

Don’t rely on doing whatever you see someone else doing. Remember, it’s just regular folks. They might not know any more than you do. So, ha!

Being the newbie makes me barfy with dread

Walking into a gym for the first time can be right up there on the anxiety scale with starting a new school, the first day of summer camp, and your inaugural visit to the gynecologist. Did you wear the right clothes? What are you supposed to do? Where’s the nearest exit and how fast can you get there?

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The good news is, you survived all the other firsts in your life. You’ll survive your first day at the gym. And unlike the gyno, you get to keep your underwear on. Win-win!

Pro tips for getting your sweat on

Take a test drive. Don’t just sign up for the nearest gym. All gyms have their own culture, setup, and vibe. Buy day passes to a few so you can choose the one that’s right for you. If you don’t like the classes, equipment, or staff, give your business to one that fits you best.

Find a workout buddy. Women are known for doing everything in pairs. We don’t dine out alone, we don’t go to the movies alone, we don’t even go to the ladies’ room alone. Why go to the gym by yourself when you can work out with a friend? You can encourage each other and have more fun doing it.

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Or, try a personal trainer. If you don’t have a buddy, you could hire a personal trainer for the first few visits until you feel comfortable on your own. Trainers are very friendly, knowledgeable, and good at showing you the ropes. (Literally. There are ropes.) Think of them as your wingman or wingwoman: Their only job is to help you get what you came for, give good advice, and tell you that you look great.

Learn gym manners. The best way to fit in from the get-go is to know the unspoken rules before embarking on your gym journey. Use a towel, don’t hog the machines, and don’t slam weights down and scream, “Boom!” You know, stuff like that.

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Don’t hurt yourself. Pulling a muscle or tweaking your back sort of defeats the purpose of getting in shape. It’s important to learn how to safely lift weights.

Make an inspiring playlist. Blaring “Eye of the Tiger” through your earbuds will not only push you to finish your reps like a champ, it’ll drown out any self-conscious thoughts. Rising up!


dara nai

Dara Nai is a Los Angeles-based humor writer whose credits include scripted television, entertainment and pop culture journalism, celebrity interviews, and cultural commentary. She’s also appeared in her own show for LOGO TV, written two independent sitcoms, and inexplicably, served as a judge at an international film festival. 

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