Guidance for the New (Gym) Kid

Two weekends ago, I went to my favorite conference for fitness professionals. It’s the 3-Day Functional Training Summit that’s put on by Perform Better. I go NUTS for this stuff. This company is one of my affiliates, I love them so much. Not only do they provide great products for gyms and individual fitness enthusiasts but, they are dedicated to cutting through the nonsense that floods the fitness industry. You know what I mean – that snake oil, that marketing that tries to feed people reasons to be insecure just to turn a profit, or just plain stupid, unsafe training methods.

This company is dedicated to educating and supporting fitness professionals to better help YOU, the people. That’s what this field is supposed to be about – helping people with their physical health, mindset, and enhancing their lives through fitness.

Bringing this back on topic, this is a great conference where ideas are shared, new and old, and we’re brought back to the root of our WHY. Why are we in this field? Usually to help people!

One lecture that really got my brain going was on marketing. The speaker put up a simple statistic that floored me:

80% of people have never stepped in a gym.

What?! Of course, I live in a gym since it’s my job and a big hobby so this is a little hard for me to fathom. But then the speaker went on to talk about WHY.

The biggest reasons that people don’t go to a gym and start a fitness reason are feelings of shame, embarrassment, or intimidation.  Basically, feeling like they would be judged and wouldn’t belong. What’s worse is that typical fitness marketing enhances these feelings by posting nothing but advertisements featuring Joe Six-pack and Betty Booty and that’s probably NOT who we need to convince to give the gym a chance.

This lecture really got to me because I was angry and upset with myself and my industry for failing 80% of the population. Now, I think going to the gym is in part a generational thing that is slowly catching on but I also think we in the industry need to do a better job of showing that we’re here to help and NOT shame and judge.

So, I’m here to make amends and try to convince people that the fitness world is not what it appears to be. It is not full of people obsessed with themselves flexing in the mirror or whispering about how out of shape you are. Don’t get me wrong, the gym is still full of HUMANS so some of these sucky people exist, but I swear to you they are far and few between.

Fitness people – whether professional fitness folk or just gym fanatics – tend to be there because they’ve found that fitness enhances their lives. More often than not, they LOVE seeing new faces get involved with it too. It actually really breaks my heart that people are embarrassed to consult a trainer because every trainer I know is the least judgemental and most welcoming type of person I have ever met.

Imagine that you love chocolate. (I’m assuming you do.) Now, imagine that you find out that 80% of the population has NEVER TRIED CHOCOLATE. You probably would have a split second where you wonder how they could have possibly gotten this far in life without it, but you don’t have time to judge because you’re SO EXCITED to hand this chocolate-virgin their first piece of chocolate and see their reaction!

THAT’S how 99% of fitness people see the new kids at the gym. I’ll tell you that personally, I LIVE for the moments where clients tell me that fitness has changed their lives for the better. So many of them come in with goals of fat-loss and purely aesthetic reasons but leave with so much more than that. They can lift their grandchild without back pain, they can get back to social walks around the neighborhood, they can hike that mountain that they’ve always wanted to see the top of! I live for that process and those meaningful outcomes – not judging my clients on their starting point.

In an effort to do better, I want to give a few tips for guidance/encouragement for anyone that’s on the fence about starting a new fitness journey:

1. Soreness is NORMAL

I have a lot of new clients that either get freaked out by or discouraged by soreness. Soreness is a natural thing that happens when you give your body a new and different challenge. Even if you’re a seasoned exerciser, you can still get sore either by challenging yourself with more of or even just a different style of exercise. This doesn’t mean you’re in horrible shape or doomed to feel sore forever. The more frequently you workout, the less likely you are to be sore or the less sore you’ll be.

That being said, if you are exceptionally sore the next day – it may be a sign that you over-did it. Nothing to be alarmed about! It’s just something to take into consideration. If you are new to the soreness feeling, I get that it can be hard to tell if you did anything “bad.” If it’s a pain that lasts more than a week or doesn’t seem to gradually get better, that is something I would be concerned about. If this feeling is new to you it will take some getting used to. Soreness is a common byproduct of working out so don’t be discouraged, don’t jump to alarm, and on the other side – don’t think that you NEED to be sore to accomplish anything in the gym. Lack of soreness does not mean you’re making progress.

2. It’s a Process

Any fitness routine will take some getting used to and it may take some readjustment. When you’re starting out, you might do too much or too little in a workout. If you don’t have a fitness baseline, it will take some time to figure out a routine that gives you just the right challenge. It’s OKAY if it’s not perfect! Even once you’ve figured out a routine that works for you, you’re going to get stronger, better conditioned, and more skilled as you keep at it so you’re going to need to tweak it again down the road.

I find so many people stress about finding the perfect routine and there really isn’t one. If just getting to the gym is a challenge, knowing what the perfect tricep exercise is (btw, I’m not saying that exists) DOESN’T matter if you’re not showing up. Start showing up and trying and then worry about fine-tuning.

3. Confidence is Built One Action at a Time

I know that it’s easy to say if you’re new and inexperienced that nobody cares! Everybody is in the gym to focus on their own fitness – not yours – so, it really is a waste of energy and time to let this hold you back.

Easily said, right? We’re human and it’s a pretty natural response to be intimidated in a new situation and worried about belonging. Personally, I feel pretty comfortable in a gym but I imagine how I feel in new social situations. I have a RIDICULOUS amount of social anxiety. I hate meeting new groups of people. I feel like my words and actions turn into something straight out of a cringe-worthy comedy when I do – so I get that feeling! So, how do you overcome it?

Baby steps! Each action you take in a gym is going to build your confidence there. Start small with something you feel more comfortable with. It can be just picking a piece of cardio equipment to work on for a while or walking into the weight room for one exercise.

I find for most people, it’s the weight room that creates anxiety. There’s no machine set up for one exercise that’s hard to mess up. I used to work at Gold’s Gym that was filled with your stereotypical meathead lookin’ dudes and some people just don’t buy it when you say they don’t bite.

I had one woman that was absolutely terrified of stepping foot on that floor. We started in a studio room tucked away from view. When she felt better with her exercises there, we started doing them on the floor adjacent to the weight room. After that, I convinced her to try one exercise on the weight room floor. Over time, we slowly increased the number of exercises we were doing in the weight room and her anxiety over it was GONE. She even did the exercises in the weight room without me. Her personal triumph is still one of my favorite memories as a trainer.

If you are intimidated by the weight room – a trainer will gladly ease you into it. If you don’t want to go the trainer route, slowly build your time there. You can literally WALK into the weight room, look like you’re thinking about what exercise you want to do, and WALK BACK OUT. No one will be the wiser, and you just took a step toward building your confidence there.

4. Your “Why” Should be More than Your Weight

Most people go to the gym focusing on the wrong reasons. Most people have a weight or a body look in mind, and while these are perfectly normal goals to have, you need to dig deeper. You need more than that because those goals take TIME and if your end goal of a 6-pack or a certain number on the scale is the only thing driving you, your motivation is going to fade into frustration.

That is not to say your goals can’t be achieved, you’re just going to need to find some other motivation to keep you on track! The process is the goal. Fitness isn’t over when you reach a certain weight. Fitness is about life! It’s cheesy, I know but it’s so much more than just how we look. It’s the energy we have, it’s how strong we feel, it’s about how much our mood improves, how we can manage our stress better, and how our health is improved so we can enjoy life.

These are changes that you can start to see in just a few weeks of consistency, that’s why I want you to focus on them. You can even see how ONE WORKOUT decreases your stress and maybe helps you sleep better at night. Focus on how this process is improving your quality of life and you’ll really turn this fitness thing into a habit.

5. Something is Better than Nothing

Very rarely is this not the case. Too often, people set forth on a health and fitness journey and go ALL IN. That in itself might not be a bad thing but what tends to happen is people feel overwhelmed, exhausted with all of the change, and maybe even get injured for working out too much too fast. This typically gets followed with people returning right back to the lifestyle they had before.

I’m a big advocate for tackling one, MAYBE two habits at a time because they snowball. I love the phrase “success begets success” because it really sums up this phenomenon. The more healthy or fitness related habits you develop and adhere to, the more momentum you have to roll right into another one. Keep this in mind when you’re starting out!

Something is better than nothing – this means if you don’t have time to get an hour workout in but you get a 15 minute home workout in instead – IT COUNTS. If you overindulge on a dinner out with friends but you get back to eating your huge salad and all your balanced meal goodness the next day IT COUNTS. If you miss a few days at the gym because you were sick and you slowly start going back when you’re better IT COUNTS. One workout doesn’t make you healthy. One Salad doesn’t make you drop 20 lbs. Just like one massive icecream sunday doesn’t make you gain 20 lbs and one day of lounging around doesn’t make your health decline to nothing.

Fitness compounds. Your small, positive habits building over time matter so much more than just missing out on one part of your fitness plan. So don’t fall into the all or nothing trap!

More Help Getting Started:

I hope this helps anyone just getting started on their fitness journey or helps give new momentum to anyone already going! A while back I wrote a “How to Build a Workout” Guide that was geared toward giving people a template for how to build their own workout programs. I know a lot of what stops people is just not knowing what to do, so I wanted to give everyone a free guide to get them to get started and build confidence in the gym. If you’d like to get your hands on my free guide click here to get access.

If nothing else, I hope you get that the Fitness Professionals and Enthusiasts are HERE FOR YOU. If you don’t find that when you set out in pursuit of fitness, I hope you know that I’M HERE FOR YOU. I believe in this stuff so much and I hope you’ll let me share more with you.

Happy Training!



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