Feeling intimidated by being a beginner in a gym full of regulars? Never fear! Help is here!
We were all new once
I hear it all the time. New gym goers all over are intimidated or nervous or scared about looking like the newbie. It makes a lot of sense! The process of changing the body typically comes with a lot of baggage in some form of being self-conscious.
The trick to being new in the gym is to remember that everyone was new in the gym at some point. Every single person you see has been through the growing pains of feeling uncomfortable in this new setting. You'll find few people at the gym that understand what you're going through better than they do.
It's because of this that you can eventually relax and feel right at home. All the people surrounding you in the gym are there for the same reason; they want to better themselves.
I'm still worried they're judging me
There come times when you're going to feel like people are watching you or judging you. Nine times out of ten, no one is watching and judging. Everyone in the gym is having the same thought as you. That means more than likely they are all too focused on themselves to be focused on you! If you're doing the right things in the gym, you're going to be more concerned about yourself.
That other one time out of ten, there might be people watching you. And almost always it is because they are watching with support. "Watching with support" in this case means that they are observing what you're doing because it might appeal to them to include in their workout, or they're impressed or proud of the work you're doing. They also might just think you're cool and are trying to find courage to say hello!
The bottom line is, don't be nervous to record your workouts. Take those gym selfies. Walk up to your sets like no one is watching. Take those gigantic breaths because you worked so hard. No one is judging you for these things. They want the same things as you!
Real things you can do
Okay, okay now here are some physical things you can do when stepping into a gym for your first few workouts.
Every gym and workout space will have a list of rules and/or guidelines! Make sure you find them and familiarize yourself with them. Typical things like not dropping the weights or keeping shoes on at all times should not be ignored!
The gym is a shared space. The rules are there to protect you and everyone else as well as make sure the gym can still operate appropriately. You're going to see people breaking or bending the rules, but all you can do is make sure YOU know them and you're doing your best to adhere to them.
Explore the whole place
Take your time to walk around the entire gym and its facilities! Being familiar with what equipment you have access to and where it is all located will make your workout day jitters feel a little less scary. Being confident and walking to the equipment you need instead of looking all over for it will do wonders for your workout duration too.
You pay for the whole gym, take advantage of it! Feel free to touch everything, sit in the machines, move around the adjustments. Even if you're not doing a full set, you should know what your equipment can do and if you like it or not. Not all machines are created equally, and you'd do best to know which ones work for you and which ones do not.
The thing I always end up eyeing first in a new gym is the water fountains. You have to stay hydrated, so be aware of your nearest fountain. This is also usually where a gym will keep its sanitizer and paper towels, which is also good to know so you can maintain a clean and clear workout!
Interact with people
This one will depend on how much you enjoy talking to others, but the gym is home to some of the friendliest and most helpful people. You may even find a new workout partner and a lifelong 'Besto Friendo'!
A lot of the time the gym friendships happen naturally. The same people go to the same gym over and over and usually on a schedule. So if you're there at a certain time of day each time you go, you're bound to run into the same people every time. You can do the traditional head nod or quick smile, but it always feels nice to have that communal feeling that you're both in this together.
Another common way to interact with others is through spotting. Someone may ask you for help on a heavy lift they're about to attempt and need a spotter. I have never encountered a time when I needed a spot and someone told me 'no'. Gym people are always willing. So whether you need help or someone else needs help, it is bound to help form a connection. The sense of community in the health and fitness world is incredible once you get accustomed to it!