Lifting weights at the gym is my happy place. My time out. My meditation. My space for trying new things and growing a little stronger each day – mind, body and soul.
But it hasn’t always been like that. At various points the gym has been an intimidating and uncomfortable place.
When I first started out, this stemmed from a general lack of knowledge and confidence using gym equipment. I’d awkwardly bumble around trying to figure out how to use things (while hoping no one would notice) and stay far away from the big guys making rough noises and dropping weights. Mostly, I’d stick to using machines that didn’t require much adjustment. Luckily, lifting weights made me feel strong and energised. I did research, had a personal trainer for a while and I kept giving things a go. Overtime, my confidence and enjoyment increased.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last. I struggled with my health, stress levels, lifestyle and weight throughout most of my 20’s. I faced some hard relationship and career challenges which contributed to me staying in a cycle of making bad choices. My self confidence was pretty low and generally dependent on other people telling me I was good enough. At my lowest point the gym simply sucked. I spent many gym sessions hating the experience and only feeling good once I’d left the building.
I felt out of place at the gym and “too unfit to be there” (which is of course completely irrational). Often, I felt embarrassed or ashamed. On my worst days I felt like I took up too much space and got in the way of other people. I can be quite introverted and shy which made this even harder. I will never ever forget those feelings. The fear that someone would watch me, judge me or even question why I was there.
At the same time, I longed for things to be different. I’d see these serious and athletic looking people living the gym life. They seemed to be full of confidence in themselves and what they were doing at the gym. I really wanted to look and feel like that but it seemed so distant from my current lifestyle and perceived reality.
Most of these feelings were about me and my underlying beliefs and fears, not about the people around me or the gym environment. Through 2014 and in the years since then, I’ve done a lot of inner work to understand and change these beliefs which has fundamentally transformed my life. I’m so proud and grateful of the fact that through this time I kept showing up to the gym. Even when progress felt non existent I stayed the course. Making small adaptations, patience and consistency have become my greatest strengths.
Through my fitness journey I realised that a good gym is a safe and positive space. Everyone is on their own journey for improvement in some way. I learnt to ask staff members, Personal Trainers and friends for guidance. I learnt that I wasn’t alone. I came to realise that nobody ever intends to make you feel uncomfortable and every member has the same right to use the available equipment and space.
Slowly my daily habits, mindset, fitness, nutrition, strength and physical appearance began to change. There was no overnight moment where I turned into a regular and confident gym goer but it happened! Overtime my concerns with what other people thought decreased and the gym generally became a relaxing and fun place for me. In 2018, I looked in the mirror and realised I was one of those serious athletic looking people living the gym life 🙂
Despite this, I’m still a human being and sometimes my own worst enemy. There are still occasional days where I feel uncomfortable, “too unfit to be there” or like I have no idea what I’m doing. Obviously, I know these are not rational thoughts!. In these moments of self doubt I do what I do best – I keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. When I’m unsure of myself I ask for help.
I live a busy life and there are always new challenges coming my way. Sometimes life is shitty but I firmly know now that the time I spend at the gym (most days) powers me through the rest of my day. This is my non negotiable time.
Last year a few gym members started asking me what sport I was training for. I still find it a little crazy that someone would ask me this. One day, completely caught off guard I responded by saying “life – I’m training for life”.
At the end of the day this is what its about for me. I am training to be the best version of myself. To feel great. To feel alive. To have the strength, confidence and self-efficacy to do life well. I hope my passion for and enjoyment of the gym always remains a part of who I am and my lifestyle.
If you’re at the start of your fitness journey, or feel intimidated by the gym – please don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get a little help. A good gym will have staff who will set you up with a programme and show you how to use equipment, a variety of fitness classes and personal training options.
You can make significant change over time by being consistent and just doing a little more each week. Know that exercise can truly change your life as it has done mine.
Jade is a Lifestyle Coach, Personal Trainer and Organisational Development Consultant. To find out more or book in a consultation email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone/text 027 360 20 30.