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By: Heather Marr

Heather Marr is an N.Y.C.-based personal trainer and The Model Trainer Method creator, whose A-list client roster includes some of the world’s most famous supermodels. Ahead, she gets real about combatting gym intimidation.

I have been a gym rat for a long time. I grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada and started taking swimming lessons at the local YMCA. I was immediately hooked. After consistently bothering my parents, Santa Claus finally caved and brought me my very first gym membership when I was in the 4th grade. Persistence pays off. The gym quickly became my second home.

Back then, they didn’t have treadmills at the gym. Instead there was a track circling the top of the gymnasium area. I wasn’t allowed in the weight room area or on the track because I was too young. But I used to sneak in and run anyway. I can still remember the weight room. It was all male, all extremely loud bodybuilders wearing Zubaz as far as the eye could see. It was terrifying. Needless to say, I did not lift any weights. Fast forward a few years of being a daily cardio bunny. By this time, I was living in Toronto and there were some women lifting but it certainly wasn’t like it is now. I was terrified to begin weight training. I was worried I would be doing everything wrong and everyone would be watching me and judging me.

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This, as I later learned, is an extremely common issue that unfortunately, stops many people from joining a gym. Now as a personal trainer I regularly tackle these issues with online clients. 

gym intimidation

Combatting Gym Intimidation

I always remind my online clients that every single person you will see in the gym had his or her “first day” and were once in your exact shoes. There is no exception to this rule. At one time every one of those members you will see in the gym had no idea what he or she were doing and had to learn just like you do. People in the gym are focused on themselves and their workout. They really are not watching you or judging you.

The next thing I do is always go through basic gym etiquette, so my clients know how to be polite and respectful of others around them. This makes them feel more comfortable of course and really eliminates most gym arguments on the floor before they even start. 

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Next, I always suggest doing a full gym walk-through before even officially joining. When you know the layout, you know where you’re going, you know your way around and what to expect. You will feel much more comfortable and put some of your anxieties at ease.

Things to Try

A smart thing to do, if your budget allows, is to hire a trainer to show you the ropes and teach you proper form. That’s not an affordable option for everyone, however. There are amazing websites now with full exercise descriptions and videos that you can learn from that are free.

If you are working with an online trainer, the programming should of course be geared to your goals and needs. For instance, I keep online clients in one area in the beginning until they start feeling more confident. I wouldn’t, for example, have a new client doing a wide grip lat pulldown and then flying across the gym to finish a superset with the bench press (depending on gym layout, unless they’re beside each other.) 

If your schedule allows, do your workouts on off-peak hours. It’s much less intimidating for many people and you’re less likely to have to wait for equipment. Finally, remember that action erases fear.