One Girls Guide to Overcoming The Fear of the Weight Room ~ by Stacy DeMars
~ “Does that hurt your back?” an innocent enough question coming from the fit older gentlemen sitting on the bench behind me at the gym as he apparently watches me doing push presses with the Olympic bar.
I reply simply, “No because you are getting explosive momentum from your legs by squatting and pushing off with your feet, and most importantly as with all moves you should be keeping your core tight and stable – which helps support your back”
His response, “Well it looks impressive.”
A mere 6 months ago this small exchange of words would’ve sent me running for the door, literally. I would’ve probably walked briskly out of there like the place was on fire, not like a full on inferno run for your life or anything but like the fire alarm was going off and we should calmly proceed to the nearest exit, scratch that if I’m being honest 6 months ago I would have never set foot (not even a pinky toe) into the weight area at the gym.
Like most women I had a deep seeded fear of the weight room (unlike most women I also have a pretty moderate case of social anxiety.) I’ve since learned to control most of my “irrational” fears, like leaving full grocery carts in the middle of the aisle because I was too afraid to go up to the cashier (sorry Stop & Shop…but a big thanks for self-checkouts, and don’t get me started on the scan guns...Best. Invention. Ever.) Yes I know this is not a “normal” thing to do, but none the less this used to be a frequent thought pattern for me, anxiety takes over and I hide. So as you can imagine the weight room was a bit problematic for me.
If you stop and think about it the weight area in the gym looks intimidating. Filled all sorts of crazy equipment and muscley men who looked crazy serious about their workouts, drinking their electric colored workout drinks, grunting, sweating, and slamming down huge barbells. I figured if I was in there getting in their way, not knowing what I was doing I was going to be yelled at or at the very least ridiculed for sure. No way in hell was I going to do that! Even during the challenge I would work out with Steph twice a week at Ocean State Fit and then do my other workouts at home. At first this was just fine because we weren’t lifting that heavy and I had the tools to accomplish what I needed too from home, but as I got stronger and better, I realized I needed more, I needed a full gym (which I do not have at home...a dream of mine someday and a Jacuzzi tub, but I digress.)
Then the challenge ended and I soon realized I was really in a pickle! I didn’t want to lose my momentum or all the hard work I had accomplished so I had to bite the bullet and enter the lions den, the meathead man cave, the dreaded weight room. It took a while to talk myself into it...but I did it. The first day was rough I didn’t know exactly the layout or where things were and I felt a little turned around, but after a few days I got comfortable and started to notice something...no one cared. No one was looking at me, no one was judging me, I was practically invisible for pete’s sake! (with the exception of the day I fell off the bench...yeah that actually happened).
The more comfortable I got the better I felt, it is pretty cool and makes me feel strong that I can lift with the big boys. If I’m honest after working with my trainer and my chiropractor (John Miller & Dr. Elizabeth Molin. Look them up they are phenomenal!) I now realize most of these guys lifting know very little about form and function. I’m not saying I’m some sort of expert, far from it, but I think I know more than some and am quite aware of form and function. Looking around the weight room I see a lot of poorly executed moves (combined with a lot of bicep curls and shoulder shrugs...really guys? Do you honestly think those muscles bulging from the top of your necks are attractive? Because I’m here to tell you, not so much.)
Post challenge I had a few girlfriend ask me to show them what I had learned and get them into a workout routine. Enthusiastically (maybe a little too much) I tried my best to show them all the benefits of strength training and how effective it can be. One thing that came abundantly clear however more than half of them fully admitted they would not be going into weight area alone, they just didn’t feel comfortable. I totally get it, its intimidating at first especially when you are new to strength training and not 100% confident in your movements. I tried to reassure them that they had EVERY right to be there just as much as the guys, but alas my subtle coaxing did not seem to work, and most did not stick with my programming...sigh.
I will not lie to you it took me a long while to feel comfortable in the weight room, but I hope someday more girls will end up off the treadmills and in front of the squat rack, and won’t let the meatheads scare them away…you know what they say if you can’t beat them join them!
Ladies here are some not so secret tips to getting comfortable in the weight room:
Take a mental inventory of the gym – walk around learn where things are so you feel comfortable moving from one area to the next (personally I program my workouts so that I can flow easily between different areas – ex: front squats on the squat rack , Paloff press on the cable column, push-ups off the smith machine all within a few steps from each other
Practice makes perfect (or at least decent) learn your workout program so you feel confident in your movements – it will help and you will feel pretty badass
Go early in the morning – I find when I got to the gym before work it is a LOT less crowded then if I go after work: less people+ no waits for the assisted pull up machine = a happy girl!
Get a buddy! As with anything training with a friend makes it more fun, go by quicker, and will most likely make you feel more comfortable. Plus you have someone to challenge you and complain with you about how much lunges suck!