The first time I ever went to a gym I fannied about on the treadmill for half an hour because it looked like the simplest machine before leaving and not returning for a month. I was sure everyone was staring at me while I tried to work out how the incline worked. Since then a lot has changed, and the gym is one of the only places I feel really calm, safe and relaxed. It took a lot to get here for me, so I've pulled together some tips for anyone who is in the same position as 18 year old gym-virgin Callie...
1. Start on lower weights
Pick up the weight you think is comfortably heavy for you, then go 2 lighter than that for your first time if you aren't used to weights. It's less ego-crushing to start off light as a warm-up and then take a heavier weight once you're used to it than taking one you think feels okay, then three reps in having to shuffle back to the weights rack and swap it for a lighter one. Remember, it's all about form and you can't nail your form if your weight is much too heavy for you!
2. Wear black
Treat yourself to some new gym-kit to motivate you and rest assured that you won't have any awkward bum-sweat stains if you're wearing black. Sweat away, and whatever you do - stay away from grey jersey unless you want your butt-puddle to be on show to all the gym!
3. Have an induction
I really recommend having a full induction with one of the personal trainers. All gyms will offer this when you first sign up and it just means they'll show you around so you know where everything is and will teach you how all the machines work, so you don't come in for the first time and wander around for 5 minutes looking for the changing rooms,feeling like a tit!
4. Gradual tan moisturiser
It might just be me, but I feel much more confident when I have a subtle golden glow to my skin. I advise a gradual tinted moisturiser to avoid streaks and smelling of digestive biscuit - Garnier do a good one you can get at Boots.
Bring a plan with you otherwise you'll just be wandering around from machine to machine and will end up going home without having done a proper work out. You can either get this from a PT or find one free online - just try Googling 'women's gym training plan' and find one that takes your fancy. Then when you go you'll know exactly what you need to do, which machines you'll need and when it's time to finish, stretch it out and head home!
6. Take a notebook
I always carry around a notebook and if you look around you'll notice a lot of people, particularly in the weights section, will have paper and pen with them too. This is so you can write down your plan for the day and keep track of what weights, reps and sets you're doing for each exercise. This is a great motivator so you can try to beat yourself. For example, I can look back to what weight I used last time for chest press so I know what my weight is. I can build on that and mark when I move up a weight - progress in numbers! (It also gives the illusion you know exactly what you're doing, even if you don't!)
I actually don't own an ipod or have any music on my phone because my anxiety means I don't like being out in public places with headphones in. (I feel like I can't tell if someone's standing too close to me and am not aware of my surroundings.) BUT, for anybody else headphones are a brilliant way to block out all the noise and distractions, especially in the gym. And you can create the perfect workout playlist to get you feeling pumped and motivated!
8. Take a friend
Drag a friend of similar fitness levels along with you so you can keep each other motivated and everything will feel less intimidating. (Just don't end up being the two girls laying on the mats talking and doing nothing except taking up space!) Avoid going with someone way fitter than you, it will just make you feel self-conscious if you compare yourself to them!
9. Timing is everything.
If you head to the gym early it's way less busy than if you go after work. Likewise, lunchtimes and mid-mornings are dead quiet. If you go at peak times - 6pm on - it's super busy and you end up spending a lot of time waiting around for machines to free up, and often have to share with other people which isn't great when they're super quick and you need a little more recovery time than they allow for!
What are you waiting for? It's not too late to kick it off for summer 2017!
Full-time writer and blogger. I write about fashion and occasionally scathing accounts retelling instances where people have wronged me. I am a strong believer, proud advocator and solemn enforcer of the Wine Wednesday movement.