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Starting going to a gym is a big deal.

It’s a shed full of equipment that you have no idea how to use. It’s full of people that seem to know what to do. You think they’re all fitter, stronger and in better shape than you.

I get it. You don’t want to look like an idiot. You want to “lose a bit of weight first, then join a gym”. It’s a common thought-process, but it’s flawed.

I’ll let you into some gym secrets that might shock you.

First up – hardly anyone in there has the faintest clue what they’re doing. They’re winging it.

Second – the ones who think they know what they’re doing, are almost all doing it wrong.

Third – they’re all WAY more bothered with what they’re doing to worry about watching you.

I’ve worked with clients for a decade and a half. I know what stops people even starting out in the gym.

Let’s break some of these barriers down:

Lack of knowledge or experience

Many people may be unsure of what exercises to do or how to use gym equipment. You’re worried about making mistakes or looking foolish in front of other people. The thing is, so is everyone else.

You WILL make mistakes, but so will everyone else. Keep your initial plan simple. Don’t get stressed about trying everything in the gym on day one. Pick a couple of things you’d like to use, and spend some time working them out. Only manage to figure out how the damn leg press works? Cool. Now you know – next time learn something else.

I’ve been in  gyms for 30 years. I *still* go into a new gym, see a bit of kit (or even just a brand) I’ve not used before and have to spend 5 minutes working out what lever to pull or press or slide. If I’m still occasionally clueless, it’s 100% OK for you to be too!

Ask people. I know it’s cliche, but most people in gyms are actually helpful. People love being asked to show off knowledge.

Don’t worry of you think people are looking at you. Most aren’t. Most are semi-catatonic, staring into the middle distance. They aren’t even looking at you. And you know what? Anyone who IS looking at you, and isn’t being helpful, or looks like they’re mocking a newbie, well – why do you care what someone like that thinks anyway? They’re clearly an unpleasant person, so why worry?

Physical limitations

Some people may have physical limitations or injuries that prevent them from doing certain exercises or activities. You might be worried about causing further injury or pain.

Many people start in the gym to overcome pain and discomfort, even if it’s simply from being overweight.

A lot of the time, that pain will ease as you start to use your body properly.

But it’s 100% worth seeing a proper professional if you have a specific injury or concern. You don’t want to kill off your new-found enthusiasm by making an injury worse.

Speak to a decent personal trainer, or a physio, if you want some reassurance about what you can and can’t do.

Time constraints

Many people have busy schedules and may be worried about finding time to go to the gym.

That’s fine, I get it. We’re all encouraged to believe we’re the busiest person on the planet. Deep down we know it’s not true – we can carve out time if we need to.

Pick a gym and a trainer that can work around your schedule. Re-arrange less important stuff.

I’ve had some clients who work 70hr weeks, maintain a family life, and still train twice a week. It can be done. You just have to want to do it, and play around with your timings.


Going to the gym can be expensive, and some people may be concerned about the cost of a membership or personal training sessions.

A gym membership, for what you get, is one of the cheapest items of self-care you could ever purchase. You get access to everything you could possibly need to get fit, strong, take up a sport etc, for often around a quid a day.

If that’s genuinely too expensive for you, I’d argue you need to look at priorities.

When  it come to personal training, yes, that’s more expensive. However, on average I think I save my clients around 2 years of wasted gym time, by making sure they do what’s needed from Day One. They avoid injuries, make faster progress, and need to commit less time to the gym by having me guide them.

For many people, that’s worth the outlay. You have to do what feels right for you.


Some people feel self-conscious about their appearance, especially if they are new to exercise or have been inactive for a while.

That’s ok! Just don’t forget, no matter what anyone tells you, they aren’t in the gym solely to “feel better”. It might be a big part of it, but everyone, if they’re honest with themselves, is also in it to look better.

Here’s another gym secret: that person you look at who you think is in amazing shape? They have insecurities, same as you. They might be different insecurities, but they still exist. Many people in decent shape didn’t start out that way, and still have hang-ups about how they look even after they’ve “transformed”. Many of the people in the best shape have some very unhealthy relationships with food and exercise too – but that’s a whole other article!

Don’t let your idea of what the “ideal” gym person looks like put you off even starting. Again, it’s cliche, but everyone starts somewhere.

If you’re really, really worried about this, then pick a smaller gym and not one of the big chains. Smaller gyms are far more welcoming and less busy, and can allow you the chance to get into a routine without worrying about other people.

Fear of failure

Many people may be worried about not seeing results or not being able to work hard enough to complete workouts. That might lead you to feel frustrated, discouraged and make you want to give up before you even start.

Results don’t happen overnight, but they do happen. And they happen through consistency. Keep turning up, keep trying, build a habit and results always come.

Another thing: “hard” is subjective. What’s hard for me, might be easy for someone else. What’s hard for you, believe it or not, might be hard for someone else. Hard doesn’t matter in comparison to other people, it just means that YOU should feel you’ve worked hard.

No-one else’s work has any impact on your results, just as yours has no impact on theirs.

Part of lifting is failure. It’s sort of the whole point – the idea is to convince your body it can’t do something very well, and for it to have to adapt to try a little harder. So, yet another cliche, but embrace the failure aspect rather than running from it.

So what next?

Start! It’s that simple. It takes a few months to build a habit, so don’t expect it to feel like clockwork after the first week. If you’re starting in January, it simply isn’t going to feel like it’s “you” until March at the earliest.

Hopefully some of the stuff you’ve read will make you feel that you’re not alone, that it’s not just you that thinks or feels like that. It can be overcome, and if you want to make a change (you’re wanting to start for a reason, after all!) you have to get past some of these barriers and have a crack at it.

If you want help, get in touch. We help new people to get into the gym, we provide a great gym environment for people to succeed in, and we’re experts at creating long term fitness habits. Come and have a chat, and let us get you started!

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