Don't be left out!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Building Confidence in the Weight Room

I have to brag for a minute about a few gym friends of mine.  This group of ladies approached me about getting started with weight training.  These women were no strangers to the gym as most of them attend multiple group classes a day.

They all have a great workout routine already but when it came to weight training they were a little unsure of where to start.  I offered a few suggestions and I'm happy to report that a few of them are enjoying the New Rules for Lifting for Women training program!  Ok, happy is a total understatement.  I'm truly giddy for them.

They're off to a great start but ironically enough these women all had the same thing to say about it….they all wanted to get more confident in the weight room.

They aren't alone.  I hear this from a lot of women.  The weight room can be an intimidating place.  There may be equipment you're not familiar with,  people who look to be serious lifters, you're probably out in the open for people to watch your form, no teacher to tell you what to do…. I get it.  I totally get it.  If you put me on a stair mill I'd feel the same way.

So what do a lot of women do instead?  As I mentioned on Facebook, it looks like to me that they gather a few pieces of equipment and set up shop in a small corner of the gym to complete their strength routine.

Quite a lot of you commented that you too experienced some anxiety in the weight room, completed your workouts in a designated women's area and/or felt intimidated and a few of you noted that at least women in the corner are doing a strength workout.

It's understandable that women feel like this.  I too felt anxious stepping foot into 22nd Street Barbell despite pervious lifting experience.  Here's the thing though….in my opinion the corner isn't good enough.  Sure the corner workout stuff can be a stepping stone to ease into the real deal but it shouldn't be your final destination.  I know you're probably thinking, "What do you care where I do my workout, Annie?  Get off my back" right?

Honestly, I'm not here to make anyone feel bad if you're cozy in the corner.  I want to encourage you because you're capable of more than a corner workout.  Everyone is.  Here is what I see typically happen….If you limit yourself to the corner (or whatever isolated part of the gym you're in) there's a chance that you're also going to limit yourself to the same equipment and movements week after week.  You also might be too nervous to grab heavier dumbbells, too anxious to try pull-ups (or modified pull-ups), and too self conscious to learn proper form for a barbell squat.  So instead, you stay safe in your corner, in your comfort zone.  Eight weeks go by, you finish your strength training program and figure that's all there is- totally missing out on exploring your true potential.  To me, it's like saying you been Chicago when you really just had a layover at O'Hare.  It's not quite the same experience.

There is no denying the fact that some of you may be able to get a killer workout in your corner sanctuary, experience some strength gains and I completely understand that not everyone is as interested in lifting as I am but if you want to take your lifting to the next level you have to get out of the corner. By staying in the corner you're robbing yourself of the powerful experience that comes with conquering the weight room.  To me, the corner symbolizes lack of confidence, and I don't want anyone stuck there forever!  It's not just about physical strength gains.  It's also about gaining the confidence that you can walking to a room, do your thang and not give two shits what anyone else is thinking.  And that type of confidence doesn't stop when you leave the gym.  I promise you it will spill over into all areas of your life.  Of course if you're happy with the results you get in the corner, stay there.  Otherwise, I don't want any of you to miss out on that.  I really, really don't.  And THAT's why I care.

While I could give you a list of ways to ease into lifting in the weight room like...
  • Ask gym staff for times of day it's less crowded
  • Ask a friend who has experience lifting to go with you
  • Hire a personal trainer to take you through workouts in the weight room
  • Research how to execute any moves in your workout ahead of time
…but the best way to build confidence in the weight room is … spend time in there.  

Pretty scientific right?  I know it's not a magical cure but it works.  The truth is you just gotta get in there and start.  Feeling at home in the weight room won't happen over night but with each workout you complete you'll feel a little bit more confident.  If it helps, pick one, just ONE exercise you know you can do well and do it in the "real weight room".  The next time, pick two exercises.  Keep adding until you're comfortable.

Finally, I think it's important to note that some of those meat head looking dudes you might find intimidating may actually have something of value to offer you weather it be a form tip, a new move or a spot during a heavy lift.  Some of them might have big muscles and tattoos but they're not all assholes.  In fact, I've gained a ton of lifting knowledge just from listening and watching to those tatted up, buff dudes.

Your turn:  Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the weight room?  
If so, how did you build confidence?


  1. When I had a gym membership I would look around the weight room and think I should be embarrassed. I used very little weight and probably fewer reps too compared to so many in the "weight" section of the gym. Then I would laugh and keep lifting :)

  2. Totally guilty...i'm the girl in the corner. My gym is full of grunting meat heads and I hate it. So I retreat.