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A guide to feeling confident at the gym

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Maine chapter.

The gym can be an overwhelming place for women when first starting out, whether you are an athlete with previous training, have some experience, or have no experience at all. I was a dancer in high school, so I knew the basics of the gym, and how to move my body, but when faced with the expansive floors filled with machines, I was completely in the dark. A year and a half later, I now feel comfortable and confident in all sections of the gym, and have made several connections there with people who helped me on my fitness journey. After everything that I’ve learned, I’ve found there are a few pieces of advice that changed the game for me, and made all the difference when I was looking for guidance on how to figure out how to work out. 

Going with a buddy

My freshman year, my gym partner and I committed to the gym in a small way — by going every Tuesday after our lecture. Amazingly, she and I committed to our weekly Tuesday session more than our actual school classes, meaning we only skipped once or twice in the whole year. It became natural, a part of our routine, something that made me look forward to Tuesdays, which were academically my longest and hardest days. 

Starting small

I had to keep up my cardio, so I gravitated towards the treadmill. Every Tuesday, I aimed to run 1.5 to 2 miles, then do some core on the mats. It was really the only thing I knew how to do. I felt I didn’t even belong in most of the spaces at the gym, so I stuck to what I knew: running, and the core exercises I remembered from my years of dancing in high school.

Always Staying Open

As the year progressed, and I made incremental gains in my running time and speed, I tried to stay open to learning new exercises and working different parts of my body. Being eager to try new things was key. I eventually stopped repeating my same pattern of treadmill and core, because boredom is a real obstacle that bars a lot of people from working out. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you shouldn’t do it, and look for something else that works for you. I started picking up new exercises I saw friends doing, and even from scrolling through social media.

Habit building

I was still uncertain I was doing anything right, but I found no one at the gym judged me for it. I stayed consistent every week, and didn’t worry when I missed a day. The Rec Center gradually became my favorite spot on campus, the more comfortable I got with it. The reassuring familiarity of its layout, the exhilarating feeling of coming down from a run, feeling the strength and energy coursing through my body. It became an escape from life, my own way of taking care of myself mentally, not just physically. 

Personal Training

At the end of my freshman year, I decided to take 4 short sessions with a personal trainer. The trainer program at the Rec Center is inexpensive for students, and I decided to take advantage of it. I credit that decision with changing everything about how I approached working out at the gym. My trainer showed me how to practice good form on machines I hadn’t even seen before, and now, a year later, I still do some of the exercises my trainer taught me. My confidence increased unbelievably from this experience. With the help of professional guidance, I could walk into the gym like I owned the place, armed with a plan.

Embracing confidence

A year later, I haven’t touched a treadmill and have started running outside. I found that for me, the treadmill became too monotonous, and I love the feeling of carrying myself miles outside, all by the power of my own two feet. I have more gym buddies, and I especially ask someone to go with me when I’m feeling tired or down. I have become more patient and understanding of myself, because progress takes a long time. I underestimated my ability to bounce back after a couple days of not going to the gym. I didn’t have enough experience then, but I do now. Your body needs rest, it is equally as important as movement through whatever exercise you enjoy. It’s all in maintaining your habits, trying new things, and never being afraid to ask for help.

I am from Boylston, Massachusetts. I am an English major with a French minor. I am part of the ski club and the dance clubs.