Not a lot of women walk into the weight room at the gym feeling like they own the place. I’ve come to this conclusion by how intimidated I felt about hitting the heavy weights, how women are still vastly outnumbered in that area of the gym, and how often I’ve seen women talk about mustering up the courage to go heavy at the gym. But fear no more. If I can start feeling at home with heavy dumbbells and barbells, so can you. I promise. Here’s how.
How to Not Be Intimidated in the Weight Room
1. Just do something. Go pick up some dumbbells and do some overhead presses. Do some body weight squats. Do some step-ups carrying weights. Just make yourself do something to get over the initial feeling like you don’t belong. You do.
2. Learn from others. If you’re not sure how something works or how to do something safely, ask around. Ask experienced lifters — preferably someone who’s not wearing headphones and who looks friendly. Ask staff. That’s what they’re there for. Look up YouTube videos ahead of time if you’re uncertain of how to do a certain move. (You do have to be careful about YouTube videos because sometimes they are super wrong. Find a source you trust.) You can also hire a trainer if you really need help.
3. Realize no one cares. The best thing that you’ll ever do is realize that no one cares what you’re doing. Everyone else is too worried about their workout, their form, their sweat, their music, to worry about you.
4. Get a plan. Have a specific workout planned, whether you get it from a trainer, online or a book. Then it’s just your job to check it all off the list. One hard and fast rule in The New Rules of Lifting for Women is to log workouts, so I only feel slightly nerdy when I have my clipboard out logging how much weight I used and how many reps I completed. Lou’s orders.
5. Wear headphones. Throwing on your kickass workout playlist will get you in a mental toughness zone, and it’ll give you that off-limits don’t-talk-to-me vibe. You’re not there to chat, you’re there to work.
6. Rest awkwardly and get used to it. For my workouts, I’ve got 60 seconds of rest between sets. A minute is a really long time when you’re just standing there staring at yourself in the mirror doing nothing. Use that time to get a drink, log your weight and admire your reflection.
7. Accept that you’ll do something silly and get over it. You are guaranteed to do something ridiculous. It will happen, so just be ready to laugh it off. I went to grab the lat pulldown bar in one of my first workouts, lost my balance and fell back on my butt on the bench. And that’s using a machine that I do have experience using before this new weight-lifting program. So just know you’ll occasionally not know how to do something, do something wrong, trip, drop a weight or otherwise make a fool of yourself. When you do, see No. 3.
Are you going to hit the weights more in the new year? —Erin