It’s your first month at the gym, and you are pumped to start your journey to being healthier, fitter, living a stronger life and becoming a stronger self. Unsure what to do first, your eyes scan the equipment and settle on the bench press. You put a plate on each side of the bar thinking to yourself that it can’t be too difficult. It looks so easy in the videos. I’ll just put on less weight than the big guy in the video had and I should be good. You get a few reps and start to struggle on the fifth rep. You don’t want to drop the bar on yourself, so you re-rack the bar.
Some guy pulls up next to you and asks to share the equipment with you. Of course, you nod and move aside to let him have a go. He piles on triple the weight you were doing and completes a set of ten reps with ease. Timidly, you drop the weight back to what you were using before and this time, to your surprise, struggle to achieve even fewer reps. He goes again, and then you attempt a final set because you know or you’ve heard somewhere that you’ve got to do at least three sets.
Awkwardly, you declare to the fellow that you are done, the bench is all his, and quickly shuffle away to do another exercise. Your next move is to find a set of dumbbells to do some bicep curls. The arms are an important part to that physique you envisage you will attain within a month. You quickly discover that the weights are heavier than you think and the movements are a little trickier than they look. Instead of trying again, you decide you’re done or you move on to the cables as fall back exercises. They are controlled movements, and just follow the illustrations on the panel so you know you can do them. You spend the rest of your session doing a bunch of sets on one or two machines and call it a day.
You tell yourself that your next session will be better, and hopefully it is. What you may not be taking into consideration here, however, is what occurs with many gym novices. The simple truth is it will take time and patience. Results will come with time and work. But you need to actually put the work in, practice the movements and be patient. What you see around you is the result of many hard yards. Don’t necessarily lower your expectations, just understand them better and match them with reality. The gym is a place where really anyone can indeed improve.
The primary thing you should consider is that you are a beginner and must walk before you can run. Don’t just jump onto some heavy weight expecting to be able to lift it and then give up because you can’t. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short. You will figure out the right weight or resistance for you with several tries. After trying a few different resistance levels a few times, you will find a sweet spot where you can manage a good amount of repetitions and sets without it being either too difficult or too easy. You’ll learn from there whether to go up or down.
You definitely shouldn’t just give it up after one or two tries. It often takes time to get the movement right. Figure out the right resistance and try again and again until you get it. It may be disheartening not being able to perform what looks like a simple exercise, but all it takes as with almost everything in life is practice and repetition. It will click. Learn the movement well to begin with and it could take you further in the long run as well as save you from unnecessary injuries.
While getting to grips with it all, you may feel self-conscious or insecure. It is often natural to feel this way as a beginner. You see people around you lifting really heavy weight, while you can just about pick up the lightest weight in the gym. This may cause you to want to increase the intensity too quickly or conversely to readily give up. But you shouldn’t worry about being judged for your choice of exercise or resistance level. Most people aren’t even looking at you, and if they are, they are usually jerks. Don’t use others around you as a reflection of where you’re at or what you are doing. Focus on yourself and try to improve day by day, set by set. You’re just starting out and it’s all really just a journey and a series of small steps.
What you should recognize is that almost everyone there started off as a beginner and has put the work in possibly over many years. That physique that you are dreaming about and see on the individual next to you most probably has a long journey attached to it. What you are seeing is simply the result or potentially you if you fast forward a few years of keeping at it. It’s like the Instagram image that you saw and liked. It could be a great picture. But if you really consider the one image you are seeing, it is usually a culmination of many different images, attempts and filters until the final result has been achieved.
Equally, you mustn’t feel intimidated being there. As a beginner, it’s common to feel intimidated at the task ahead or the people around you, don’t. There is nothing and no one to be intimidated from. Again, focus on yourself and your work. It’s your journey and nothing and no one around you should affect that. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask someone for advice. Most people are friendly and willing to help you. Just be respectful and maybe don’t keep asking too much as it might get irritating for even the nicest individual.
I’ve seen these affectations transpire a few times recently which had me thinking about the importance of these concepts. The most recent was two young gym goers, one trying to teach the other a new exercise next to me, with the latter seemingly struggling to get it right and wanting to give up after a couple of attempts. He turns to me nervously to sort of justify and explain that he isn’t a frequent gym goer. To which I explained that there is no need to clarify it and that all it takes is a bit of practice to get it right and that perhaps he should try a few more times before giving up on the exercise.
Remember this, we were all there once. Even the most seasoned gym goer, the power-lifter dropping weights that you can’t even count, the individual with the physique of your dreams all started somewhere. You’ll get where you want to be, just have some patience and keep at it.