At Fitness First, we want all our members to have the most enjoyable experience possible, yet many women still feel intimidated when walking into a gym (or even thinking about it!).
To highlight this, we’ve asked some of our female fitness experts here at Fitness First to walk us through what makes them want to hit the gym and any advice they can give to women who are new to exercise or don’t feel confident when visiting the gym.
How do you get your confidence?
Once you’re an avid gym goer and you know the machines like the back of your hand, working out will feel as routine as any other part of your day. But, how do you build your confidence up enough to get to that stage?
Natalie Brazier, UK Group Exercise Product Manager, has three top tips to help you build up your confidence as a beginner, which still help her to this day:
- “ I never compare myself to anyone else – your body is unique to you so don’t worry if somebody can do something better than you, chances are you can do something they can’t do too – it’s just different!”
- “I work out with friends who motivate and inspire me (even when I don’t feel like it!) – training with friends is a great way to find new workout ideas and keep committed.”
- “I challenge myself – I feel much more comfortable exercising when it’s something I know I will enjoy however getting out of my comfort zone and doing something challenging against my normal routine really shows you how much you can achieve – which is a great confidence boost!”
Heading to the gym with friends is something Claire Bibby, Fitness First Trafford, found helpful starting out too.
“I first started training with a friend so we could get used to the gym environment together and learn how to use the machines without me looking silly on my own.”
Once I felt a little more comfortable, I started to do some group exercise classes to watch how other people used the weights and get a few tips from listening to instructors. Then before I knew it, I had the confidence to work out on my own and really begin my own fitness journey.”
What advice would you offer to women who lack the confidence to start exercising?
Like any other hobby or activity, fitness can be intimidating when you’re first starting out. It’s all too easy to head to the gym for the first time, ready to take on the world, then feel like a deer in the headlights when seeing the rows of equipment available.
Natalie’s advice is to take your time when you’re first getting started. “Even if you are only starting to think about doing some exercise or trying something new just start small and take your time.”
She also believes that variety is key, claiming “you’re definitely more likely to stick to something if you enjoy it, but it can take time to find something fun - try something new and don’t give up if you don’t enjoy it, keep going until you find what it is you love to do and feels right for your body.”
For Rosie Pearson, Fitness First Morecambe, having someone to share the gym experience with was a big help to begin with. “Try it with a friend, someone to guide you through. You could join in a group fitness class or ask a personal trainer for help. Once you’re confident with what you’re doing you’ll find enjoyment in exercise. Once you’ve had that first hit of endorphins you’ll be hooked!”
What are your best tips for getting started after a long break from exercise?
It can be really tough to get your rhythm back after a long break from the gym. An important tip that Claire offers is to ease yourself back in, rather than diving in head first. “Break yourself in slowly and listen to your body. You are going to have lost some strength or fitness or both, so take it easy.”
Rosie agrees that rushing in is a bad idea and that you should be cautious when getting back in the fitness habit. “Slow and steady wins the race. You can’t always jump in where you left off, take it easy. Slow progress is better than no progress!”
Another piece of advice for getting back into your routine comes from Natalie, who says “setting yourself a small activity goal for each day, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk or taking the stairs at work is a great way to build yourself back up slowly.”
Tell us about a time at the gym/during sport that you overcame your insecurities
Every person you see at the gym was a beginner at some point and they all have been faced with their own insecurities. It’s just a natural part of fitness. The good news is that everyone finds a way to overcome their insecurities until they’re nothing but an afterthought.
For Claire, it was the thought of working out in front of experienced gym members for the first time. “ Everyone always thinks that people are looking at them or watching them when they exercise. When I first started working out this is exactly how I felt. I thought that people were going to judge me.
“But soon enough I learned that they weren't really watching or judging me, they were in their own world and didn't really care what I was doing, it was only me worrying so much about what they thought that made me feel so insecure. Now I don't even realise there are other people there when I'm exercising.”
What helped Natalie overcome her insecurities was to create a safe space to exercise in, which still helps her stay confident today.
“When I started out exercising I had very little confidence so decided to go into Group Exercise and Studio Classes. I found this helped me learn in a safe space, build my fitness levels and overcome some insecurities around working out on the gym floor.
“I still recommend this as a great starting place for anyone who is feeling a little insecure about where to start or feels intimidated in a gym environment – even now on a day when I’m feeling less confident, this is my safe space to work out.“
What is the most empowering thing about exercise?
Everyone has their own reasons for going to the gym and everyone gets something different out of the experience.
Rosie uses the gym as a way to smash her targets. “I find the journey to see what I am capable of really exciting. The limit to how strong you can become really doesn’t exist. Being stronger, fitter and more capable is empowering in itself!”
Pushing herself further is something that Natalie also finds empowering from exercise. “The human body is incredible and completely unique to everyone but often we never use it to its full potential or nearly enough! Exercise allows us to discover, strength, power, speed etc. and feel much more confident in all the things we never thought we could do.”
For Claire, it’s all about taking a step back from her day-to-day life. “For me, the most empowering thing about exercise is the freedom to step away from whatever problems you may face and be able to focus solely on yourself, physically and mentally and to walk out feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders.”
For more tips and advice on building your confidence in the gym, whether you’re a first-timer or have been a member for years, view our full guide here.