We’ve all been there. Most of us mere mortals have been in lousy physical shape at least once in our lives. At some point we think “hmm, I should really go to the gym” but we hesitate. A quick perusal of social media, YouTube videos and blog posts reveals that a big reason many people are reluctant to make that first step is intimidation. Many people are intimidated by gyms in general and barbell training in particular. Here’s why nobody should be intimidated by strength-training:
- We are all beginners once: Congratulations, you’ve made it to the gym and you want to train compound barbell movements. There are many things to learn, but that is also why it’s so much fun. Trust me, nobody is sneering at you. If an experienced lifter does happen to notice, he or she is probably thinking “Hey, that’s cool”. Here’s another thing you probably didn’t expect, experienced lifters are even a tiny bit jealous because they remember their own “beginner gains” period.
- The gym is for everybody: Literally, every part of the gym is for everyone. The old stereotype is that the weight room is for guys and the cardio area/classes are for women but that’s silly. You are not intimidated by going to the park, the supermarket or the cinema, so don’t be intimidated by the gym. It’s a public space. It should be selfish thing, it’s where you indulge in some much-needed “me” time. You have as much right to deadlift or do a spinning class as the next person. You may come across some poor deluded souls who think they have a right to judge, but see this behavior for what it is – truly pathetic.
- Anybody can train with weights: Those guys and gals you see lifting that serious weight started just like you. They are not genetic freaks (well, most of them aren’t), they have just been lifting for a while and have gotten to that stage by slowly increasing the weight they lift. Anybody can do this and everybody should, in my opinion.
- Serious lifters are some of the nicest, most chilled out people you’ll ever meet: I know, I know, this seems counter-intuitive. In many gyms, most women and more than a few guys, feel that the free weight area is the preserve of aggressive anti-social hard cases. The weird truth is that lifting heavy weight chills people out better than Xanax. Yes, there’s chalk flying everywhere, AC/DC cranking, people grunting under heavy loads or yelling encouragement but don’t let that fool you. Most of those “big, bad” lifters are totally chill and friendly, the opposite of aggressive . Serious lifters really dig meeting people who share or are interested in their passion. To give you an example, when I travel I often do my research to find the most serious gym in the area and, if possible, a powerlifting gym. So I go into the gym, explain that I am in town for X number of days and ask if I can pay a “day rate” to train. In a serious gym, the staff are usually lifters and more often than not they’ll find a way that I can train for free or pay a “promotional” rate. As for the few powerlifting gyms I’ve found while travelling , I’ve never had to pay – people are literally that friendly. Last year, I visited a big powerlifting gym outside of Ottawa, Canada. The staff was stoked that some random guy visiting from Europe took the time to look them up. They hooked me up with a free 2 week pass and were super friendly. I met the owner and some of the powerlifting team members, they offered to spot my squats and bench, we took pictures together, etc. It’s like being in a big social club.
- Weight training is not very macho: True, you can see people lifting some impressive weight, but that’s only because they’ve been working at it slowly and methodically over a long period. This isn’t sky-diving, MMA or Formula 1 racing. You don’t need to be particularly courageous. (OK, at more advanced levels you may sometimes attempt weights that scare you, but still… ) On the whole, it’s not as macho and hairy-chested as people believe.