Don’t Be Intimidated By The Gym!

Finding Your Way Around the Weight Room

Strength training is no longer just for bodybuilders or athletes. It has gained a lot of popularity in the fitness world among both men and women and across all age groups because it helps you feel better, look better and live a fit, healthy life!

The bummer, however, is the number of people (especially women) who want to start strength training but feel intimidated in the weight room. I get it. Trying something new can be a scary thing, especially in the fitness realm, where many people already feel unsure of themselves. I have been lifting for more than a decade and even I still get a little nervous walking into a new gym. Being a professional, I feel I am “supposed to know” everything in the gym, so I feel a little silly reading instructions on new equipment and figuring out where everything is.

Don’t worry, though, I have put together a list of helpful tips to help you find your way— and your confidence— the next time you are in the gym.

Don’t Be Intimidated By The Gym!


1. Educate yourself and have a plan

Do some research before you go to the gym. Learn what you should be doing, how exercises are performed and have a plan of attack before you get there. There is a ton of useful information and print-and-go workouts online at and on my website: It may also be a good idea to hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to learn basic movements and get coaching on more complicated exercises to make sure you are doing them properly.

2. Tour the gym

No matter where you train, there should be someone on staff who is more than willing to take you on a tour of their facility and show you where everything is located. Many of these staff people are also equipped to answer questions about how to use, set up and adjust the equipment, and even the purpose of each piece.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions— there is no such thing as a stupid one. Every pro was once a beginner. When you have an idea of where certain machines and pieces of equipment are located, you’ll feel much more comfortable during your workout.

Don’t Be Intimidated By The Gym!

3. Grab a friend

Having another person with you in the weight room will give you a sense of familiarity and comfort. With a friend by your side, you can keep each other motivated with friendly competition and words of encouragement. You can spot each other when you want to use heavier weights and give one another feedback on form. You can figure out the machines by putting your minds together. Oh, and you can keep one another accountable for getting to the gym on a regular basis, too. It’s a win-win for both of you.

4. Download some good music

Wearing headphones allows you to control what you’re listening to, escape into your own little world without being distracted and get in a solid workout. It can also motivate you to work harder— and even zone out. So instead of feeling paranoid that you’re being judged by the people around you, you’ll be jamming out to your favorite tunes and totally focused on your workout.

Don’t Be Intimidated By The Gym!

5. Relax and do your thing

When people are at the gym, I can promise you that they are more concerned about what they are doing than what you are doing. And if they are thinking about you, they are more worried about what you think of them than what they think of you.

So next time you feel upset or paranoid that someone else is judging you, critiquing you or talking about you at the gym, repeat this mantra to yourself: “If someone has a problem with me, it’s their problem, not mine.” You’re doing something awesome for yourself, and that’s all you need to worry about!

6. Just do it

Sitting around worrying about being uncomfortable at the gym is 10 times worse than actually going to the gym, where there is a 99.9 percent chance that no one will laugh at you. If you let fear control your life, you will continue to live in a teeny, tiny, familiar little box known as your “comfort zone.” And in case you’re wondering, that is NOT where the magic happens. The more you “just do it,” the easier and more comfortable you will become.

Take these tips with you next time you hit the weight room. Have a plan, grab some good music or a friend, and just do it! You will be glad you did!

Nicole Wilkins

Nicole Wilkins is three-time Figure International and four-time Figure Olympia champion, as well as a Met-Rx sponsored athlete and certified personal trainer. For more with Nicole, check out "The Fit Life" column in each issue of FitnessRx for Women. Also check out her DVD, "In Pursuit of a Dream," for tons of detailed information on training, nutrition, and life of a top pro athlete! You can order the DVD now at Nicole's Website!

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