This year, I decided to get into the best shape of my life.
I’ve been actively attempting to improve my fitness for the last three years, ever since I started running regularly. While running has provided me a great way to be active, to relieve stress, and to get stronger, I decided it was time to do more. So I joined a gym.
A lot of women are afraid to lift weights or go to the gym for a number of reasons, and, frankly, I was, too. Today I want to share with you how I got over my fears and learned to love weight training.
Go with a friend
When I first started going to the gym regularly, I went with on of my best friends Janett, which was a huge help in getting over my initial fears. In addition to the security of knowing someone else at the gym, going with someone is important because it allows you to have a spotter when you are lifting weights. You and your friend can take turns lifting weights while the other watches your form to ensure you don’t injure yourself. A spotter is also extremely useful if you accidentally lift a weight that is too heavy and need help lifting it back onto the rack.
Janett was familiar with weight training, which was also a huge bonus. He already knew how a lot of the machines worked and was able to teach me proper technique to avoid injury. It is a great idea to find a friend who has been to the gym before, but not required, which brings me to my next point:
Find a workout plan online and do some research before you go to the gym. A lot of celebrity trainers post workouts online, which can be a great resource. If you aren’t sure about some of the exercises in your plan, look them up before you get to the gym. The exercise guides on BodyBuilding.com are my favorites. They show you proper technique and how to correctly use the machines.
If you still feel uncertain about using the equipment, most gyms offer a tour and/or a free training session when you first sign up. Take advantage of these! You can tell your trainer what your goals are and they will recommend the best equipment to use as well as show you how to use it. One session will at least give you the basic knowledge to come back and do some weight training on your own.
Don’t do too much at first. Your muscles will need time to adjust to the sudden strain you’re putting on them, and if you push yourself too hard on the first day, you’ll likely be too sore to return to the gym all week. Take it easy!
Start with lighter weights, and if you find that they are too easy, gradually move up in weight until you feel like you’re at a comfortable difficulty. I usually do four sets of ten reps for each exercise (meaning I do an exercise ten times, then take a break, then repeat until I’ve lifted a total of forty times). You want to be able to complete all your reps, but, by the last set, feel like you couldn’t do any more. If you can’t finish your last set, that’s okay, too. Just don’t lift so much on your first set that you can’t even begin your second.
Some exercises can be done with no weights at all, and are a good start if you’re brand new to weight training. My workout routine calls for barbell squats on Wednesdays; I was having a lot of trouble with these, so I decided to try bodyweight squats for a few weeks. I still felt I was getting a good workout, and I spent time making sure to use I was doing them correctly before adding weight.
Nobody’s judging you
In my experience, most people at the gym are too busy worrying about their own workouts to spend much time paying attention to what you are doing. I used to be afraid to go to the gym because I was so scared that everyone was going to be watching me and judging how much weight I could lift or what I looked like. This is simply not the case.
If you’re still worried about it, try going at a time when the gym isn’t too crowded. I enjoy going in the early morning before work. Early evenings and weekends tend to be the most crowded times.
A few misconceptions
A lot of women have this weird fear that if they lift weights they are going to get giant muscles. This is silly. Those incredibly muscular women you see in magazines or on TV are not only training a lot, but follow very specific diets and are taking supplements to help them increase their muscle size. If you go to the gym for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and eat a normal, healthy diet, you will get toned, but you’re probably not going to look like a bodybuilder. If only it were that easy!
I have also heard theories that women need to follow special weight training programs targeted specifically towards women. This isn’t necessarily true, either. Women can benefit from all kinds of weight lifting exercises.
Janett and I are currently following the workout plan that Daniel Craig used to get in shape for Quantum of Solace, and we’ve both seen great results so far! You can read all about the workout plan at the Men’s Health website. I like this workout much more than others I’ve tried because it varies from day-to-day and targets different groups of muscles.
Look around and try different workouts until you find one that you enjoy the most. Weight training can be a lot of fun if you give it a chance!