For some, stepping into your local gym is intimidating enough as it is, without then heading to the weights room. Surrounded by mirrors, tightly packed with lots of complicated looking equipment, it's enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Add in the testosterone fueled, male dominated environment and it's no wonder women tend to stick to the cardio areas.
But why leave all the benefits of weight lifting to the men? It's becoming more and more well known that lifting weights won't leave women 'bulky' and in fact can be key to becoming firmer and losing body fat. You can read more about the benefits of weight lifting for women in our article 'Reasons Women Should Weight Train'. It seems a shame to miss out on all the benefits you could be gaining simply because of what a stranger may or may not be thinking. This is article is intended to help you overcome the mental block and step confidently into any weights room.
It's Your Right to Be in the Gym
Firstly, I would like to say that you have as much of a right to be there as anyone. You shouldn't have to be escorted in by a friend or personal trainer to feel comfortable, or allow yourself to be bullied out by men with insecurity problems. But in saying this, it pays to remember that in allowing yourself to be intimidated into staying away, you're also guilty of perpetuating stereotypes. It's easy to look over to the weights room and see an amorphous mass of muscle heads. Try to remember, they each have their own insecurities, doubts, and problem areas. And they all started from the beginning. They won't be judging you – everyone has to start at the bottom, and instead they'll be eager to help out. Anyone who has some experience in any sport loves to impart their wisdom, and any and all tips are good to be added to the knowledge bank. See them as people, perhaps potential friends, and you'll begin to break down the barriers.
Most woman's insecurities stem from the cry of 'I don't want to look stupid!'. Women tend not to have the weight training experience that men have, and simply don't know what to do. There are some easy ways to overcome this – firstly, if you can afford it hire a few sessions with a personal trainer. They'll quickly have you mastered a few basic exercises, and you can expand gradually on your own later. DVDs are an alternative. Secondly, there's no way to learn except to practice! Bear these points in mind when entering the weights room:
No one is looking at you. Yes, it's easy to say. But although you may feel like you stick out like a sore thumb, people are there in the gym to exercise for their own purposes. You don't enter with the intention of watching other people, and neither do they. This is especially true of those who are in excellent shape and look good – despite most normal looking people feeling most intimidated by them, they are in fact the least likely to be looking at you and the most likely to be wrapped up in admiring what their own body looks like. Men tend to admire themselves in the mirrors much much more than women – and if they're looking at themselves, they're not looking at you!
Worried about making a mistake? Most people in the gym have very little knowledge of actual form. Women tend to focus more on form and function than men, being less prone to 'ego lifting', and with a few months of practice you'll be looking better than most. Besides, people are too busy to notice a slight flaw in your technique. Just don't bang the weights around and make a lot of noise, and you'll never attract any attention. Men feel intimidation too. Imagine walking as a man into a step class full of spandex clad women – no doubt he feels as uncomfortable as a woman walking into a weights room. But would you be judging him? Of course not.
However there are ways to make your experience more comfortable. Headphones and a cap can help avoid unwanted eye contact or unsolicited advice. Make sure you plan your workout beforehand – wandering aimlessly is a surefire way to undermine your confidence. Have a plan, go in, and do it. And have fun! If you're looking for further motivation, try our article '10 Things Women are Better at in Terms of Weight Lifting'.