The first time I stepped foot into a weights room on my own I was as nervous as anything. Looking at all the different machines, cables and straps was rather daunting, and I was scared to even touch certain pieces of equipment in case I made a fool of myself. It didn’t help that I was convinced everyone was staring at me and watching my every move.
It turns out I wasn’t being dramatic. Men will look at women in the weights area – at least in my gym where it is still quite an uncommon sight – so it helps if you at least look like you know what you’re doing. Rather than scurrying back to the cardio machines, hold your head high with confidence and follow these tips to ensure you look like a natural, while also avoiding pissing off any of the regulars. Try to remember that everyone was a beginner at one stage and manouvering weights does become second nature eventually.
1. Exude confidence
If you are nervous and unsure then that is exactly how you will appear. Rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, try to act like you know what you’re doing – even if you have to fake it! The most important thing is to go in with a clear plan of attack: research the moves you want to do in advance, write them down along with any instructions, practice them at home first minus the weights and take your plan with you to the gym.
2. Step away from the adductor machine
At my gym, most of the girls who do any kind of weight training come in, quickly bang out a few reps of the lighest weight possible on the hip adductor and abductor machines and then leave. Argh!! There are a thousand other exercises you can do apart from one that helps you spread your legs! Don’t be like every other wannabe-fit girl in the gym. Check out my top five upper body and lower body moves.
3. Don’t gossip
On a rare and cherished occasion last week I was completely alone on the weights floor. That peacefulness was shattered, however, when three gaggling girls came over and did not stop talking for the entire 30 minute duration of their “workout”. I can assure you the only thing being worked out was their mouths. What added to my frustration was that they were the type of girls that did not belong in the strength section of the gym. I’m all for women lifting weights but not if they’re going to treat it like a game, jumping from one machine to the next while taking no notice of reps and never completing more than one set, all while using the lightest weight available. If you want to catch up with your girlfriends, go to a coffee shop!
4. If you’re going to lift two kilo weights, get out of the gym!
While everyone has to start somewhere, there really should be no place in anyone’s workout for 2 kilo dumbbells. Most girls in my gym never reach for anything heavier than 4 kilos, and it only spurs me on to lift even heavier in front of them and make plenty of grunting noises while I’m at it. Don’t be afraid to use heavier weights – I bet you’ll be surprised at what you can lift!
5. Don’t hog equipment
Unless you are working out alone or have got the all-clear from everyone around you, do not superset and use two pieces of equipment at once. If the gym is particularly busy, always offer to work in with someone. And always put your dumbbells and barbells away when you’re done with them!
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Nearly everyone I’ve met in a gym has been super helpful and friendly so if you need a spotter or you’re not sure how a certain piece of equipment works, then ask someone! I can promise you that I would rather help someone who isn’t 100 per cent sure about something than watch them perform an exercise incorrectly. Just make sure you wait until they’re resting and don’t ask them mid-set.