Ella Minker
June 03, 2015 3:33 pm

After a grand total of 18 years of eating what some might generously call “not the best diet ever,” and not being too interested in taking part in sports of any kind, I thought it might be time to start putting effort into being healthy. My body was crying out for nutrients and exercise, while my brain was like, “just eat some more crisps and everything will be fine.”  Turns out that is not a great lifestyle choice (duh).

In my quest to end my days as a lazy, unhealthy slob, I turned to the gym. I thought I’d go there a few times, do a bit of exercise and come home again. Loads of people go to the gym – how hard can it be? Little did I know the whole thing can be a totally awkward and, honestly, fairly terrible experience, especially when you’re just getting started and not really in shape yet. If you’re also a gym newbie, be prepared for a very interesting first experience. To help pave the way, I’m sharing all of the thoughts I had during my first trip to the gym.

“What do these machines even do?”

I’m not going to lie, it can be pretty intimidating walking into a gym, full of people who look like they know what they’re doing.  I opted for the stationary bikes to start with, since they seemed pretty self-explanatory. While I pedaled away, I was looking around, trying to work out what on earth most of the machines in the room were even for.

I know that if you join a gym, most places will give you an introduction, showing you how to use all the equipment and also some places will help you find a work out routine that suits what you want to achieve with your fitness. If your gym offers this, I recommend that you take them up on it, since I spent most of my first gym session on exercise bike, looking confused. I probably should have at least done a Google search before going, so I didn’t turn up totally clueless. But lesson learned: Gyms are confusing. 

“Am I really THIS out of shape?”

I went into the gym thinking it would be a total breeze, and I’d look like a model in an advert for a gym. I literally have no idea why I thought I would strut into the gym and suddenly gain all the athletic traits that I never had growing up. I think wearing trainers makes my brain think weird things. “You have the fitness of an Olympic marathon runner!”… Shut up trainer brain.

After about ten minutes of pedaling, my whole face was as red as Taylor Swift’s favorite lipstick, and I think the whole gym could hear my heavy breathing — I was surprised no one alerted a medical team; it was pretty bad. Everyone else seemed to be making exercise look so easy, I wondered if I accidentally turned up on pro night. But no, I hadn’t. I was just deluded in thinking fitness comes from nowhere. Turns out you have to work at it. After a few visits, I started to see improvements, and it’s really worth keeping it up for that feeling!

“I should probably have made a playlist for this.”

I didn’t realize how helpful the right music can be when you’re working out! They play music in the gym, but, in my case, it wasn’t great, and I think having some of your favorite upbeat tunes can really motivate you. It’s worth being a little bit organized and putting together a playlist that will get you working hard. It also helps you stop getting bored, so you’ll work out for longer!

“Oh, I wasn’t staring at you! Oops…”

Exercise gets pretty repetitive, and let’s be honest, it can be pretty boring. It’s easy for your mind to blank and before you know it, you find you’ve been accidentally staring at someone while they work out. Awkward! You shoot them a look that says, “I was blankly staring into space, I promise!” The person that thinks you’ve been looking at them for the last five minutes is probably looking back at you with an expression that says, “…what the heck?” So how can you avoid this? Keep your eyes on the machine handles — they usually have great information about your health and your workout, like a heart rate monitor or distance tracker. Or, if your gym has TVs on the wall, that’s a perfect place to focus (or stare blankly at) too. 

“Why did I just make eye contact with a stranger?”

I zone out a lot, it’s easily done.  And as I said before, you may find yourself  accidentally staring at someone without realizing. Then, they turn to look at you, and before you know, awkward accidental eye contact! This is bad enough in everyday life, but for some reason when it happens and exercise is happening, it seems a thousand times more awkward. There will be that horribly awkward few seconds where, for some reason, neither of you look away, whilst your brains process what is happening, and once you’ve recovered, you’ll be very cautious to never look at that area of the room ever again. Eyes on floor guys, eyes on the floor.

“Hey, maybe I’ll get good at this after a while.”

After my first visit, I was fairly shocked at how unfit I was, and no one else seemed to be struggling as much as I was. When you feel like this, it’s tempting to not go again, but don’t be disheartened! Turns out everyone else is just getting on with their own work out, and no matter how much of a fool you think you’ve made of yourself, it’s probably not the case! No one is interested in what you’re doing; they’re focusing on their own work out — and once you get the hang of things, that’s what you’ll be doing too.

(Images via here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

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