Walking into a weight room for the first time can remind you of what it used to feel like when you were trying to determine which lunch table to sit at in high school. It's not uncommon to feel a little self-conscious when you're learning how to navigate a new environment, let alone intimidated and afraid of accidentally doing something to embarrass yourself. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to shake it off and hit the weight room with confidence. Follow these tips for how to conquer your fear of the weight room and have a great workout!
1. Dress with purpose.
Your gym clothes should reflect your intention to take your workouts seriously. This doesn't necessarily mean showing up in a set of Olympic weightlifting tights, but it does mean that you should dress for the occasion. Try to select clothes that are relatively form-fitting for the purpose of maximizing your movement, but not overdone to where you're betraying your modesty. This includes wearing any type of clothing that "lets it all hang out" (see-through fabrics, overly loose-legged shorts, etc.). You want functionality and freedom of movement to be the main goal. In addition, choose fabrics that can wick away sweat and keep you cool and dry. Cotton is typically avoided by workout veterans for this very reason; it sticks to your body when you start sweating, and it can bunch up on you as well. One more thing: Do not work out in flip-flops or sandals; this is prohibited by most gyms, and it's a good rule of thumb for preventing foot injuries as well.
2. Stay off your cell phone.
Few things are more annoying than being an unwilling participant in another person's loud and distracting phone conversation. The weight room is a place to work hard, and if you're constantly talking on your smartphone when you should be pumping iron, you might as well have the word "ROOKIE" painted across your shirt in big red letters. Not only are you discrediting your own work ethic, but you can also potentially distract others from their workouts. If you send off a quick text while resting between sets, that's not a big deal, and it is perfectly okay to use your smartphone to play music (with earbuds of course) or as a supplement to your workout (a stopwatch, heart rate monitor, etc.).
3. Put your weights back when you're done.
This is a common courtesy in the world of weight room etiquette. If you load a barbell or use a pair of dumbbells, be sure to re-rack your weights when you're finished. If you just leave the equipment sitting there after you've finished, other lifters will assume that you're still using it. Be sure to return all weights back to where they're supposed to be when you're done; it is unfair to expect others to clean up behind you.
4. Respect others' personal space.
The weight room can get crowded, and space is often a precious commodity. Try not to crowd anyone's personal space, or interrupt them in the middle of their workout to ask if you can use the equipment next, etc. Take a moment to assess the situation, be patient, and wait for them to finish their set before trying to talk to them.
5. Don't stand in front of the dumbbell racks.
If you want to look like a complete amateur, a surefire way to do it is to pull a couple of dumbbells off the rack and then proceed to work out right in front of the rack. This can block other people from getting dumbbells, and it generally makes you look clueless and inconsiderate. Grab your dumbbells and find an open area to perform your weight room workout, and of course, make sure to return them when you're done.
6. Wipe your equipment down when you're finished.
Nobody wants to lie down on a weight bench or sit at a machine that has someone else's sweat on it. If you leave your sweat on any type of machine or bench, be sure to wipe it down with a towel and some disinfectant. Most gyms will provide these items for you.
7. Enlist the help of a personal trainer.
One of the best ways to get started on the right foot is to solicit the help of someone who is more experienced than you are. A personal trainer can help you make sense of your first day in the weight room by not only showing you how to properly use each piece of equipment, but also helping you to customize a workout plan that will address your particular fitness goals. Personal trainers help to take the guesswork out of working out, and they can be a great resource for answering any questions you may have as well.
Remember - nobody lives a 100% mistake-free life, so even if you do commit a few "rookie mistakes," do your best to laugh it off and try not to take yourself too seriously. View each experience as an opportunity to learn and get better. After all, improvement's the name of the game!