It was a warm, summer day in Indy. I was on call but at home at the time. For the eighth time, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him. I had a list of excuses ready to go as this wasn't the first he'd asked me to accompany him. Well, I'm on call. What if I get all sweaty and get called in? I don't even know what I'm doing at the gym. I don't know how to use any of the equipment. You see where I'm going with this? However, on this day, I took a deep breath and just simply replied, "Okay." Now were all those apprehensions playing in my head as we took the short drive to the nearest LA Fitness? Uh, yes! Nevertheless, I sat in the passenger seat gazing out of the window ready to embark on a new venture for me.
We pulled up at the gym. Before getting out of the car, I took inventory of my essentials: music, check and water bottle, check. I tossed them both into my husband's red worn-out Nike gym bag.He, unlike myself, frequented the gym on a fairly regular basis. I felt my heart racing slightly with anxiety as we approached the tall glass doors. Here goes nothing I was thinking to myself. We walk in, and my immediate response was okay this isn't so bad. It was a weekday and the gym was not terribly crowded. As a matter of fact, I would say it wasn't very busy at all. After signing me up, we headed upstairs to do some cardio. My husband's first choice, the elliptical. But for me, the upright stationary bike was calling my name. I selected a bike away from any other current bike users and hopped on the seat. I immediately discovered that the seats are adjustable and mine so desperately needed it. Rookie move. I hopped off and asked my husband for some assistance. He adjusted the seat and back at it I was. Next step, selecting a program. I sat there, reading the console trying to figure what program made sense for me. If you've ever read some of these bike program labels, you don't really know what you're getting yourself into without trying the program. I tried a couple before finding one that I liked. I was hooked! I had my music and this unknown challenge set before me programmed on this exercise bike. It was invigorating to say the least. So much so that when my husband approached me to say that we were finished with cardio, the sadness that came over me was probably borderline comical. I was't ready to give her up. I felt as if I could have ridden that bike for another hour, easy. Now if I could have actually done that, well we'll never know. Needless to say, I felt energized. We went on to do a variety of strength building exercises. My husband was great. He showed me how to use the equipment and what form to use. My experience was going well, but sure, some of my fears were realized.
I have a couple of fears about going to the gym. First of all, I am a HUGE germaphobe. I mean huge. So much to my disgust, I guess I would call it, not all gym users are considerate of the fact that, well, they are in a public gym. We ALL use the same equipment. Like, oh my gosh, please, please, please wipe the equipment after you use it in consideration for the next person. So needless to say, I felt quite gross about that aspect. Could not wait to wash my hands when we finished up. Secondly, the thought of other people watching me work out just gives me the creeps. Like I'm falsely assuming all gym goers know what they're doing in there. Clearly, that's my anxiety rearing its ugly head. Nevertheless, I just fear that someone who does actually know what she's doing is going to gaze over at me, someone who clearly does not know what she's doing and obviously needs to work on her strength training. She is going to ask herself why I'm here and what do I think I'm doing. She may even giggle at my struggles or technique. I know. Ridiculous, right? In my rational mind, sure people are people-watching. That's a natural thing to do; however, I'm not that interesting in the gym. The people in the gym are, for the most part, there with an objective and ridiculing me isn't likely to be one of them. So, what do I say to that fear? Get over it, Erica. Seriously, get over it.
So what did I learn from my first trip to a public gym? I'll list for you.
1. All in all it's a great place to workout. I mean think about it. It's a building that houses people with like objectives working to meet those objectives. What could be more energizing? It's so invigorating to be around others with the same energy. Seeing someone else work hard to meet their goals is sometimes just the push you need to keep working towards yours.
2. For us germaphobes and those concerned about sanitation, its not that bad. They provide wipes to clean the equipment. I would just say wipe the equipment down before you use it and then again after you've finished as a courtesy to the next user. Perhaps, it's not a bad idea to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you just in case the public dispenser provided by the gym happens to be empty.
3. No one is really paying that much attention to you. Yes, people will see you but they are usually busy doing their own thing. Again, these people are there with an objective and are working to meet it. So in all seriousness, don't let this fear deter you.
4. It's addictive. As we were leaving the gym, I remember saying to my husband, as my legs wobbled beneath me, that I see why people workout in a gym. If I had the time to go to the gym with my husband on a regular basis, most definitely I would. As a matter of fact, prior to all this coronavirus stuff, we spoke seriously about getting a family membership. Obviously, that's not happening any time in the foreseeable future. However, I definitely want to get a nice home gym together one day.
5. It's great to workout with a partner. For me, having someone there to push me to do 10 more of these or 5 more of those, really makes the experience more valuable. If you can find yourself a workout partner or can hire a trainer when you are first getting started, I would say do it. You'll need to have someone in your corner encouraging you to get up and go to the gym. When you've made a commitment to your workout partner or trainer, it's a lot harder to break it. No one wants to make a habit of missing appointments, right? That person is also there to push you in your workouts. Go a little harder or a little longer. That encouragement is invaluable.
So the moral of the story, if you're curious or a little intrigued about what goes on in a gym, I would advise checking it out. Now obviously with COVID-19 and gyms being closed, you'll have to wait until it's safe to go. I do not advise going to a gym right now. I just wanted to share my own personal gym phobias and how they were laid to rest with my first visit. I hope this helps! Please stay safe.
Always striving to help,