I’m sure by now you’ve all heard that lifting weights is crucial if you want to burn fat and add muscle. If you’ve never been much of a weight lifter though, stepping into a gym filled with guys can be intimidating. When that’s the case, it’s much easier to skip it altogether or go straight to the machines. Usually, the area with free weights is crawling with dudes so it’s a little awkward to be the 1 girl in a sea of guys (doesn’t sound that bad when you say it out loud does it?).
In my experience, I always feel like guys are watching and judging me. I’m sure in real life, they haven’t even noticed I walked in. On the other hand, If a gym was filled with all girls, you’re most likely being watched. I think girls watch/judge each other much more than guys do. Anyway, that’s a different topic for another time. Even if they aren’t watching me, I feel like they are and it makes me uncomfortable.
The minute you feel uncomfortable is the minute you run for the treadmill or machines. Somewhere safe. Away from scary guys :).
Now that I’ve conquered my fear of being scrutinized, I always head to the free weights. I love lifting weights. It makes me feel strong which is a great feeling. I totally understand though if you avoid it because you feel uncomfortable. Here are some tips to get over that fear:
- Get Educated-Read magazines, books, or ask someone who’s familiar with a weight room what some good starting exercises are. I like Women’s Health magazine, they have great routines that aren’t too difficult. Another good magazine is Oxygen. Oxygen has some more advanced moves but they give you a ton of options. The thing about weight training is you can always start at a lower weight and work your way up. The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises is a great book filled with every exercise you could think of. It also lists out plans so you don’t have to try and put one together yourself. The New Rules of Lifting for Women is another book with some great exercise ideas.
- Have a Plan– I always walk into a weight room with a training plan written out, that way I’m not wondering around wondering what to do. In my experience, when I run out of things to do, I usually try to think of exercises, but at that point it’s too late. The motivation sort of runs out the door.
- Think Like a Badass– This pretty much only pertains to women. When the weight room is overrun by men, I put a motivating song on and just walk in there like I own the place. Basically, fake self confidence. It will make you feel better, stronger, and more comfortable. I usually walk in and put my stuff down on a bench so I secure my spot. Then just go for it! I remember one time in Chicago this guy asked me if I was training for something. I wasn’t (training for life man!) but I felt kinda cool that he thought I was that hard core. 🙂 Songs I like to crank are: anything by ACDC, Metallica, some rap music, LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It,”(I work out…wiggle, wiggle, wiggle), JT, “SexyBack” because you most definitely are bringin’ it back.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Heavier Weights– For some reason, it’s easy for me to get stuck on weights between 5-15lbs. It’s like anything after 15 is too heavy and will rip my arm off or something (anyone remember the Hanz and Franz SNL skit where they ripped their arms off weight lifting?). Well, it probably won’t so it’s worth going outside your comfort zone. If you’re new to weight lifting, start at a weight that you can only lift for 8-10 reps for 1-3 sets. Once you can lift that weight 12-15 times, increase the weight. I’ve done weight lifting programs where I’ve started with a weight I can lift 15 times, then increased it and lifted 12 times, increased and lifted 8 times, increased and lifted 6 times. The fact is, your body will get stronger and suddenly 10lbs. is just not enough. Increasing your weight will continue to challenge your body and increase your muscle mass. But don’t worry…
- You Won’t Get Huge– Lifting 25lb. weights will not turn you into a body builder. You’re not going to get enormous unless you’re really trying to look that way. Women have much lower levels of testosterone so you’re muscles will not naturally increase to the size of your local bodybuilder. So, don’t worry! You’ll see some toning in your muscles which is definitely a good thing!
- Ask for Help– If you’re totally lost in a weight room, ask someone for help! Ask a personal trainer who’s wondering around or even ask the buff dude on the bench next to you. Even better, ask another women who’s owning the weight room floor. People are generally nice and would love to help.
- Compete With Yourself– It’s easy to look around a gym and compare yourself to others. Try your hardest not to do that. Sure, it’s good to have something to inspire to, but remember we’re all at different fitness levels. Don’t get discouraged just because there’s another girl in the gym that’s rockin’ the place. Maybe she does this for a living or maybe she’s just been doing it longer. That’s okay…good for her! Look in the mirror and push yourself. Don’t worry about others.
As much as I love to run, I love lifting weights just as much if not even more. When my muscles are sore, I just feel like I’ve accomplished something great. I worked my butt off and can actually see results: definition in my arms! Finally!
If you want to try weight lifting (and are familiar enough with a weight room) give this beginner’s workout a try:
Try to incorporate weight lifting 2-3 days a week if you’re a beginner. Make sure to warm your body up before grabbing your weights!
- Chest Presses on a Bench or Pushups on knees. (Working your chest)
- Lat Pulldowns or Single Arm Dumbbell Rows on a bench. (Working your back)
- Bicep Curls, seated or standing (standing is harder) (Biceps)
- Overhead Press with dumbbells or Front Raises with dumbbells (Shoulders)
- Triceps Extensions or Dips on Bench (Triceps)
- Squats with dumbbells (Quads and Glutes)
- Lunges with dumbbells (Quads and Glutes)
- Crunches (Upper Abs)
- Reverse Crunches (Lower Abs)
These are just a few basic exercises to get you familiar with the weight room. Once you get more comfortable, there are so many different exercises you can perform with or without weights. Just make sure to listen to your body: if you’re too sore or finding something too difficult, take it easy. It will come but it definitely doesn’t happen overnight (unfortunately).
If you’re ready to move on to more advanced workouts, check out my workout generator. It will generate a new workout for you whatever your fitness level.
Do you lift weights? Are you ever intimidated by weight rooms?
Heather (Where's the Beach) says
I did a similar post last Friday. I am absolutely all for women getting into the weight room and lifting heavy. Don’t worry about the men, have a plan, study up, even take classes or invest in DVDs to get more comfortable with the lifting. Then go in there like you own the place 😉
awesome ill check out ur post! i just love the feeling afterwards and actually seeing muscles in my arms and legs…feeling strong is so nice!!
Ellen @ Undercover Runner Eats says
I’ve been lifting for 3 or 4 months now and LOVE it! Luckily my gym is at a community center, so there’s no juice-heads around to judge me (mostly senior citizens, haha, I’m okay with that).
haha they’re prob really impressed by you!!
this is so great Amy! thank you for all the wonderful inspiration. I don’t know what i would do without my wonderful weights. STRONG!
kaitlin @4loveofcarrots says
I used to steer clear of weights until college swimming and we had to lift 3 mornings a week. Since graduating I have become obsessed with lifting, I can only lift multiple reps with 10lbs but I’m ok with that!
I’m 58 years old and have been working out for years. However, this summer a trainer challenged me to lift heavier and to push myself. Also, he “talked me into” doing legs twice a week. It only took him three weeks to do this! Bottom line, the results have been great! I’m leaner and stronger and have high hopes for 2015!!
buff dude says
Im proud when i see a girl lifting weights its adorable and recomend it 🙂 gyms need more girls
I’m into heavy powerlifting; heavy deadlifts, squats, bench press… can do weighted pull ups and dips. Not so much into the lighter tricep extensions and isolation movements. My goal is simply pure strength.