Kerrie O’Hanlon, general manager at Better Gym Connswater, advises for those wanting to test a designated location
The New Year, for many, brings a renewed sense of motivation. Getting back into training or embarking on a new fitness journey is a positive way to kick off the year and, in light of the public health crisis, more important than ever.
For many, however, this can bring a sense of apprehension about navigating the dos and don’ts of the gym.
In leisure, we know that looking after our mind goes hand in hand with looking after our body and burning off steam is often just as important as the physical aspect. I have developed some techniques for managing those feelings of self-judgement.
Adapt your perspective
When it comes to getting in a fitness regime, mindset is everything. Think about what you want to achieve in your regular sessions or classes and remember that it is ultimately a time to focus on you, your body and mind. View it as a few afternoons a week without the kids or a chance to relax after work, and any physical gains you do make will be a bonus.
Talk to a team member
A common benefit of gym membership nowadays, including at our Better centres in Belfast, is a complementary gym induction or one-to-one chat with an instructor. This is not a test, but an optional opportunity to tour the facilities, have the equipment demonstrated and ask any questions. Use this time to familiarise yourself with the environment and you will feel much more at home when you return.
Know before you go
If your apprehension lies around feeling aimless or out of place, arriving with a plan of action is worthwhile. Not only is this a reminder that you are there for a reason, to take time for yourself and focus on your health and fitness, but it will keep you on track towards your goals.
Manage your expectations
Accepting that you can’t do everything in day one will allow you to focus on what you can. It is perfectly normal, and more common than you might think, to start off on just one or two machines. Accept where you are and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
Your apprehension is normal, and will pass
Just like a new job or your first day at school, joining a new gym or leisure centre brings with it concerns and anxieties around issues that may otherwise seem trivial. Unfamiliar faces, concerns about where to park or a new layout and feelings of general unease are normal. Consider visiting for an induction beforehand to get the lay of the land, and don’t be afraid to seek out a friendly face or staff member for advice. Plan some light sessions to get started, allowing you to get settled before attempting to make any serious progress.
Try out a fitness class
Fitness classes are a great way to get settled, fast. Though it may feel like a self-conscious, confidence-vanishing experience at first, starting off with group classes could be the motivation you need. Committing to a set time will keep you accountable and having instructors on hand to guide you when needed is an added bonus.
Exercise off-peak if you can
Peak times vary across every gym, but they can be useful in deciding when is best for you to exercise. If your schedule allows, going at a less-busy time or attending less in-demand classes will allow you to find your feet in a quieter environment.
Get started with a friend
If you fear your concerns may put you off, invite a friend you know and trust. This will help you stay more relaxed in your first few sessions and may also help keep you on track.
Consider the gym as an inclusive, social space
At Better, our leisure centres are made up of inclusive and sociable spaces with many fitness classes, clubs and spots to grab a coffee throughout. Focus on getting yourself into a regular gym pattern, or book your kids into a weekend swim class, and you will find yourself making connections with others in no time.
Remember to breathe
For us, leisure is about supporting all in the community to feel healthy and strong. Challenging your body and taking part in regular activity is an important part of this, but remember it is not the only reason you are there.
There is no shame in taking it easy, and we have many yoga and pilates classes on offer to help you do so.