Tips for being a woman in the gym

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The title of this post sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?!  And yet, I’ve become acutely aware recently that being a woman in the gym really is a struggle for so many of us.  So many anxieties, fears and worries keep us out of it when it really isn’t as scary as our minds make it out to be, so today we’re going to discuss the issues we face and how to conquer them…

Finding the right exercise

I’m not sure where and when it happened exactly but at some point, society decided that the only way you could get and stay fit was by going to the gym and doing cardio.  Even the 1980s trend of fitness classes (and the awful videos produced from them) happened in gym studios but newsflash (!!!!) there are endless ways in which you can keep fit or lose weight.  The gym is not the be all and end all.  Also, this may come as a shock to some of you, but the gym isn’t for everyone!  Sometimes when people say “I hate going to the gym”, they mean it.  Find an exercise you love or at the very least you know you’ll stick to.  Join a running club or an aquatic aerobic class; try some YouTube videos at home and if you’re not sure, try them all until you find one you enjoy.



Wearing the right clothes

Now ladies, I’ll confess; this is a pet peeve of mine…you do not need to wait until you’re a certain size to buy the workout gear you want!!  Nor do you need to shell out a fortune before you hit the gym.  This is one of our favourite subconscious ways to sabotage our exercise efforts; we say we can’t afford it and that the clothes will look hideous on us.  The only two things worth financially investing in are your trainers and a sports bra (especially for my well-blessed ladies because lord only knows how painful it must be to have two bags of sugar hitting your face with every step!).  When I first started running in Sydney, I’d see most women in outfits totalling $400-$500.  Now, I get it.  You want to wear the ‘cool’ brands but if that’s the only reason you’re working out, you’re going to have bigger issues than your bank balance!  My trainers cost $120.  The rest of my outfit?  Sports bra, t-shirt & workout pants?  They collectively cost: $26 courtesy of Kmart.  You don’t need expensive workout gear to exercise!

Wearing what you want

Following up from wearing the ‘right’ clothes in terms of designer names, please also realise that you can wear whatever the hell you want in the gym.  You don’t have to be top to toe in lycra if you feel uncomfortable and you can have a tummy and still wear a crop top.  You can also wear that old t-shirt 3 sizes too big that covers all your lumps and bumps; all that matters is that the fear of what to wear doesn’t stop you working out.

Worrying about your nipples

Moving on from the above point (pun intended), showing our nipples are a big concern for us in the gym because those bad boys can pop up out of nowhere despite 6 layers of sweat, lycra and cotton and it’s embarrassing.  At least it FEELS embarrassing.  And I’m not going to sit here and say that when those puppies make an appearance that I don’t want to run to the changing room and hide but I carry out working out because, really, they’re just nipples!  Seeing male nipples is acceptable.  Seeing every other aspect of a woman’s boob is celebrated on the red carpet.  But nipples on a woman?  Not acceptable it seems.  I know it feels embarrassing ladies, particularly if you’ve got large nipples, different sizes or they’re just very obvious but please don’t stop going.  I guarantee that you feel far more subconscious about them than anyone else in the gym even notices and even if they’re silently judging you for them, fuck ‘em.  You’re in the gym, trying to be a better version of yourself so fuck what someone else thinks about your nipples!

Wanting to do ‘male’ exercise

Hey ladies!!  Guess what?  You’re allowed to weight train and box!  Yes, really!  I know because I’m doing it myself.  Gyms tend to be separated into free weights, weight/body apparatus and then cardio machines such as treadmills and bikes.  The latter is where you tend to see most of the women and you know why?  Not only because we are misguidedly taught that cardio is the only way to lose weight but that the free weight section is for men.  Fuck.  That!!  Firstly, weight training doesn’t make you bulky like a man, it sculpts and strengthens you.  Secondly, even if you’re surrounded by men, you do you!  If you’re worried about looking ‘stupid’ in front of the men in regards to how to set up the weights, what exercises you should be doing etc, ask one of the personal trainers to help.  Most gyms offer you a free introductory session to get you going but failing that, there’s always YouTube or you can ask a PT online to help create a routine for you!  Likewise, I’m about to restart boxing class because I love it for cardio and developing my muscle strength and it turns out that I’m pretty good at it too!  Don’t allow your fears to keep you from getting the body you want!

You go bright red & sweat buckets

This is the biggest issue I hear from fellow women when I talk about going to the gym (especially as I go to the gym during lunch).  Confession time; I go as red as a raspberry at times and yes it feels embarrassing as shit and no, it’s not because I’m unfit or that I mildly suffer from rosacea but because that’s just the way my body behaves.  Does it stop me?  No.  Again, I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t feel self-conscious about it or that I don’t feel embarrassed, especially when a colleague makes a joke about it but, like I’ve said before, fuck ‘em.  You’re in the gym which I suspect is a damn sight more than the people giving you shit for it.  It’s horrible, I know.  Believe me, you feel it makes you look like the most unfit person in the world but I’d rather be a raspberry and literally sweating my make-up off than not be in the gym at all.  Every time you feel the redness kicking in or you see yourself in a mirror (Satan’s glass as I like to them!), remind yourself why you’re there and what you’re trying to achieve.

Worrying everyone is judging you

Let me start by feeding your fears and say that other people in the gym could be judging you just as you worry that they are.  It’s horrible but true.  The key thing you have to remember to get you through that worry?  Their opinion of you doesn’t matter.  I mean, it really doesn’t.  If a personal trainer tells you that you’re using a machine incorrectly that’s one thing but the silent judgement of others doesn’t matter unless you let it.  And believe me, it’s not easy.  When I get those self-conscious days in the gym, I constantly have to recite affirmations to myself that people aren’t judging me, that I’m not ‘too fat for the gym’, that men aren’t thinking I’m a weak woman but even whilst I am repeating those points to myself, I’m still working out.  People could be looking at you for a variety of reasons; seeing how you’re using the equipment (because maybe they don’t know themselves), watching to see when you’re finished with the equipment or they could be looking because they think you’re gorgeous even as a sweating raspberry!  Don’t let the fear of their thoughts stop you.

Despite all of the above, I will say that going to the gym takes courage at times even for men (which all of the above points can also apply to!).  It takes a battle of our internal demons, insecurities and anxieties to get through the door but you can do it!  And how do I know you can do it?  Because I am.  Even on those days where it feels like my world is ending, I feel fat and think everyone is criticising me I’m still weight training.  Still running no matter how red I turn.  And please don’t ever think that you’re ‘too fat’ to go to the gym; there is a morbidly obese man working with a personal trainer in our gym and do you know why I keep staring at him?  Not because I’m judging him but because I’m full of admiration that he’s got the guts to work on himself in front of others!

You can do it ladies! 

It may take a while to build up the courage and you’ll still get those bad days but:

the gym is yours and so is the ‘new you’ if you’re willing to fight for her!



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