Health & Fitness

Facing my Fear of Gyms with Fitness First

November 30, 2015

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2015 has been the year I finally opened myself up to the idea of physical exercise. Bar a few pole dancing lessons and raving it up at clubs and festivals, my body hasn’t had proper physical exercise in years. But this year that all changed and I became a runner, like, an actual runner. The kind who runs in established charity runs and uploads snaps of her muddy trainers and PB to instagram. And in October I wowed myself even further by running my first ever half marathon … without stopping *pats herself on the back*

Yet after achieving all this and feeling fitter, healthier, and more confident about running, I still feared the Gym! Ask me to run in front of a crowd of a hundred people? Easy. I’ll happily do it, in fact I’ve already done it. But ask me to work out in a gym, and before I’ve even agreed to it my underarms are wet with panic sweat. Why? Because gyms make me feel fat, unfit, out of shape and, well, if I’m being honest, uncool. I’m not a perfect size 10, with perfect abs, who can lift weights or master a spin class. And this is what I’ve imagined gyms to be full of. Beautiful people, with perfectly defined bodies who barely break a sweat when they work out.

But actually, this is NOT true, as I recently found out when myself and Emma from acrazycontradiction visited a Fitness First to try out a typical evening at the gym. You see I’m going to be 30 next year, the only thing worse than being a 29 year old scared of the gym is being a 30 year old scared of the gym. So when Fitness First invited us along to try out their Tottenham Court Road venue, I decided to give it a whirl. I packed some of my running clothes, my trainers and headed off to be a ‘Gym Person’ for the evening.

I was crapping myself.

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Once changed and on the floor we were greeted by Connor, a personal trainer at the gym who gave us a little tour of the place. First of all, WOW! This is a really plush, squeaky clean gym. It’s so clean and bright that it actually made me want to work out – a mind trick perhaps?

Although I was initially nervous, my nerves calmed after I walked past what looked like a pretty intense spinning class. I had expected to see petite woman in sports bras, showing off their abs and gliding through the class the same way I glide through a three course meal at Zizzi’s. But in fact I saw men & women of all different shapes and sizes, dripping in sweat, looking like they wanted to either kill the instructor or slump to the side and fall off the bike. Basically they looked exactly how I would look during a spinning class – awful! This gave me much comfort.

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Emma and I headed into the free style room with Connor for our own PT session. Again, a room I expected to be full of muscly men in tight shorts, but was in fact packed with a variety of people all different shapes and sizes, a lot of them working together, gym friends maybe?

Connor wanted us to do things like planking and something called a Superman. The nerves kicked in again, but Connor reminded me that no one was even looking, and frankly no one cared! People don’t come to the gym to stare at a newbie, they come to work out and feel good about themselves. And this was very true! As Emma and I began training with Connor, crouching, leaning and kneeling in all kinds of positions, I realised no one gave a dam about us, there wasn’t one single look our way, not even when I got my big SLR camera out to take pictures of us for this very blog post. Everyone is so focused on their own routine and their own exercise. This enabled me to relax and really get into the workout.

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After doing some floor work, followed by using some fancy gym equipment to do weird squat things, followed by an even weirder dance that was like two stepping but with an aerobic step (never expect technical fitness terms from me) we headed over to the Battling Ropes. These are two giant heavy ropes that you sort of whip up and down while in squat position.

Now this bit I loved!

I love running, but it’s this type of exercise and equipment that I wish I had access to. I would love to use these on a regular basis to build up muscle strength and get in better physical shape. And also because it was soooooooooo fun!

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At first I was quite intimidated by these ropes (yes, I’m that much of a wimp) mainly because I was worried about using something like this for the first time and embarrassing myself in front of everyone by doing it wrong or losing my breath and collapsing in a heap on the floor. But Connor reminded me that all these gym goers I was surrounded by, were once newbies too. No one joins a gym in perfect physical condition, everyone at some point will have started off inexperienced or shy. So I decided to have a go. Before I knew it I was not only whipping up a storm on the battling ropes, but I was literally giggling so hard when doing it. I don’t know what it was about this exercise that made me laugh but it did and I loved it!

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After our PT workout with Connor, Emma and I decided we wanted to check out the pool. We changed into our swimming gear and headed into the quiet pool area. With it’s calming blue lighting and the serene feel to it, the pool is just lovely a place to go after a workout. Emma and I must have easily swam 15 – 20 laps, we didn’t want to get out. But get out we must as we had a hot date with the steam room.

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Had I really been scared of all this?? Of doing physical exercise in front of people, of enjoying myself, of playing with ropes and swimming in pools?? Because this was bliss, especially the Spa-like ending to our session at the gym, I didn’t want to leave.

Now obviously I know not all gyms are as nice as this one, this is a top notch central London gym and it comes at a price. But it was amazing. If I was a member of this gym I would go all the time! Spin classes and yoga followed by a swim and steam room would be a great way to spend a few evenings a week. Even the dressing rooms are amazing. The lockers are ginormous, and there is so much open space to get changed, so your not all crammed into a room together, banging elbows. There are even little beauty areas to do hair and make up.

I will most certainly be heading back to this gym again, and I feel a lot more confident about working out in front of other people. I just have to remember what Connor told me, that people arent there to look or judge others. People go to the gym to workout and feel good about themselves, and I should do the same.

Fitness First have even teamed up with Team GB Athletes to create 3 exclusive fitness programmes for people of all levels. So that no matter what shape or size, or how confident or shy, you can go to a Fitness First gym and take part in a challenge, to strive for your personal best and bring out your inner athlete – will you be giving it  go??

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