“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”

You know the feeling. It can range from butterflies to bombs, from slightly queasy to “Get outta the way, people!” That rush of adrenaline and nerves we all get when we’re about to do something outside our comfort zone.

For many, starting a fitness routine can incite these nerves. I just began helping a friend do this very thing. As we were walking the track, trying out cardio machines and going over basic stretching, I was doing my best to make her feel comfortable and empathize with her feelings of nervousness. Picture it: Walking into a new gym with unfamiliar equipment, people and spandex – oh, so much spandex!

I was lucky when I began my fitness journey, I worked at the gym so I was familiar with the facility and felt some sort of comfort. But for the rest of the population, starting in a new gym has to be crazy intimidating. That’s why I want to offer a few simple tips to help any gym newbs out there venture into that area outside the comfort zone.

My workout buddy, Heidi (L) and me after a race.

Team Heidi/Lindsay at a local relay race

1. Find A Friend
Safety in numbers? I think there’s comfort in numbers. Starting a fitness routine is a whole lot less scary with the help of a friend. Enlist in someone you trust who knows a thing or two about fitness. That person can answer questions, show you new machines, even help put together a basic fitness program.

Even if you’re already in the gym swing, this philosophy can help you mix it up. Nervous to take the leap from 5k to 10k? Convince a friend to sign up with you. Want to try out a new fitness class but you’re a little intimidated? Get a friend to take the plunge too. During my post-marathon workout lull, my workout buddy, Heidi, and I started trying a new class every Wednesday. “New Workout Wednesday” was a ton of fun (we got ourselves into some interesting classes!) and kept things fresh.

2. Get Acquainted
Every gym I’ve ever gone to offers a free orientation for new members. A friendly staff member shows you around, goes through all the machines and answers any questions you may have.

Make sure to sign up for this! Take away the gymtimindation factor of not knowing how machines are used and prevent injuries by learning how to use them properly.

3. Set Goals
No fitness plan should begin without at least one goal. To avoid biting off more than you can chew, my recommendation is to start small and keep it simple. For example, with the friend I’m helping, I want her to get into the habit of going to the gym. We set a goal of her going to the gym at least three times a week. Not every workout has to be intense, I don’t expect her to lose X pounds each week or make major gains in her lifts. Rather, I just want her to get into that right mindset of the gym being a comfortable place, a regular place, another part of her day just like going to work or making dinner.

This may be an appropriate goal for you as well. Or, perhaps you’ve been walking outside and doing pilates DVDs for awhile now – your goal may be to start lifting once a week. Find out what’s missing from your current routine and start there.

4. Start Small
It’s overwhelming enough stepping outside the comfort zone and starting a fitness routine – don’t set yourself up for burnout early on by jumping in too aggressively.

As with goals, start workouts small and simple. Walk before you run, start with 15 minutes of lifting, not an hour, train for a sprint triathlon before jumping up to the Olympic course.

5. Dress The Part
You don’t have to go hogwild and spend a fortune, but definitely invest in a couple quality pieces of workout wear. Get good shoes, gym socks and comfortable, performance-fabric clothes.

It’s all part of the mindset – dress like you’re gonna work out and you’ll be much more likely to get to the gym and break a solid sweat while you’re there.

Do you remember when you first got into a fitness routine? What helped you turn it into a good habit? Share your tips to help newcomers get into the swing of things! Comment or tweet to me @runlikeagirl311.

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