The Awkward Guide to: Braving The Gym

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I've got lots to talk to you about today! First up you'll notice this post is titled 'The Awkward Guide to' marking the start of a new series of guides on my blog. It's a bit silly really but since re-naming my blog 'The Awkward Life of Jemma' I haven't actually dealt with any of my 'awkward' experiences! My plan for  'The Awkward Guide' is to bring you an amusing take on some aspects of life that I (and maybe you too) find awkward, stressful or just a bit of a struggle, particularly if it seems that most other people on the planet find them a breeze! The guides will be mostly light-hearted and (hopefully) relatable, and I hold my hands up and say I am by no means an expert on anything that I talk about, I'm only able to speak from personal experience, so take everything I say with a pinch of salt!

Moving on to what this post is really about; the gym. Does that word fill you with dread? Do you hate the idea of working out in front of strangers? Or working out at all for that matter? Well my answers are yes, definitely and yeah pretty much. I'm going to start by giving you a brief history of my experience with exercise. I hate to perpetuate stereotypes but I am that girl who couldn't throw, catch run, skip, bat, jump, skate, hula hoop... the list goes on (and I don't know why I said 'couldn't because the fact is I still can't do any of those things). I got picked last for almost every team, every P.E lesson and I got laughed at for the way I ran (arms flailing) around the track. Let's just say, I wanted to avoid any physical activity altogether and sports day was my idea of hell. Fast-forward to know and you can probably see why I hate exercise, and why my BMI places my firmly in the overweight category.  

Step One: Joining a Gym (...that won't steal all your money, tell you you're fat or place you one-on-one with muscle-bound warrior)

Deciding to join the gym wasn't an easy decision. For one thing we don't have much disposable income to afford to be paying out for memberships, for another the idea of being in a room with other people, having to have a Personal Induction session and putting on tight lycra is incredibly daunting. The trouble is I find it really difficult to find motivation to work out at home, and there is no way I can go jogging outside without nightmares of being back at school. Again I apologise for perpetuating stereotypes but the boy loves the gym, and has taken the blow of cancelling his fancy Nuffield Health membership over the last year pretty hard. 

We have lots of expensive luxury gyms near us that cost ridiculous amounts of money and lock you into a contract that lasts at least a year, even the local council gym membership seemed a bit pricey. Then we discovered The Gym Group which offers low cost membership (our local one is £16.99 a month) with no contract and a 'no-frills' gym that is open 24/7. Other than the cost, the highlights for me? You can join online, you can have a Personal Induction session, but it isn't mandatory and there's no snooty receptionist - yep you can literally join the gym without speaking to anyone! This relieved a lot of the things I was worried about; I hate talking on the phone, I really didn't want to go for any of the health checks that some gyms require and a dreaded being one-on-one with a personal trainer watching me work out (I just know I would've done something really embarrassing!). 

Step Two: Actually Going to the Gym!

So joining the gym was pretty easy (I love anything that I can do online!) but actually having the courage to go? I'm not exaggerating when I say it kept me up at night. We planned to go for our first session on a Sunday morning, just to get a feel of the place and see what it had to offer. I really wanted to put it off, but I knew that it would have to brave it at some point and that it would better to go sooner rather than later. I bought some workout clothes from Primark and fell in love with comfy yoga pants that help suck everything in and give a smooth silhouette. I also bought a sports bra from Tesco that was super cheap but not at all secure so I'm definitely going to have to invest in a high impact one later. 

Over at The Gym we entered using our individual PIN numbers that open up what I can only describe as glass 'pod's. One automatic door opens, you step in and it closes behind you and then another door in front of you opens allowing you access to the gym floor. I felt a little claustrophobic as I was already nervous but luckily it passed quickly. Once inside Harry went off to get a locker and get changed while I waited already in my gym gear (I'm far too self-conscious for the high-school style changing room). I waited, and waited, and waited, he seemed to be taking forever (I found out it was because he couldn't get the lock to work) and I became more and more stressed to the point I thought I was going to have a panic attack right then and there and I'd scratched the skin on the back of my hand red raw. Finally he came back and we were able to move on to step three!

Step Three: The Work Out (a.k.a Re-Affirming Just How Little Upper Body Strength You Have)

If I'm going too be honest (which obviously I am as that's the whole point of this post!) working out is actually the easiest bit. It's the fear of joining and going to the gym that's hard to get over, but once you're there, it's not so bad. I'm going to take this time to recommend that you do have an induction session with a personal trainer to teach you how to effectively and safely use the equipment and then I'm going to contradict myself by telling you that I didn't for reasons I stated earlier. Luckily I have Harry who showed me how to use the weight machines and baulked at just how little weight I could manage (yes I struggled with the lowest weight on almost every machine, are you really surprised?!) I don't know much about keeping fit, but I do know that the best way to lose weight is a mix of cardio for calorie-burn and weight/resistance training for muscle gain. 

We did a mix of rowing, stationary cycling (I'm not sure that's the technical name but you know what I mean) chest presses (see now I sound technical even though I had absolutely no idea what that involved beforehand) sit-ups and bicep curls, as well as some other machines I either couldn't get the hang of or didn't enjoy using. If you don't have a friend who can help show you how to use the equipment there are some video explanations on The Gym Group's website here. I still felt self-conscious throughout, there was a personal trainer who seemed to be everywhere with his steely gaze and of course the massive mirrors don't help! I did get over it though, and it's not stopped me from going back either. I believe the reason for this is because of miraculous things called 'Endorphins'. 

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Step Four: Becoming a Full-Time Gym Bunny

I've been now been going to the gym three times a week for the last couple of weeks and I have to say I am enjoying it (in the sense that I still can't be left to my own devices, I still get confused using the weight machines and I can just about do a few sit-ups before feeling like I'm going to keel over). I've yet to brave the treadmills at the front, partly because they are in full view of everyone and partly because I'm just not sure if my boobs could take it. I haven't had any embarrassing mishaps, I don't think I stand out like a sore thumb too much (I do look a little bit like I've got lost on my to the car park) and I've started to read a bit more about how I should be exercising (hello dumbbell lunges). 

What I have realised is no-one at the gym will really pay any attention to what any one else doing, (unless you happen to be using the machine they're waiting for) because everyone is only really focused on themselves and their enormous headphones. While there are plenty of weight-lifting young men there are just as many slightly cuddlier people like me making a change to their lifestyle. It's etiquette at the gym not to make eye contact or talk to anyone, but I like to say a little 'hey, good for you' in my head and hope others do the same! I don't think I'll ever be a complete gym-freak, I'm never going to learn all the technical lingo and my boobs will probably still be bouncing away even when I have hit my target weight but moving more and strengthening my body feels good, so I hope I'll keep it up.



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