The Gym Is Intimidating

The Gym Is Intimidating! [Podcast Episode #057]

It's hard to imagine that more exercise could actually prevent you from getting results, but it happens all the time. In fact, it could be happening to you right now!

There is a very specific "breaking point" at which your body actually loses ground as you exercise more. You need more recovery. But exactly how much recovery time do you need? Here's your answer...

Episode Resources:

The Gym Is Intimidating! [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. As you know, this show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life. Today’s show is particularly for people who are maybe new to exercise or haven’t been in exercise routine for a long time and are looking to get back into that routine and maybe feel a little bit intimidated or unsure about how they get started. I have a really good question today from Dolores. Let’s dive right in.

Dolores says, “I find everything about losing weight challenging. I’ve led somewhat a sedentary lifestyle for the past 20 years. Not sedentary from the point of view that I sat around all day, but rather I was so taken up with my work that I worked long hours, ate badly, and never exercised. Now it’s extremely difficult to start moving. During the past 20 years when I did make an attempt to start exercising by joining a gym this did not work out because I couldn’t find a trainer who was committed to helping me. Now going at the gym is out of the question because I’m more self-conscious than ever. Where do I even begin?”

My heart goes out to you there Dolores because I get that. I get the idea that walking to a gym, particularly if maybe you're not feeling great about your body or that your body maybe doesn’t work the way that you want it to work, walking to the gym for the first time is intimidating. I’ve been there. I remember going to the gym for the very first time and feeling like everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and they’re all looked like they’re on programs and knew how to use all the equipment in there.

While I wasn’t, didn’t know how, and if it worked it was all foreign to me. So I totally know where you're coming from. I just want to say thanks for writing in, because I know there’s a lot of listeners who are in a very similar position, who are new to exercise and probably feel like, “Oh I wish I could get started but I just don’t know where to begin.”

I’ve brought a personal trainer on the show today because specifically Dolores you mentioned that idea of not being able to find a trainer who is able to really commit to helping you. When I heard that I just thought that’s a shame. I don’t know who the trainers are that you’ve encountered, but there are so many passionate professional trainers out there who really would be committed to working with you or anyone else who’s just starting.

I have a really great personal trainer on the show today who’s going share some insights about not only how to feel comfortable going to the gym, but how to find a trainer that could help you, whether be at the gym or somewhere else, and how to stimulate your own motivation so that you can stick with the program once you do get started. I’m excited to introduce to you Sarah Scriven.

Meet Sarah Skraban

Dave: Hey Sarah, thanks so much for joining us today.

Sarah: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Dave: I appreciate you coming on because I know that you're a full time personal trainer fitness instructor and also just had a baby, so I imagine life is a little busy for you right now.

Sarah: It is, but busy is good.

Dave: Can you tell the audience a little bit about the work that you do, the type of clients that you work with, what’s your passion in terms of health and fitness?

Sarah: Absolutely. I work at a country club and it’s kind of my full time job. I’m a fitness director. I also do personal training and teach classes. It’s a really great mix. The clientele it’s a little bit older because it’s a country club, but there’s a big variety of people that we work with here.

I also write a fitness blog that I’ve been doing for about 3 or 4 years now. I just revamped that. I’m trying to get back into that a little bit. It’s a good variety of getting to do a lot of different things and meeting a lot of different people and always learning something new.

Dave: That’s actually what I thought was really cool about your business and one of the reasons I wanted you on the show here is that you do have that mix between working with people face to face and then also providing some great tips through your blog. I know you’ve written articles on other websites and for different fitness blogs around the internet, so it’s kind of neat.

I think you’ve got a really cool balance of the 2. I was hoping that we could dive right in. Dolores wrote a question in, and I know this is probably one. You’ve probably heard your clients talk about this, the idea of being self-conscious when they first start working out. Is that something that you’ve heard before?

Sarah: Yeah, definitely.

What Are Your Fitness Options?

Dave: When you work with clients maybe who are new to exercise, then what do you do or what do you recommend to someone like Dolores who feels like I know I want to start going to the gym, but it’s really scary.

Sarah: Well, before I started working at a country club which is a private gym so it’s kind of nice in that aspect, I worked in a lot of big box gyms. Obviously without having Dolores on the line here it’s tough to say kind of what her experience was at the gym. It’s unfortunate that she had such a negative experience.

I think there are a lot of great especially nowadays are so many private studios and things like that opening up, so I would definitely kind of gear her more towards something maybe like that, maybe she was at a gym where the trainers weren’t very experienced or it was just such a big gym that really all they cared about was sales, and that happens unfortunately sometimes, not all the time.

I mean, I think for somebody that feels that way, there’s a couple options. There is that private studio option. There’s in home training. A great place to find a trainer who either can come to your house or possibly has a studio in their own home, I’d think is Idea Fit and there’s a little fitness connect tab there. You can search in your zip code. Or I don’t know what it is in Canada. Do you guys call it zip codes?

Dave: We’ve got postal codes but Idea Fit does work in Canada as well, yeah.

Sarah: Yeah, I know that it is, it works in Canada too. I think that’s a great way to find trainers in your area that … You can see their credentials so you can make sure that they’re actually certified with an agency that is credible. That may be a good option.

Dave: I love that idea of in home training. I know that when people think, “Okay, it’s time for me to start exercise,” right away they think, I’ve got either, everyone always says, I’ve got to start running or I’ve got to start going to the gym. It’s like those are the only 2 options for getting in shape.

Sarah: Yeah. That’s such a broad thing to say. You're going to go to the gym but what are you going to do? You're going to run, but what are you going to do? You're going to run for 2 minutes and then be done. Yeah, having, I think having somebody to help you along the way is so important, because it is overwhelming. It’s a lot to do by yourself.

Dave: Can you speak to, and I know maybe you and I both being personal trainers, we might have a little bit of a bias here, but as a objectively as we can I’d like to talk a little bit about the advantages of working with a personal trainer.

Because Dolores made a statement and it probably bothered you similar to it did with me, but she said she looked for personal trainers and couldn’t find anyone who was really committed to helping her. It sounds like she did have that negative experience. What would you say is the biggest benefit for someone who’s starting to actually go out and hire a personal trainer?

How Can a Personal Trainer Help You?

Sarah: That’s such a good question and I’m glad you brought it up because I actually wrote that down because I wanted to touch on. She couldn’t find somebody committed to helping her. Because that is so unfortunate. Because I think there’s so many trainers and fitness professionals that are so passionate about what we do that we really want to help the people that we’re working with.

Yeah, I think the biggest, one of the biggest benefits, and even as a trainer, I don’t know about you but sometimes it’s nice to get a trainer for yourself, having somebody having that outside look and giving it a little extra motivation and accountability is so helpful. I think the biggest benefit of having a trainer probably is the accountability. I mean, there’s 100 different programs out there that somebody could put together for you, but if you're not going to do them then it really doesn’t matter how great they are.

The biggest benefit of having a personal trainer is the accountability you gain.

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Dave: I love that you said that. Do you ever see online … There’s so much marketing there in the fitness industry and there’s so much that says like this is the new next big program that will do X, Y, Z, and I always look at that and think, “Really?” Like just because I choose those exercises I’m going to get better results than if I did something else?

Sarah: Yeah, yeah, you just have to find what you're going to do and actually do it.

How Can You Stay Motivated When Starting Out?

Dave: Yeah, so for someone who is new, then getting into fitness and exercise and they want to stay motivated, it is going to be a challenge, really to someone start their exercising and they just feel fired up all the time. Do you have any suggestions as to what someone can do to keep that motivation going?

Sarah: That’s probably maybe the hardest part I’d say. I mean, I think recognizing that there’s going to be days where you lack that motivation, understanding that it’s a journey and a process and not just a quick fix. There’s going to be ups and downs and good days and bad days, and that’s all okay.

A couple things. If Dolores really just did not want to go to a private studio or have somebody come to her house, if she really wants to tackle it on her own which I’d encourage her to enlist a little bit of help, but some places that maybe she could find that that accountability and motivation is this online world nowadays is just crazy. So maybe like a Facebook support group for people going through similar things. Even there’s online trainings and coaching program that you can do online now. There’s a couple that I mean I wrote down that I love to read their blogs, but there’s so many on there. One that I really like is Nerd Fitness.

Dave: Oh great. I love that site.

Sarah: They have an academy which I think is a great place for people to start. Then another one that I really like is Girls Gone Strong. They focus a lot on strength but they really target to the female audience and they have an online coaching program too.

Leveraging Support Groups and Fitness Blogs

Dave: Both excellent, excellent recommendations. I like both those. I love the idea you mentioned about Facebook groups. Can you talk about how that could work for Dolores or anyone else that’s listening?

Sarah: Yes. I actually don’t have a Facebook group to recommend to Dolores, but I’m in a few of them and they are so helpful. Just kind of having people there to support you, to ask questions, and there are people that are like you. So I’m in a couple for new moms because as a new mom I had no clue what I was doing. It was nice to just be in a group where other people are going through the same thing, same thing as you are.

I’m also on some for fitness blogger and fitness professionals, having that kind of support in that aspect. I think if Dolores found a group that maybe was people that are going through a similar experience like her, maybe they’re working out at home, so they could use that extra accountability in a Facebook group, or people that are just getting back in to exercise, finding a group that the people in it are going through something similar it’s so helpful.

Dave: That’s an awesome recommendation. My sort of flagship program is this, 10 in 4 Challenge that helps people lose 10 pounds over 4 weeks and we have a private Facebook group. It was so neat to see the women rally around each other because they’re all doing the same program. Most of them are in similar stage of life. Like you said, it really fosters a sense of community similar to what you could get in the real world, but it’s got the convenience of being accessible whenever you need it in the virtual world.

Sarah: Yes, that is awesome.

Dave: For the listeners, this is episode number 54. If you go to I’ll put instructions on how to search and join Facebook groups if that’s something that’s new to you and definitely take a look because I know there are a lot of fitness ones out there that you could check out. That’s a really great suggestion.

A question then for Dolores when she is going back to the gym, say she wants to go and just isn’t in the spot where she wants to hire a personal trainer and she does want to go the actual gym, do you have a recommendation for people when they’re first starting out what to do in the gym, because you’ve been mentioning that yourself, “Okay, you're going to the gym, but what are you going to do?”

First Time At The Gym: Where Do I Start?

Sarah: So you're saying if she does go to the gym, what would she do when she walks in the door?

Dave: Yeah, because that is overwhelming. You go in there. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, geez, that is an overwhelming experience. Where does someone start?

Sarah: Heck yes. It certainly is. I would say to start, I mean, you’ve got to start small. Just kind of something realistic and something that you know you're going to be able to do. The first thing that I would do honestly is go the locker room, put your stuff down, just take a look around, see what all is there, maybe walk around the gym so that you get an idea of, okay, here’s some cardio equipment, here’s some strength machines.

The best way to start something new is to start small and improve with time.

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Maybe you have no idea how to use those machines, but that’s fine. Just kind of feel comfortable in the space. I think so often people maybe come to the gym, they bolt to the treadmill, start walking on it, and then leave right away because that’s the most comfortable thing for them to do.

I think before you even work out just feel comfortable being there so that you don’t get this overwhelming stress and anxiety of the fact that, “Oh, I have to go to the gym today, and I just, I hate going in that, walking in that door and feeling so out of place and uncomfortable.”

I mean doing the best that you can to just make it your second home, like make it comfortable there and realize that everybody else there I mean they’re either feeling the same way or they're so into their own workout they don’t care what you're doing.

Dave: I love that. For the listeners, that point right there is so valuable to remember. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking everyone must be watching us, but we’re all focused on ourselves and our own workouts nobody’s watching.

Sarah: The fact too there’s usually most gyms will have strength machines that there’s pictures on them. I mean go take a walk around and just look at the pictures and just see, okay, this is probably how this machine works, and don’t be afraid to try it out. I’m a trainer and a fitness instructor, and sometimes if I go to a new gym and it’s equipment that’s maybe made by a different company than I’m used to, I’ve never really done a machine like that before, so I’ll sit there and look at the pictures and be like, “All right, I got to figure out how to adjust the seat.” It’s okay to take your time and fiddle around with it and just get comfortable on it because that’s what we all do.

Dave: 100% agree and I love that you said that you do that as well as fitness trainer. Last year I went to a new gym just like you said, and there’s this piece of equipment that was intended for stretching. I got on this equipment and I don’t know what I was doing, but it was definitely wrong. One of the trainers there, he and I knew each other a little bit, and he came up and started making fun of me. It’s like, “Oh Mr. Canada’s top personal trainer, and you don’t even know how to use the stretching machine.”

Sarah: That’s so funny.

Dave: To Dolores and everyone else, we all do it. We’re all going to look a little silly at some point in the gym.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said before, there’s always these new things coming out, so you’ve kind of got to figure things out sometimes as you go.

How to Start Strength Training

Dave: I like the thing when you pointed out that most people will gravitate towards cardio because it is pretty straightforward, but on this show I’ve had guest after guest after guest that will emphasize the message of if you're serious about particularly losing weight there has to be some strength training, we have to build muscle to stimulate our metabolism.

Where is a good place for someone like Dolores to start with the strength training? You mentioned she’d go to the machines, look at the pictures. Would you recommend going to a class, or what do you think is the best route for getting started with strength training?

Sarah: Yeah, I mean, I definitely recommend strength training as well. I think that if Dolores is going to go back to the gym, possibly looking at going to the gym at time that are a little bit slower, in the middle of the day.

The busy times are always before and after work, so, either later at night, maybe after 7 or 8, or if she’s able to go in the middle of the day, it’s usually slow then. I think a personal trainer is so helpful to get you started on strength training. A lot of the machines, you do after sit in them, so it’s a little bit hard to mess up your form, but with strength training I mean I think safety and form is the first step.

Having somebody be able to just explain that and make sure that you're doing a move properly and you feel comfortable doing the exercise it’s probably the most important thing before you even get into, all right, how many rep, sets, and weights am I going to do.

A good personal trainer is a teacher, a source of inspiration, and your motivator.

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Dave: Again, I agree. I know a lot of gyms nowadays they have, I don’t know, there’s different names for it but like a quick fit circuit or something like that where they’ll have 10 machines a circuit and you just go around and through them. Generally, those are pretty user friendly and pretty self-explanatory, even for someone who’s new to the gym.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely, and those machines like I said, I mean, you're kind of sitting in a seat so chances are your form is going to be pretty good because you're in that seat, so you're going to have to kind of conform to the seat. It makes it really easy to follow and makes it safe and totally doable because you can go in and do that little circuit.

I would recommend, I mean, an easy place to start is going through that circuit 2 or 3 times and finding a weight that maybe by the 15th rep you're starting to feel it. If you could do 30 reps, then maybe the weight it’s a little bit too easy, but finding something that you can do 15 reps at comfortably but starting to get challenging at the end, I think that’s a good place to start.

You can do 10 reps if you want. I mean, it doesn’t really matter. Just get started. Then if you do stick to that over the course of a few months, maybe that’s a good time to try a trainer again to see what they can do to change your program up a little bit.

Dave: Yeah, totally. I love that idea. I was actually going to bring that up if you hadn’t said that, the idea of going and doing some of those machines and doing those indefinitely it almost is guarantee that you are going to hit a plateau. So for Dolores and anyone else who’s starting out, a great place to start, but if you're hoping to see continual improvement, you got to change up your routine. You can’t just stick with the same thing over and over again.

Sarah: Absolutely. I see so many people do that in the gym, is they do, they come in, they do their cardio, and then they hit those machines. Like you said it’s a great place to start and you can stay on those machines.

There’s so many different ways you can change your workout up on those machines by adjusting the weight or changing the reps or maybe doing some crazy stuff like drop sets. That’s a good time to once you feel comfortable to maybe enlist the help of a trainer, even if it’s just for a few sessions to help you change up your workout.

Dave: That’s a good message too again for the listeners, is the idea that if you're going to hire a personal trainer, it doesn’t mean that you have to commit your life to using that personal trainer services. You can just get, learn a new program or a new type of training and then go do it on your own.

Sarah: Yeah. Absolutely.

Personal Training Packages and Commitments

Dave: What have you seen when you’ve been working at the big box gyms like you said, in terms of trainers and packages and pricing, because I know I do get some questions where people will say, “Okay, I went to my gym but the trainer wants me to pay $6,000 for a full year of training.” What do you suggest people start out with in terms of a package or commitment level?

Sarah: That’s a good question.

Dave: Have you seen that? Like in the gyms that you work at? Do they try and push that full year or 6 months?

Sarah: Oh for sure. Yeah, I think you have to think about what it is that you're looking to get out of a personal trainer. Are you just looking … I have people come in and they say, “I just need a workout because my workout is getting boring and I just need something new, so can we just work out for 2 sessions to change my workout up?” Then there’s people where that’s fine for and then people, there’s other people that realize, “Maybe this helps me, this helps push me a little bit further to have somebody there working with me, I’m working harder than I would do it on my own.”

Because there’s people that if you give these programs to, they go do it on their own, they’re like, “Yeah, that was easy,” and then you're like, “All right, let’s do it together,” and they’re like, “Oh, this is so much harder,” because they just don’t push themselves as much. That’s natural. I do that too.

Yeah, big box gyms, yeah, they want to make the sales and unfortunately for trainers that’s how they make money. Sometimes some gyms if you don’t meet your sales goals you lose your job. It’s a tough tough situation. I mean no, you don’t have to sign up for a whole year. I mean honestly I probably wouldn’t because you want to make sure that you like your trainer first.

Dave: Agreed.

Sarah: But I think understanding, and if you do like your trainer, I mean understanding that this is their job. If you're going to work with them, try to make sure that you make the appointments and you show up on time and stuff like that because as much as … Touching on the fact too, sorry, kind of jumping all over here, but the fact that she said she couldn’t find somebody committed to working with her, I think that if she does find that person that is truly passionate about helping others, and while it is a job, making money isn’t their most important priority.

If somebody really truly is passionate about helping you, I think you're going to want to come back and work with them. I don’t remember the statistic but I think they say most people will continue working with a trainer not so much because they feel they need it but because they really have a great relationship with that person. They buy the package because they want to work out, but then they continue because they just love the experience with the trainer.

The most important criteria for a good personal trainer: Find a trainer you enjoy spending time with!

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Dave: Again, I agree with that so much. Geez, my listeners are going to be so sick hearing me talk about this, but I didn’t know how to swim a year and a half ago and so I hired a swimming coach to teach me so I could do triathlons. The first coach that I worked with, to be honest I just didn’t like the guy. We just didn’t, our personalities just didn’t match.

I did a couple sessions with him and he seemed very knowledgeable, but then we quit working together and I started working with another coach and she was fantastic and everything just started to click and it was so much more enjoyable. So I completely second what you just said, if you find a trainer, no matter how credible they are and what the results they may be able to get for you, if you don’t like going to see him or her, don’t go, get someone else.

Sarah: Yeah. I guess going back to your question maybe a better answer is start with a smaller package and see how you like it and then buy that big $6,000 package if you do really like it.

Dave: Yeah totally. You're giving some really good advice. Just a couple points that I want to recap for the audience, the idea of looking for in home trainers. Again, if you go to I’ll put a link to it’s like where you can search for trainers that’ll come to you in Canada and in the US.

Also I really liked the idea you talked about going to the gym and just being comfortable with easing into and taking your time to feel like it’s sort of a comfortable environment, don’t feel like you need to just rush in there and jump on the treadmill right away.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

What would you say Sarah as kind of like a concluding though, we like to give what’s called a Make Your Body Work takeaway. So for anyone like Dolores who’s looking to start out, maybe they’re a little intimidated by the gym, what could they do today to make that process a little bit easier on themselves?

Sarah: I think I’m going to give you a 2-part answer here. I think one thing that Dolores could do today is to make a goal. Like I said before, a realistic small simple goal. Her goal isn’t going to be I want to lose 30 pounds. Her goal is just something that she can do and she knows that she can start doing it today. Maybe that is looking online and finding an online trainer or joining a Facebook group. Something like that to get her started.

Then decide how many days a week am I going to commit to my health. So am I going to try to go the gym during the slow times 3 days a week? Am I going to hire an online trainer and commit to working with him or her 3 days a week? Something like that.

Am I going to make sure that I go for a walk around my neighborhood 4 days a week? Pick something that you know that you can do. It’s more about doing it than reaching a certain goal like losing a certain amount of weight or something like that.

Then while fitness and exercise is so important, we didn’t really talk too much about it, but what you eat is so important and probably even harder than the whole working out thing. I would also encourage somebody to start writing down what they’re eating, write down what you eat today and maybe tomorrow. Just do it for a couple of days and then just write it down, don’t get to crazy about it, just write it down, and then look back over it and kind of see if there’s any changes that you can make.

If you look at it and you're confused and you're like I have no idea what this means, then maybe enlist some help, maybe hire a nutritionist, or if you do hire a trainer, a trainer can give you a meal plan but they can help look at what you're eating and where there’s little places that maybe you could adjust to help you reach your goal of becoming healthier.

Dave: I love both of those, so again setting a goal and then just taking a look at your diet. Both of those, I like those suggestions because both of those you can do that today. Someone can sit down right now, what is your goal for fitness, tell the listeners, myself included, what’s our goal, and then let’s start to track what we’re eating, and that will reveal so much.

Sarah: Oh yeah. It’s crazy when you write that down.

Dave: Sarah, thanks again for being on the show and thanks specifically for being so practical with your suggestions. I love. There’s a whole bunch of ideas that I know Dolores and all the listeners can take away, so thanks for being here.

Sarah: Thank you so much for having me.

Dave: Thanks again Sarah for joining us on today’s episode and for sharing some really great tips about how to get back in exercise or how to get started with exercise, how to do that in a gym without feeling intimidated, and just how to find fitness that we love and that feels really good. That’s what it’s all about, is finding something that works for you.

Everyone is different, everyone is unique. Don’t feel like you need to do what other people are doing. Find what feels good and what you enjoy. Thanks for your awesome words of wisdom today. Thanks to you the listener for tuning in, and as always, if you ever have any questions for this show, feel free to email me at

I want to give a special thank you to our sponsor for today’s episode. It’s Yes Wellness. Yes Wellness is where I’ve been buying my supplements for a long time. We’ve partnered together to provide the listeners of the Make Your Body Work Podcast just a huge selection of really great high quality products at really great prices. I can’t endorse them anymore. They’re just fantastic. Check them out and I guarantee you that they’ll have what you're looking for. The selection is just awesome. Thanks again to everyone and as always I can’t wait to see you here again next week.

Thanks for joining me today!

Beate Probst - August 31, 2016

Great info….I always tell our new gym members…..go on the treadmill or bike and just observe wile you get comfortable….thank you for another great pod cast and thank you Sarah for sharing

    Dave Smith - August 31, 2016

    You are absolutely right Beate…Just stick it out in the gym, doing whatever feels comfortable, whether it be cardio, a class, weights, whatever. Just stick it out and it will eventually feel like home. Great advice!

Sarah (The Fit Niche) - September 1, 2016

Thanks so much for having me Dave! Such great and helpful content on your podcasts!!

    Dave Smith - September 1, 2016

    Thank YOU Sarah – Your advice really does make exercise much more approachable for those just starting out.

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