Losing weight and eating healthier are always the top New Years Resolutions made every year and research analysts Mintel say “Nearly four-fifths of UK adults have set themselves at least one health or fitness goal, yet only 12% currently use a gym”. We can all admit that exercise is good for us, it helps you stay healthy, can make you look and feel good, alleviates stress, boosts your energy and so much more. But no one really talks about the “dark side” of fitness, like dealing with sweat, aches and pains, and being confused over what machines do what. Whilst there is no way to avoid the downsides of working out, there are some solutions to help you through it that I wish I knew when I first started at the gym.
Firstly let’s get it out of the way, exercise makes you want to fart and poo more! Sorry to break it to you guys but all that pressure on the abdominal muscles forces gas out, and regular exercise makes us your bowels more regular. But contrary to popular belief everyone farts and poos, and you know what I’ll admit it, the child inside me still thinks farts are funny.
Continuing with the sexy side of exercising, I give you under-boob sweat, bird nest hair and a face that’s entering a tomato doppelganger contest. If you’re really lucky you might get all three at once, and you’ll be fighting me for first place at that contest. Use no-tug hair bands or sweat bands to keep your hair at bay, wear loose fitting clothes and stay hydrated to keep your body temperature stable and potentially calm the red face.
For those of us that are lazy (regardless of the fact we’ve joined the gym) there’s the additional washing, of clothes and yourself. I am not made of money so I can’t be buying an unlimited amount of workout gear so I have to keep on top of the washing because I’m not about to attempt getting two days out of my sweat riddled sports bra when I have a few I can alternate between. And personally my hair is so long I can almost sit on it so you can imagine the joy of having to wash and dry my hair more often, dry shampoo is definitely a good friend of mine.
Oh and let’s not forget the extra shaving time whilst we’re at it. Avoiding any arm exercises because you forgot to shave is no fun and let’s all be honest, who actually enjoys shaving. If you get away with going a few extra days on the hairy side you’re going to do it, but just not when you go to the gym. Make sure to shave the day of or day before doing any exercise that requires lifting your arms, wear thin leggings and short sleeves to hide on a non-shaved day or just say YOLO and embrace the hairier lifestyle, most people are too busy looking in the mirror at themselves to notice anyway.
Grunting. For me this is not fun, it’s all well and good knowing that you’re pushing yourself but you’re training in the gym with your guy mates and you’re on the floor grunting it gets a bit awkward. Although the more it happens the more used to it you get and unfortunately for me they just see it as something else to laugh at me over.
It isn’t all just subject to workout time either, there’s the joy of after workout hunger and muscle pain the next day. Try to time your workout to before meal time as then you shouldn’t over eat, or get yourself a protein shake or energy bar as these tend to fill you up anyway. Certain protein shakes will also help with post workout pain and help soothe muscle soreness.
If you are increasing your water intake alongside exercising you have the delight of needing to wee all the time, seriously when is my body going to get used to it. All I ever hear is “you’ll get used to it eventually” well I’ve been making I drink enough water for months now and I’m still rushing off to the toilet numerous times throughout the day, they probably think I have something wrong with me at work. I hope I’m not known as Toilet Girl!
The worst for me is the way some men react to women being in the gym, don’t get me wrong I go to the gym sometimes with the boys and they are very supportive and proud of what I achieve. But I’d say a good 50% of them look at you as if you are a fragile parcel that can’t go near weights, perv at you like you’re there as a personal show for them, which to me just says they do not get a lot of action! I’ve even overheard guys mocking and laughing at girls in the gym, although its usually rather beautiful when they are swiftly shut up if she can lift more than them.
Potential chaffing, try to wear a material that drys quickly and draws moisture away from your skin and avoid loose clothing in sensitive areas. You may not notice the rubbing of material at first but, if you’re running especially, after a while it’s going to rub your skin raw. Ouch!
You also have the lesser problems of missing out on daylight, particularly in the winter, quick battery loss on your phone, only if you wear headphones during a workout or look up exercises whilst in the gym. I tend to wear headphones if I am working out alone as I have no interest in listening to inane conversations or shite music on the gym speakers, I have no interest in hearing every pub you’re hitting for Frank’s leaving do or what Phil in Accounting had to say about the new water filter. And yes, I am very aware that people feel the same about my conversations when I go to the gym with friends. Headphones all the way!
Starting the gym can be a daunting prospect, what with all the machines you’re likely to have never used or possibly even seen before, being surrounded by people who seem to have the gym sussed and who have bodies you are aiming for. Firstly make sure you are going to the gym for the right reason, don’t go because it’s the popular thing to do, all your friends are going and you feel left out or someone told you to go, go because you want to use the treadmill to train for a 5k or you want to workout to improve your health and fitness levels.
To avoid feeling nervous see if a friend who knows their way around a gym to take you, they don’t even have to go to your gym, see if you can get a free day pass for theirs and get them to walk you round the machines and show you some workouts. No friends that are into the gym, not a problem either, most gyms will happily give you an induction day where they walk you round the gym explaining what machines are best for whatever you are focusing your workouts on or give you suggestions of what you can use. Give yourself smaller goals to start with, like do 10 sit ups holding a weight or do 10 squats with a barbell on your back and then leave. Give yourself a mental high five and do a little more on the next visit.
If you have joined the gym or are considering it and are worried or nervous the main things you need to know is act confident, fake it till you make it. Remember to breath, expect set backs but don’t let them turn you off, be persistent and if you really don’t want to go to the gym alone why not take up a group class where there’s a teacher showing you exactly what to do. And the main thing, remember that everyone had a first day once, everyone had a first day at the gym but stick with it and you’ll be so proud of the end result.