After faithfully doing my Med Ball 400 workout for about a year now, I’ve decided to hit the weights at the gym for a more traditional workout. Truth be told, I missed the “big boys area” of the gym (as I like to call it). Most gyms are comprised of 3 sections – cardio, circuit training and free weights. Not surprisingly, most girls stick to cardio, most boys stick to free weights and the circuit training is a mix of both.
Honestly, I think that boys are just as intimidated of cardio as girls are of free weights. I have a number of theories on this:
1. They don’t want to seem weak and in a gym, strength is translated into the bench press and the squat rack.
2. Guys travel in packs and a lone male considers walking over to the estrogen-packed elipticals something akin to walking into Sephora. It ain’t going to happen.
3. While the treadmill is considered less of a girl machine than the eliptical, it’s damn hard to run if you spend all of your time lifting and the last thing you want is to be gasping for air while the gazelle next to you is effortlessly knocking out 5 miles. Very emasculating.
4. Generally, you can’t stare at yourself in a mirror while you’re on a cardio machine and grunting while on the stationary bike is gross, not masculine.
Please see exhibit A. I snapped a pic of these boys on the upstairs spinner bikes. Notice how they found an area where they could all ride together. Safety in numbers!
I almost went over to provide assistance because the bikes were not set up appropriately for their size and they were riding with zero resistance, but I knew that one word from me would have sent them fleeing for the nearest dumbbell. Those boys on cardio machines sure are skittish…
Anyways, enough about the gym habits of the young males of our species, let’s talk about lifting weights. Weight-lifting is a necessary and useful component of building a well-rounded physique. The more muscle you have on your frame, the more efficiently your metabolism functions. In other words, you will burn more calories in your sleep with a more muscular body. Contrary to the popular myth, it is extremely difficult for women to get bulky. You need to be lifting very heavy weights to get anywhere near bulky and most women simply are not capable of it.
A great place to start with lifting is the aforementioned circuit training machines.
Circuit training is a series of machines grouped together that, combined, give you a total body workout. This is the fool proof way to make sure that you’re hitting all of the major muscle groups. Also, the machines in this area almost always have someone on them, so you can observe them on a particular machine to see how it works before you try it out.
In my opinion, that’s the scariest part of free weights for most women – not having a clue as to where to start. Of course, this is compounded by the hoard of sweating, grunting men trying their best to kill themselves in an effort to out-lift their friends. It’s silly, but it’s the way that it is. There is nothing wrong with sticking to the circuit and you will indeed get a good workout, but in the event that you want to step up your game and take full advantage of the available equipment, check out the free weights.
If you want to do that but you don’t know where to start, this is my advice to you.
1) Talk to someone who works there. Ask them if they wouldn’t mind showing you around the free weight area. Most of the gym employees are bored out of their minds and are sick of wiping down machines – they would gladly walk you around.
2) Go at a time that has the fewest number of people. Most of the sweaty, grunting males start trickling in around noon and the testosterone reaches its apex between 5-8pm. Every gym I’ve ever been a member of has been virtually dead around 9am. The early birds have headed off to work and the lunch crowd hasn’t made it in yet. If you can make this work with your schedule, I highly recommend it.
3) Do what the guys do and recruit some of your female friends to check things out with you. If you’re chatting with someone while scoping out the dumb bells, you’re less likely to be approached. This avenue of entry into the world of free weights is greatly enhanced if you happen to know a girl who already frequents this area.
4) Hire a personal trainer, even if it’s only for a month. You’ll have someone to show you how everything works, keep the males at bay and help you build your confidence while you get comfortable with the new environment. Besides, I don’t know about you, but I tend to work harder if there is someone watching me.
As for me, well, I generally just walk over there like I own the place and do my business. Mind you, I have been doing this for a very long time and I already scoped out all of the available machines and weights last semester, so I’m now familiar with where everything is. So ladies and gentlemen, don’t be afraid! Take full advantage of your gym and make friends with the locals. If you don’t want to be bothered, just put on your headphones and crank up that music. I promise, you’ll be left alone.