You’re Not Alone: 10 Challenges Every Fitness Newbie Faces at the Gym

A man, exhausted after a workout at the gym

The gym can be even more tiring for novices. | Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

Before you sign up for that gym or fitness center membership, you should know that the vast majority of people abandon their fitness goals. Many people attempt to change their lifestyles around the New Year or prior to a big event, but Bodybuilding.com says their enthusiasm quickly wanes. Getting fit is more than just going to the gym here and there or eating better. It’s an entire lifestyle makeover.

And for that reason, many people find themselves falling back into old habits or giving up altogether. It’s understandable — we often bite off more than we can chew. We overestimate how much change we can handle, and in the end, it all ends up falling apart.

But that’s okay. You can always try again. Assess where you went wrong previously, and make smaller, incremental changes. This will improve your odds of success, but it still doesn’t guarantee anything.

If you haven’t worked out or gone to the gym in a long time (or ever), it can be a huge change. But generally speaking, first-timers all have similar experiences and suffer through the same feelings. You’ll be anxious, confused, and nervous. The only way to work passed those feelings to start reaching your goals is to work through them. But don’t feel alone. Here are 10 challenges all gym newbies will face

1. Confusion

A customer works out at a 24 Hour Fitness center

It can be overwhelming,s o don’t be afraid to ask questions. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you’ve never been to a gym or fitness center, it can be like entering a completely different world. A lot of gyms have their own norms or customs. You should always do this or never do that — and the only way to learn is through experience. Don’t be afraid to ask gym staff, your trainer (if you have one), or even other gym-goers. Everybody was a beginner at some point.

2. Insecurity

lady works out for upper or lower back

Feeling insecure is pretty normal. | iStock.com/Sujay_Govindaraj

Confusion is one thing. Anxiety is another — though one can lead to the other. You’re going to be anxious the first time you head to the gym, and there really isn’t much you can do about it. Just keep in mind nobody is 100% comfortable while working out and that most of your fears or anxieties are unfounded. Everyone’s sweaty, tired, and rudderless (at the beginning), to some degree.

3. Social miscues

A trainer helps a man with his workout

Do your best to clean up and be courteous. | iStock.com

As mentioned, there are certain unwritten rules and norms at most gyms. You might commit a minor transgression here and there, but if you do your best to be respectful of other people and mindful of what you’re doing, you’ll be fine. Mainly, remember to clean up after yourself and mind your manners.

4. Embarrassment

A man has his behavior corrected

Someone will point out your mistakes, and that’s fine. | iStock.com

In addition to committing some sort of social faux-pas, you can probably count on the fact you’re going to end up doing some exercise horribly wrong — and that someone is going to help you correct it. This may be embarrassing, Self points out, but it’s yet another part of the learning experience. You can do your homework and review what exercises you plan to do before hitting the gym. But you’re still going to run into some weird machine or contraption at some point that you won’t quite understand.

5. Physical discomfort

A runner is consoled by his girlfriend after experiencing a little exercise

Newbies are bound to get sore sooner rather than later. | iStock.com

Working out, especially if you haven’t done it in a long time, is going to be uncomfortable. You’re going to strain, stretch, and fatigue muscles that may not have been activated in quite a while. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Be prepared for pain and discomfort, and don’t go running at the first sign of unpleasantness.

6. Remaining too inflexible (in your plan)

A man on a rowing machine

A routine is a great thing, but don’t feel too bound by it. | iStock.com

One thing you should know about plans: They never go according to plan. If you’re someone who likes to schedule every last detail, be prepared for things to go wrong. Make a workout plan and establish goals, but be sure you have some wiggle room to make everything work. For example, your gym may not have the equipment you need. If that’s the case, you’ll need to find other exercises you can do. This may also be the case if your fitness center is crowded, or if you’re short on time.

7. Knowing how hard to push yourself

A man on an exercise bike

It’s easy to overdo it, but you don’t want to take an overly relaxed approach, either. | iStock.com

A particularly tricky thing for gym newbies is to know when to stop, when to push harder, and when to ease up. There really isn’t an exact science to it, but you’ll learn with time. You can go crazy during your workout, and probably put yourself at risk for injury. Or, you can go too light, and fail to reach any of your goals. You’ll find the correct balance with time, but start easy and work your way into more difficult workouts.

8. Exhaustion

tired man

If you’re new to working out, expect to feel tired at first. | iStock.com

Heads up for gym newcomers: You’re going to be tired. Not just grabbing your knees, sucking wind after getting off of the treadmill kind of tired. If you’re exercising hard and dieting properly — you’re probably going to sleep like a log and feel pretty tired during the day. Your body is changing, and using energy differently. You can take measures to combat fatigue, but expect to be wiped at first.

9. Crippling soreness

A man feeling pain in muscles and ligaments he never knew existed

This man is feeling pain in muscles and ligaments he never knew existed. | iStock.com

When you first get started, you should fully expect to be sore in the days following your workouts. You may end up being shockingly sore — like, you won’t want to get out of bed. But it’s natural and merely your body going through the recovery process. There are things you can do to speed it up, but there’s really no way to completely avoid soreness.

10. Self-doubt

Tired man wondering whether he should really hit the gym today

It’s very likely you’ll question whether or not you should go. | iStock.com

You suffered through insecurity and embarrassment. The physical exhaustion and soreness. You’re probably happy that you did it. But it was a lot of work, it wasn’t necessarily fun, and it left you feeling like death. Can you really muster up the motivation to keep going?

This is the point that will make or break your fitness goals. The most important aspect to fitness, hands down, is consistency. If you stop and start, you’re not going to see any results. And that goes for both exercise and dieting.

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