Getting over your fear of the weights section

The Glasgow University Gym
Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Rhiannon Doherty


Why is the weights room scary and how do we combat it?

Despite coming into winter, some of us are still searching for our summer bodies. My six pack is on a temporary hibernation. However, it would be a lot easier to reach my goals if I wasn’t terrified of the gym. More specifically, the weights section.
You can hear the thumping of the gym from the G12 cafe: a place I’d much rather be as pumpkin spice lattes are back in season. I’m scared of the smell of testosterone that pumps through the weights section. It seems to be a place of competition within the male species (I am a girl by the way.) The squat racks in particular are not an inviting place, and even if they were, they are usually far too busy to get on them. Furthermore, I’m still not sure how to squat properly despite having had a personal trainer, and the University of Glasgow gym seems far too daunting a space to try learn again. Many girls feel as though boys stare at them when they enter the weight section and this is incredibly off-putting: however, I personally believe the boys are more focused on staring at themselves in the mirror as they get their “pump” on. Nevertheless, it is not an inspiring place for women to reach their fitness goals. 

It’s not just in Glasgow that this problem exists. Across the world, women are less likely to get the recommended amount of exercise than men, and this gap widens when taking into consideration aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Perhaps this is because the weights section is an intimidating place for many women. This is backed up with further evidence: women are more likely than men to encounter weight stigma, deterring them from hitting the gym. So, girls, if we want to try and level up with the men some of us are going to have to start hitting the squat racks, and soon.  

Speaking with friends, of which all are girls, brought up some other issues with the weights section at the gym. For starters, it’s not a place people want to venture alone, and as a result they would much rather stick to cardio or go for a swim. Often, they are embarrassed if they do something wrong or feel too weak to start. It’s not particularly clear how to use all the equipment either which adds to the fear of the unknown that is so often felt in PowerPlay  – the weights area of the Glasgow University gym. There is also the fear that you will be judged at how much you are lifting and for women this will understandably be lighter than men, or at least to start with. This judgement from others is often what makes the gym feel inaccessible, particularly for girls.

However, upon further discussion it is not just girls who are scared of the gym. My old flatmate described himself as a “scrawny boy intimidated by the Thor Odinsons of the testosterone ridden establishment.” With the mirrors surrounding you, the gym becomes an intimidating environment for both sexes. There is an intense feeling of comparison which goes on, often leaving you feeling inadequate and unworthy of your place at the gym.

Next comes the gym gear. To feel the part, you’ve got to look the part. But this is expensive. It often feels the gym is more of a competition of who looks the best and has the funkiest leggings opposed to who is getting the best work out. In saying that, having nice gym clothes does help boost your confidence and is part of the fun of going to the gym. The charity shops on Byers Road or Depop can help when it comes to this as you can find affordable and fashionable second hand clothing, whilst boosting your self-esteem. A bit of retail therapy never hurts and becoming a gym bunny is a good excuse as any to expand your wardrobe. Your leggings can also be worn outside the gym: mine are my best friends in lectures. 

Despite all the negative connotations regarding the gym, I finally had the courage to step up and use the PowerPlay section of the gym in freshers last year. However, it felt like there was constantly eyes staring at me, along with people thinking “she doesn’t even know what she’s doing”. These thoughts weren’t too far from the truth as I really didn’t have a clue. I took a kettlebell and had a half-hearted work out: my heart felt high in my chest. Nevertheless, I wonder if everyone or anyone else knows what they’re doing. Everyone seems quite happy in their own little self-absorbed bubble whilst working out. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll try and incorporate the weights area into my routine. It’s my gym as well after all.

To ease yourself into the gym and get over your weights fear, I would recommend working out with a friend, a gym buddy, as this helps reduce the fear of trying something new in the weights section and gives you safety in numbers. Moreover, you could join the weight-lifting society and perfect your squats and deadlifts with like-minded individuals who share a passion for the gym. Either way, as intimidating as the gym may feel, weights are a great way to get into shape and if, like me, you want to get your summer body routine started (very) early, it is time to start getting your pump on.


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