Conquering the Dreaded Free Weight Section

Posted: December 2, 2010 in ATTITUDE, GENERAL, RANTS

This post was inspired by all of you fabulous go-getters who have been inspiring me with your desire to change your lives and get in shape but are just too intimidated by the free weight section to give it a try.  There are many reasons I hear for people not wanting to go into the free weight room.  By the way, for those that aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, the free weights are things like dumbbells and barbells as opposed to the machines.  Just so you know that you are not alone, here are some examples of  what I hear ALL the time:

1.  I’m a girl.  Free weights are for guys.

2. I’m overweight. I don’t belong in there with “those people.”

3. I’m a novice and I don’t want to look stupid.

4. I don’t know where to begin.

5. People are mean to me in there.

Now, normally I’d say stop whining and suck it up but in this case I’m more sympathetic because I think people really DO want to try free weights but are scared or insecure.  Still, I could say stop whining and suck it up anyway, but I won’t.  Instead, I want to try to give you some tools that you can hopefully use to get over that hurdle and tackle those free weights.

First, if you see the reasons above, you probably noticed they are all very different.  I hope that makes you realize at least that you are not alone.  MANY people are intimidated by free weights.  Machines are a great place to start.  But once you have experience and stability, it’s time to up your game.  Truth be told, I was terrified at first.   So, I hope that it helps to know that there is nothing weird or strange about your fear.  It’s just something you have to get through.  It’s something new and different and really the only way to stop being afraid is to START dealing with that fear and pushing through it.  I really wish I could travel the country and take you all by the hand and walk you into the free weight room myself.  We’d get you over it real quick and I would be so happy.  But instead here are some tips to help get you started:

1.  Ladies, there is NO such thing a “male only” exercise.  Free weights are for you just as much as they are for men.  Do you watch workout videos?  Did you ever notice that the instructors are female and ARE using dumbbells?  Some guys will look at you funny or tell you that ladies are not supposed to do that.  That’s nonsense.  Women have come so far – don’t let the jerks take you back in time.  Be strong and show them we can do it too.  Oh and don’t worry about bulking up.  Because you are not a man, you don’t have the testosterone required to make your muscles show like they do.  Female bodybuilders have to take lots of supplements, train intensively and diet hard to get that size.  So relax – you are safe.  Indeed, a little lean muscle will actually help your LOSE body fat.

2.  Hire a personal trainer.  I know that this is not an option for all of you because trainers are not cheap.  However, if it is in your budget, it is well worth it.  I’m not going to go into here all the advantages of having a trainer but I do want to discuss certain benefits.  In the gym, a GOOD trainer serves as a buffer between you and the rest of the gym population.  With someone there, people are less likely to comment or give you a hard time.  Second, if someone does give you a hard time, a good trainer will probably put out that fire real quick.  Third, with a trainer, people realize you are learning and what’s wrong with that??  Fourth, sometimes it just helps to have someone walk you through something and to keep you company during your efforts.

3.  Use dumbbells at home.  If you learn how to do exercises at home, all you have to do is repeat what you already did in the gym.  If you don’t know what to do, there are great resources online.  Start using Google and YouTube.  You’ll be surprised what you can find by just searching the word workout.

4. Don’t let the jerks bother you.  Unfortunately, the gym, like elsewhere, does have a few bad seeds.  There will be people screaming “yeah baby, I’m the man” or “you can’t touch this” or some other nonsense.  There will be guys flexing and showing off. Note that bodybuilders actually need posing practice so sometimes that’s what’s going on.  Other times, people are proud of their progress which is great.  But then there are just the retarded ego maniacs who are overly pleased with themselves.  And, while I don’t believe this is anything wrong with an occasional grunt while trying to push a rep out or checking yourself out during a workout, I actually laugh at the screamers and show offs.  I think, really?  REALLY? Come on! Who are they talking to anyway?  And who cares?  They are the ones who should be embarrassed – NOT you.  If it’s any consolation, I’d much rather have a beginner next to me than some moron showing off.  So, just think of me and KNOW Rachael wants me here.

5.  Here is a simple trick that will just get you used to the feeling of walking over to the free section – rack the lighter weights.  People often leave the weights all over the place when they are done with their workouts.  To get used to walking over there, pick up a “loose” dumbbell on the floor and put it back on the rack.  Then, do it again.  This will accomplish a few things.  One is guess what – YOU JUST TOUCHED A FREE WEIGHT AND DIDN’T DIE!!! Who would have thought?  The second is you entered the free weight section and the heavens didn’t come crashing down.  Wow, right?  Haha.  The third is you may realize that it’s not so bad walking around the gym with weights in your hand and you will at the very least get used to the feel of it.

6.  Finally, stand up for yourself.  Now, sadly there are some bullies at the gym.  I’m sure you know who I am talking about.  They act like they own the place and like you are in THEIR way.  They may subtly or not so subtly take machines or equipment from you, push you, or try to rush you.  They will treat you like you don’t belong there because you are not in shape yet.  Guess what? Because you are not in shape yet is EXACTLY why you DO belong there!!!!  Because of that, these are the people that really get on my nerves.   The reason is that they often turn people away from the gym because beginners’ fears are confirmed by these idiots.  What a shame.  Here are my words of wisdom for dealing with these people.  DON’T LET THEM WIN.  You have as much right to be there as they do. Last time I checked, you paid the same price for your gym membership that they did, right?  So, why then do they have more rights in the gym than you do?  Simple – they don’t!! Maybe their parents never taught them to share.  Perhaps, they didn’t get enough attention growing up. It could be that they are overcompensating for other shortcomings.  Who knows?  But, more importantly, WHO CARES???  They need to learn to share the gym with you – PERIOD.  And we need to get you to realize that so that you can stand up for yourself and not be intimidated.  Now, I’m going to share with you a few of my experiences.  I must admit that I DON’T like bullies so I have a bit of a bad temper when dealing with them.  I don’t recommend any of you try this stuff at home.  Hahaha. I’m just sharing to either make you laugh or to help you realize that yes I’ve been there – preferably I’d like to accomplish both.

Once when I first started training, I was doing 3 sets of barbell bicep curls.  After my second set, I put the barbell down for a quick rest and this jerk picked it up and started walking away with it.  I said, “Hey I was using that.”  In response, he said, “I’ll give it back when I’m done.”  I said, “But, I wasn’t done.”  Annoyed, he actually threw a medicine ball at me and said, “Here work with this for a bit.”  I caught the ball and didn’t get hurt.  He walked over to his friends on the other side of the gym and by their laughter and stares I could tell they were making fun of me.  I could have done a lot of things in that situation.  But, it occurred to me that me and my trainer (who wasn’t there that day) were working on chest passes with a 12 pound medicine ball and this one was 12 pounds. ***Evil laugh*** The gym wasn’t crowded so I knew I had a clear shot in his direction.  So, what does this girl do?  I yelled, “Hey _______ (insert a very bad word I would say on my blog)!” When he turned around I threw the ball hard straight at the wall right next to him.  I didn’t throw it to hit him.  I knew it would hit the wall.  I threw it to make a point.  He was so shocked that I had enough power to do that his jaw dropped and he put down the barbell and said, “I can’t believe you just did that.”  I walked over and said, “I can’t believe I thought you were going to take MY barbell and get away with it.”  I snatched up my barbell, walked away, continued my curls, and surprise, surprise he didn’t bother me any more.  In fact, after that, he was always friendly to me.  Like I said I have a bad temper when it comes to bullies, please DON’T ever throw anything in the gym!

Another day, a couple of years later, I was working on tricep pulldowns and some huge musclely (yes, I made up a word) guy walked up to me and actually said,  “Sweetheart I need that and pointed to the cables I was using.  You can work on your triceps somewhere else.”  I said, “Yes I can but I can also work on it right here honey.  Is that ok with you baby?  So, I’m not going move sugar.  And when I’m done, you could have it.  Now, if you don’t mind sweetheart, I have a few more reps to do.”  And, I looked away and kept going.  He waited quietly – like he should have in the first place.

One more story.  Several months ago, I was working on the elliptical and there was this guy teasing these two obvious newbies.  All three were on ellipticals and he was yelling “look at me, you ladies can’t touch this, no one in this gym can do better than me, I’m the shit.”  And, to make it worse, he was making fun of their attempts.  He really reminded me of a cartoon character and I secretly wished that an animated anvil would drop on him.  The ladies were struggling to make the machine even move and I could tell that the guy was not helping.  So, I couldn’t help it.  I had to say something.  I told him, “What is your problem? Why don’t you back off?  Can’t you see they are just trying to learn?”  He said, “Whatever no one can touch me. I can’t help it if they can’t keep up.”  I said, “Oh yeah, I bet you can’t keep up with me.  Mind you, the elliptical is one of my strengths and I already peeked at his speed and knew I could top it easily. He took the challenge adding that “no girl was going to beat him”.  To make a long story short, he kept up with me for a bit ,but when I went backwards, with no hands, and hit max speed he lost his balance and fell off.  I said, ” “How does it feel to be beaten by a girl”?  He said he was sorry and I told him don’t apologize to me, apologize to those two ladies who were being mean to. He actually did apologize.  The ladies thanked me and a few weeks later I noticed they improved a great deal.  I never saw that guy again.

These are just a few of my battle stories. So, I challenge all of you to really try to get over this fear.  Remember what I said in another post, try first, be afraid second. You should know that free weights are a great workout – much better than any weight machine in the gym.  You are paying for a gym membership not for simply treadmill access.  That means you are paying to use the entire gym!  I suggest you at least try to do so.  I’m always here if you have any questions or you can hit me up on twitter @brooklyn_1012.  Now get to work!

  1. Vinny says:

    Rachel, it’s like you were writing this post for me LOL. Thanks for sharing. I still try to make attempts to get over to the dreaded free weight section, and now with you in mind, it might make it easier.

    This is great! YOU ROCK!

  2. Carrie says:

    I totally thought you wrote this one for me! I’m okay with the hand weights and then it’s the bigger stuff that scares me. I’m going to reread your post before I head to the gym the next time for some inspiration. Thanks! You are going to rock in your new career.

    • Thanks Carrie! That means a lot me. I’m so nervous but excited too. I’m so glad I could help 🙂 Oh and read this too before you go: You absolutely CAN do the bigger stuff!!!! Apply the same concepts as hand weights. Start light and use good form. I believe in you!!!

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