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overcoming embarrassment at the gym

so, I've recently started working out at the YMCA, which is a pretty well-used gym in my area. Only, thing is, I'm 17 and feel embarassed at the gym sometimes.

I'm far from overweight, in fact I'm well inside the "helathy" weight for my height. But I usuall wear sweatpants and a teeshirt. Also, I don't know how to use a few (ok, a LOT) of the machines in the room, and end up sticking the the same machines that I'm used to.

I've overcome that a little bit: moving on the the elliptical machies for cardio, instead of the "safe" treadmill, and today I even asked some guy next to me if he knew how to adjust the seat (it was way too low for me to reach). He was really nice about it, and even adusted it for me, but my face was burning and I felt like an idiot.

Any way to overcome that fear? Or any hints to kind of "pick up" on how to use the machines without sitting and reading the manuel on the side for 5 minutes, only to find you don't know how to make yourself "fit" in the seat? lol any tricks on what's usually adjustable, and what usually isn't? [also, you usually have to pay to get someone to officially 'show you' the machines, and I don't really want to do that]

haha not to mention that some of the machines make me feel plain silly (thigh adducters, anything that works the glutes, etc etc)

Thanks, guys! =]

Sun. Dec 2, 6:49pm

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oh,. and i just don't want it to become an excuse for me not to go to the gym... I know that if I keep at it, my better body will help the self-confidence issue and make me feel more comfortable..but i'll never get there if I'm afraid to go =\

Sunday, December 02, 2007, 6:58 PM

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You could try learning one new piece of equipment per week? Usually the numbers on the seats will all be the same...Like, for me, I adjust each seat to "5" on all the machines. I had to read those side instructions when I first started, too. No one thinks you're stupid for doing that. People are not judging you as harshly as you think they are. Good luck!

Sunday, December 02, 2007, 7:04 PM

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Lots of gyms have an intro to take you through the machines. Or ask if there is a personal trainer. They can map out a routine for you and give you a rundown on the machines.

Sunday, December 02, 2007, 8:12 PM

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If your Y is anything like mine, they've got people on staff who will walk you through how to use every machine in the gym. Doesn't cost a dime. THere's usually someone who can help you create a routine as well, and I know they'll give you a fit test to figure out just what you should be doing...

If it's any consolation, Everyone feels awkward on at least one piece of equipment. You should have seen me the first time I tried an eliptical.

Sunday, December 02, 2007, 9:39 PM

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A few guidelines

1) The read-out usually has "Press START to begin" or something similar. So press it.
2) All cardio machines have a "Manual" program setting. Press that.
3) You may be prompted to enter age or weight or time - pretty straightforward.
4) The level/resistance is adjustable at all times. Push it up to level 3 or 4 and see how that feels after a few minutes and raise or lower it from there. Yes, this works for most machines and most brands - except arc trainers, whose levels go up to 100, so set the level to 20 on that one.

1) Weight machines (not the cable or freestyle ones) usually have a large sticker on them somewhere that show you the positioning (e.g. aligning some dot or bolt with your shoulder on chest, back and shoulder machines).
2) Be especially careful with these on tricep and bicep machines - that's where a small mistake can lead to pulled tendons, hyperextension and even rotator cuff tears. Most of them feel pretty awkward to me, and I opt for dumbell/barbells for those muscle groups.
3) Sometimes more than the seat is adjustable. There is usually some spring-loaded pin to pull and adjust, and they look similar on all the machines (assuming same brand). The need to adjust these aspects of a machine tends to be fairly minimal and applies to the range of motion rather than proper positioning. I rarely have to play with those pins...just the ham and quad machines, and the occasional pec deck.
4) I'm not fond of the inner/outer thigh press machine either. You can work those areas on the floor at home to a video, or do balance work (yoga, pilates, bosu, physioball).

Sunday, December 02, 2007, 10:14 PM

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Nice guidelines 10:14. Another thing you can do is look at the particular models your gym has, make a note of them and see if there are instructions online (some manufacturers make this available).

Also - don't get flustered, just take your time, study things and notice wherever there is a pin or something like that and you know that's something you can adjust. Most cardio machines have a manual setting and several programs you can go through - although 'manual' is safe, some of the programs can be pretty challenging and the automatic adjustments are nice, so once you get the hang of the basic operation try to mix it up a little. Some are harder to get the hang of than others. The staff at the desk ought to be happy to show you how a piece of equipment works - it's part of their job. After all you're paying to work out there and you won't stick around very long if you can't use the machines. Don't feel bad about it.

Everyone started sometime. As someone who has been a gym regular for some time - I have been approached a number of times for help on a particular machine. Honestly would you feel scornful if someone asked you for help after you've been there awhile and gotten the hang of things? Well I certainly don't and I've never observed anyone else behaving that way either. Folks generally are happy to help - the only thing I would say is try to pick someone who isn't in the middle of an intense workout, and if you run into the odd rude person shrug it off and keep working out.

Happy working out!

Monday, December 03, 2007, 12:03 AM

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Oh, OP...asking is a great way. I'm probably projecting here, but does this cross into other parts of your life? When I was young, I was very self-conscious and hated asking anything or being noticed in situations like this. What I've learned in the 25 years since is that just going ahead and doing what embarrassed me (like asking a reasonable question of someone about a piece of unfamiliar equipment) eventually helped me get over my embarrassment. Now nobody believes what an uncertain, insecure kid I was.

But I waited too long. Start now. Act like it's no big deal, or at least to the best of your ability act as if it's no big deal, and the day will come when it really is no big deal.

Monday, December 03, 2007, 9:41 AM

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For the most part the only people I really 'notice' at the gym are the ones who are barely doing anything other than talking on their cell phone! Although, I did once notice a younger girl trying to work a machine without adjusting for her height. I debated, but I eventally went over and showed her how she could adjust it and she seemed grateful. People are usually happy to help - I know I'd much rather help someone than watch them suffer through using a machine incorrectly and wonder if they want or need help.!

Monday, December 03, 2007, 1:21 PM

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I have exactly the same problem! My solution so far has been to use the free weights, and do a lot of reading on line and at the library about it before I go to the gym.

However, I also know that when I joined the Y (which is not the gym I belong to now), they had an intro session thing where you got 60 minutes with a personal trainer. You could check into that if you're a new member - just be super clear with the trainer exactly what you want.

My Y also had a program every couple of months where you learned to do circuit training on a bunch of the machines, and they gave you a form to fill out with the weight you used and the number of sets and reps, just like in middle school gym class. It wasn't embarrassing because everyone was doing it! :)

And my final suggestion - ask around. Maybe one of your friends or your parents' friends is an experienced weight lifter and would be willing to show you how to do things. The Y offers day passes, and they're probably expensive (~$20/day), but still way cheaper than hiring a personal trainer since you won't then also be paying your friend.

Oh, and the person who said that the trainers walking the floor will be more than willing to help is spot-on. But for me, knowing that doesn't really make asking any easier.


Monday, December 03, 2007, 2:02 PM

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op here

yes, 9.41, it basically crosses into ALL areas of my life. I get super embarassed, super easily But not in normal situations to be embarassed in (i.e. I dance about in public and really don't care lol)...but I always feel like everyone's staring at me, like who's that idiot?

thanks guys, these have all been really good tips. my friend reccomended going on a machine you're used to and "observing" people on machines you aren't used to. then you'll "pick up" on stuff.

i hope everything works out XD but i think i'm getting better. I asked some guy behind me the other day how to adjust the height on a machine and found a new favorite machine that I KNOW works because I'm still sore (abdominal crunches lol).

thanks for the tips again!! =]

Monday, December 03, 2007, 7:07 PM

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op again

oh, and 10.14, I took weight gym last year, so I know a lot of the safety drills for machines lol, but you're right, that's a good thing to watch out for

(i.e. stand up to pick up and 'drop' the bicep/tricep curl, or you're going to ruin your elbows lol)

it's just that some of the machines don't "change" the same (height, leg legnth, etc)

oh, and maybe someone has an idea for this machine. it's one that you lay on your stomach and the "rest" is against the back of your ankles, and you have to basically bend your knees (works hams and butt lol). how can i make it "shorter" so i'm not reaching? lol it's akward enough XD

Monday, December 03, 2007, 7:11 PM

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That machine where you lay on your stomach and work your legs always freaks me out because the last thing I want is my butt in the air at a gym. Some places have the same machine but in a sit-down format where you sit down and put your ankles ABOVE the roller pad and push down (whereas the usual one you hook your ankles BEHIND the roller pad and lift up, different parts of the legs are worked on the two machines). Anyway, the adjustment on that one is on the roller pad, it can either be made longer or shorter. I have crazy long legs, so if I don't adjust it, I end up with the roller pad on my shins or calves and nowhere near my ankles, which just doesn't work. So, you may need to make it shorter so you don't have to reach. I'm pretty sure it's just a pin you have to modify. May take some adjusting to find the right length for you.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007, 1:12 PM

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how to videos for equipment at the gym

This site might help you. The videos are well done and demonstrated by motivating to look at personal trainers and you can browse by different categories including equipment. Someone suggested dumbbells - and i agree. Browse by the dumbbell exercises (and whatever else you want) to see how the exercises are done.


Thursday, December 13, 2007, 8:36 PM

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First prepare yourself for the gym. Wherever you are, tell yourself you will go to the gym. Next, before you go, see yourself visually going straight to the mats, next see yourself taking a mat and going to a favorite quiet spot or someplace where you feel very comfortable. Take the mat and lye down on your back and look up to the ceiling. Then do a series of stretching exercise for about 1/2 hour. This way you will be familiarizing yourself with the gym itself, without the stress, and you will begin to see it is not so bad after all. Then slowly start with ALL strenghthening machines moving from 1 to the next until the series are complete. If you cannot complete a set or feel you don't care for the machine, listen to your body and mind: do at least 2 sets of 8 then get off and move on. If at anytime during any floor exercise you don't want to continue, then get a drink of water, then take the mat again and stretch all over again. Do this so that you will train your mind and body. As you do this, you will begin to see that it will start to get better. Best of Luck With This!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 5:24 PM

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Hi OP,

Your post reminded me that I used to feel super shy and self-conscious when I was younger too. (I'd forgotten!) My old motto used to be: "You have to take risks to grow." A "risk" was anything, big or small, that was scary or hard for me to do. So keep that little motto in mind as you face all of those small battles each day.

I also work out at a Y. I've used 3 different branches over the years and all of them have people on staff just for the purpose of instructing members on machines, and at no cost. So look into that, but also remember that you are just as much a member as the person who's been there for decades. I would never judge someone for asking me questions or for reading the directions on the machines.
Good luck!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 6:30 PM

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