With the end January closing in, many gym-going New Year’s resolutioners will stow away their neon gym shoes, delete their food-logging apps, and hang up their resistance bands in defeat. Regardless of what your get-healthy goals are for 2014, if you’re feeling a little jaded, intimidated, or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you at the gym, here are things to keep in mind before canceling your membership.
1. You don’t have to run
You also don’t have to do yoga if you’re not interested in reuniting with your transcendental self. You don’t have to take spin classes if going to spin classes is tantamount to torture in your book. Not everyone is a runner or a yogi, and just because you don’t have any marathons or downward facing dogs in your future doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your fitness goals. When you go into the gym, especially as a newbie, it’s easy to feel pigeonholed just looking around. You’ll see all the treadmill devotees, elliptical junkies, Stairmaster admirers, and you’ll feel oddly pressured to commit to one lifestyle, even if you hate it. There’s no one right way to get/stay healthy or lose weight — so don’t feel guilty for not listening to the treadmill’s siren calls.
2. Leave your insecurity in the locker room
When I was 120 pounds heavier than I am today, one of my biggest fears about losing weight was simply setting foot in the gym. I was apprehensive enough to believe all the super-fit people would collectively pause their up-tempo Rihanna covers and snicker behind my back while I drowned in my own sweat for 30 minutes on the elliptical. In hindsight, maybe a few of them did laugh at me when I thought I could keep up a 6.5 MPH pace on the treadmill, but it really doesn’t matter. Repeat this mantra the next time you feel the least bit insecure at the gym: I’m here with the best intentions to be healthy, and no matter what I’m physically able to accomplish, I showed up. Don’t let the potential for what someone could think hinder or halt your progress.
3. You don’t need special gear
Sure, the moisture-wicking is great, and a miscellaneous zippered pocket above your ass crack can really come in handy, but don’t think you have to spend a fortune to fit in at the gym. There’s no shame in wearing a baggy tee shirt from college and some elastic band pants with a stripe down the side to your workout (my go-to look, by the way). Trust me, you’re going to be sweaty and disgusting whether your tag says “Nike” or not. And, ladies, just the skip the make-up, OK? Your swinging ponytail pendulum as you jog is sure to capture the hearts and minds of countless gym bros.
4. Race the person next to you
Sometimes your “Eye of the Tiger” playlist won’t be enough to motivate you through the longest 15-minute stationary bike ride of your life. In these times of desperation, I like to pretend I’m racing the person next to me. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like totally schooling some middle-aged man or the Lululemon lady—whether they’re aware of it or not.
5. Be reasonable
Despite your best intentions, you won’t be able to get to the gym every time you want to go. One day you’ll be hungover; next month you’ll be on vacation indulging in some delicious escapism so satisfying that the dreaded kettle bells will cease to exist for a while. Don’t feel guilty for deviating from your exercise regimen, but don’t let life’s special occasions tempt you into an excuse-filled shame spiral into couch potatodom. Don’t use that bogus reasoning that because you already missed the gym two days, you may as well not go back to the gym until next week. Some days you’ll have to drag yourself to the gym, moping the whole way. Don’t let the rough days divert your attention from all the other days you felt like you really kicked ass when you worked out.