I’ve heard a lot of folks who want to lose weight say that they don’t want to go the gym. They don’t like the idea of working out in public, or they’re intimidated by the  hard bodies they imagine will be gracing every machine.

I like going to the gym, and I liked it even when I weighed 300 pounds. I think it’s worth getting over your intimidation and giving the gym a try — for at least a week. It will take you that long to find your way around the building and equipment.

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Don’t make excuses, and don’t wait until Monday — the gym will be packed then and more difficult for you to navigate. The best time to hit the gym for the first time is a Saturday afternoon. I’ve belonged to four gyms in four different towns, and the gym is almost always dead on Saturday afternoon. On weekend mornings, people are trying to get their workouts out of the way; on Sunday nights, they’re trying to undo all the weekend damage, and if you wait until Monday, everyone will be in there sweating off the weekend.

This is why I recommend the gym:

  • You can’t compile the same equipment at home for the same price. When you’re just starting to exercise, you need to have access to all kinds of different things — resistance bands, stability balls, dumb bells, weight and cardio machines.
  • The elliptical. I’m biased because the elliptical was my first fitness love, but if you are seriously overweight, it’s a good place to start because it’s low impact. (Note: I’m not a doctor. I just don’t think it would have been good for my joints to have two tons of fun pounding them around the pavement when I first started.)
  • The weather is no longer an excuse. Oh, it’s raining? Too hot, too cold, too humid, too sunny for your walk? Not anymore.
  • When you work out at home, it’s easy to blow it off. Going to the gym requires that you set aside time for your workouts and give it the time and attention it deserves. If you’ve driven all the way to the gym, you’re less likely to cut a workout short just because you’re not feeling it. At home, it’s easy to stash the dumbbells and turn off the DVD.
  • Group fitness classes. These will push you in a way you would never push yourself on your own. You’ll never push yourself as far on your own — especially when you’re just beginning. I’ve only recently started to incorporate workout DVDs into my routine, and I use the classes I’ve taken as a frame of reference for how hard I should be working. Don’t be self conscious; everyone was new to the class at one point. As long as you’re not interfering with anyone else’s workout, they won’t even notice you.

Other tips:

  • Get over your intimidation of the “hot bodies” at the gym. They’re not looking at you. If they are, they probably think it’s admirable that you’re even there. And isn’t it kind of inspiring to know that they don’t naturally look like that? They have to work at it, too.
  • Don’t buy new workout clothes. I always get a kick out of the New Year’s resolution crowd in their new duds and shiny white shoes. If you’re worried about standing out, this is one surefire way to do it. At the gyms I’ve belonged to, I knew a few of the regulars, but I worked out at different times depending on my work schedule, so I never really knew if someone was a newbie or not. I started out in old T-shirts and shorts, eventually bought a few workout Capri pants (Walmart has some excellent deals). I love the matchy-matchy workout clothes now, but it’s not worth the investment in the beginning. It’s a nice reward for sticking with it!
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