Going from one's comfort zone to the gym

By: Debbie Brown/News Messenger Correspondent
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I’ll bet you made a resolution to be healthier in 2013 and you’ve joined one of the local gyms. On that first morning, you laced up your new athletic shoes, grabbed a bottle of water and your freshly charged iPod and headed off to the place that was going to be the catalyst for your change.

With excitement in your step and all the best intentions in the world, you pulled open the door of the gym, smiled with the confidence of an Olympic gold medalist and proceeded to eye all the machines that were going to transform you.

As you stood there in awe, you may have also thought, “Oh no, now what? I have no idea what to do!”

This is something that goes through the minds of many gym newcomers.

In case you haven’t kept up with that New Year’s resolution, it’s not too late to make good on your promise.

Contrary to what some may believe, the gym does not enjoy taking your money without your using the facility. People sometimes feel that gym memberships are just a black hole, which is a bottomless receptacle for our hard-earned money. It’s not the gym’s fault if that’s the way you see it – they want to help you but they can’t make you walk through those doors!

Yes, sometimes people quit going to the gym because they just don’t want to exercise. Others, however, give up because they feel that regardless of what they do, they just seem to be that hamster on the wheel that never makes any progress.

So, now that you’ve identified yourself as the hamster and not the quitter, what can you do about it? According to Kelly Waterlyn, a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, getting direction, understanding the value of nutrition, variation of exercise and classes are all ways to help with the feeling of helplessness.

Don’t be afraid to meet up with a trainer. At that meeting, the two of you can discuss things that are particular to your situation and will at least get you started off on the right foot. Waterlyn says that even if you don’t continue with a trainer, there is one thing that we all need to understand.

“Nutrition is pivotal. Without it, you will not be making the progress you’re trying so hard to achieve,” Waterlyn said.

Would-be exercisers also give up, or do not move forward, when they get impatient with themselves. Waterlyn urges you not to give up if you’re not perfect at something the first time and try activities that are out of your comfort zone.

When Waterlyn teaches exercise classes, she instructs her students to get out of their comfort zone at least one time during the session.

“I remember one student of mine who said that she couldn’t do any activity with the balance ball because she said she didn’t have balance. I told her that’s precisely what she needed to do to gain balance,” Waterlyn said.

Waterlyn finds that doing something out of your comfort zone is probably what you need, even when you think otherwise. She also suggests that when you’re doing familiar exercises, vary them.

This trainer of six years says that she often changes up the way she does lunges. Waterlyn joked that she knows if she’s varied it enough by the amount of muscle soreness she has the next day.

“Our body needs to be challenged but in a safe way,” she said.

If you’re the type of person who may be intimidated by the machines, “then a group exercise class is the best way to do something, even when you don’t know how to do anything,” according to Waterlyn. Waterlyn added that group exercise “is an essential part to being in a gym. Even working with a friend is enough to keep people motivated.”

Spinning classes is something that many gyms offer and Misty Meachim has attended the ones that Gold’s Gym offers.

“I really love the spinning classes and liked the high impact and intensity of them,” Meachim said. “I liked being in the group environment but I also like how it was just me on a bike.”

So, if you’ve joined the gym but are already feeling beaten, don’t give up. Remember that those new athletic shoes, or even your iPod, will be just as useless as a gym membership if you don’t know how to use them … and don’t have fun with them.