Ladies: Tips to make you more comfortable in the weight room

When I was 18 years old I was scared to death of the weight room and the people in it, but I desperately wanted to learn how to lift weights. I’d do aerobics classes during the day and then I’d go back to the gym at night around 9pm when I knew nobody would be there and I’d go look around the weight room and try to figure the machines out.

The weight room can be a very intimidating place for a woman that isn’t familiar with it. When you look out amongst the vast sea of complicated looking machines, contraptions and gizmos it probably overwhelms you – and understandably so. Anything that is unfamiliar will typically seem a bit daunting. I will confess, I still get intimidated too! Anytime I’ve been out of town or hit a new gym I’m always bit shy to dive right in and get my lift on. However, I’ve discovered a few things that have helped me feel more at ease and I’d like to share them with you in hopes of getting my ladies into the weight room which is where the real magic happens!

My beautiful friend & Girl Gone Strong Alli McKee

1. Wear something that you feel confident in.
This will differ depending on the person. For some women this may mean wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt and a ball cap. Other women like to slap on their most colorful Lululemon outfit and matching headband. I’m admittedly part of the latter. I feel my best, therefore perform my best, when I feel that I look my best, but whatever works for you. Make sure your outfit is covering enough that you aren’t going to feel self conscious in it and it fits well enough that you don’t have to make frequent adjustments to it. (We’ve all wore “those pants” that you have to keep pulling up, or “that top” that you have to keep tugging down. No fun!)

2. Find a buddy
A training partner can be the golden ticket for some people when it comes to an exercise regime for a couple of reasons. First off, everything is less scary and more fun when you have a friend with you. Walking into a weight room won’t seem nearly as intimidating if you’ve got your best gal (or guy) pal with you. Secondly, they help hold you accountable. If you know your friend is meeting you at the gym it’s much harder for you to dip out and cancel. And last, you can push each other and motivate each other!

3. No buddy? No problem.
So all of your girlfriends gave you the ol, “I can’t go to the gym… I have to, er, wash my hair.” line? No biggie. Load your iPod up with the music that makes you feel the MOST badass. Take some time to brainstorm and create a list of songs that fire you up and make you feel good and then upload them on to your iPod. The iPod serves a few different purposes. The first purpose, obviously, is music. Music serves as a fantastic motivator to most. Secondly, it sort of removes you from your surroundings. Your less likely to pay attention to all of the scary grunting, barking and howling noises that typically occur in most weight rooms if you’re too busy listening to LMFAO scream the lyrics to “I’m Sexy and I Know It” into your ears.

4. Have a plan.
Have a plan. Have a plan. Have a plan. I can’t possibly stress this enough. All too many times I’ve seen a newbie woman walk into the weight room with absolutely no plan. She is very easy to spot as she wanders around aimlessly, does a half-assed set of something on a machine that is completely purposeless and then she quickly scampers across the gym to her safety net, aka, the cardio machines. Ladies. I beg of you to have a plan. So you don’t have a plan, you say? Allow me to help! Check out my wonderful friend Nia Shanks’ website for her Beautiful Badass programs. These programs are targeted specifically towards women and will guide you and show you exactly what you need to do. Another great option is the book, “New Rules of Lifting for Women” by Lou Schuler and Cassandra Forsythe. If you need additional information on any and all things related to strength training, you can visit the world’s #1 strength training resource (in which I am honored to be a contributor and team member) at

5. Bring your training journal.
Your training journal can be any notebook that you choose. Mine are typically girlie looking notebooks in bright colors but yours can be whatever you’d like. Before you go to the gym, write down which exercises you plan to do, how many sets and how many repetitions. Take your notebook and a pen with you and jot down the weight you used as you go. Like other things on the list, this serves a dual purpose. First off you can see what you did the last time so you are can strive to continuously improve by adding more weight, more sets or reps, or less rest time. Second, it gives you something to do and keeps you busy between sets. More busy time = less time to worry about what is going on around you and it keeps you focused on what you should be focused on: your workout!

6. Make friends.
Once you get into the routine of frequenting the gym and the weight room, you are bound to start seeing some of the same people over and over again. Smile at people, say hello and make friends. If you know some friendly people around the gym it is a lot less scary! Plus having a strong network of likeminded friends will help you stick to your goals. I have met almost all of my closest friends through the gym and those friendships have lasted years and years.

I trained in the weight rooms of the Las Vegas Athletic Clubs for many years and these weight rooms are absolutely packed with hundreds of people coming through every hour. The tips I’ve listed above helped me overcome my anxiety and make myself comfortable in the weight room. And probably the most important thing I’ve learned? People aren’t paying attention to what you are doing because they are too busy focusing on themselves!

So ladies, put on your training gear, grab your friend or strap on your iPod, set your plan, grab your journal and lets lift some weights! You have as much right to be in there as anybody else.

I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment below if you have any other tips that have helped you overcome your anxiety in the weight room.


  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Great tips! It looks like we were thinking about the same thing-I had a post waiting to be published very similar to this!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I would add: bug the trainers that work there! See if you can get free orientation sessions and ask them as many questions as possible about whatever you feel uncomfortable about.

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    December 6, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Heidi – great point. I had thought about including that, but I hesitated only because I've seen so many "trainers" that don't have a clue as to what they are doing. But for the most part, they should be able to provide a lay of the land and basic knowledge on how to operate the machines.

    Lindsay – I'm excited to read yours!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Thanks Jen!
    I'm so glad you posted this today! I have this problem all the time. I usually feel judged as soon as I walk through the doors of a gym, let alone heading to the weight room. Over the summer I was working out at home until my husband deemed my equipment dangerous (cuz it's so old).
    I'm a mom of 3 and recently went back to school…can you say stress? And I cope with food, so any weight I'd lost over the summer came crawling right back. Scared of continuing to pile on the weight, tired of being so tired and stressed out all the time I decided I had to make fitness a priority.
    One of the problems I was facing was timing. So, I joined a 24 hour gym. I always feel judged as soon as I walk through the doors. The manager was really nice and I didn't feel uncomfortable with her at all. (seriously unheard of for me)
    So, I get my butt out of bed at 4:45 am and head off to the gym. I love going so early, because there's not many people there. Some mornings I have the place to myself. I don't know if it's a change in my own attitude or just a more comfortable gym but the few people I've come in contact with have been super nice! All in all taking the uncomfortableness out of the equation sure takes a lot of the obstacles out of heading to the weight room!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    December 6, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Elle – I'm so glad to hear that you are having a good experience at your gym! You getting up at 4:45am is really impressive – that definitely shows your dedication!
    We just all have to remember that everybody else in there are human beings, just like us, and they are probably feeling a little unsure of themselves and wanting to make friends too!

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I love this post!! I used to be intimidated by the men but now I rock my pink lifting gloves & walk through there with confidence! 🙂

  • Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Nice post! I was always intimidated until I found a plan. I'm in the middle of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and I'm so confident now with my girlie blue clipboard, pink pen, and fabulously color coordinated log sheets. 😉

  • Reply
    December 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Great Post & Tips, Jen! I have to say, I started lifting when I was 15 yrs old and got pretty commfortable in a gym setting (esp one of most males). I took some time off from lifting in college and after college, I had the "uncomfortable" feeling for the first and only time I could remember. I decided then to hire a trainer to help re-introduce myself to the setting and training.

    I was fortunate to get a great one and it was the best investment in myself I ever made (in addition to my bi-weekly manicures haha, continuing education and my now Coach, Carter). From there, the rest is history obviously. Now, I get excited when walking into a new gym in a new town.. I get to surprise all the people what a tough little chic is really made of 😉

    I know that last sentence is not the average thought process, but I too felt like a fish out of water at one point and with time, consistency and experience — my confidence bloomed and so did my Badass-Solo-Training-Can-Do Attitude 😉

    XO, Alli

  • Reply
    December 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I feel that I am very blessed because the gym I train at is very open. There is no separate section. The treadmills line up parallel to the huge rack and down the center is the 40 yard "lane" for prowler pushes or sled pulls. The girls I train with often comment on how lucky we are to have the gym we do 🙂

    If you ever watch anything on Diesel Strength ( posted by "Smitty" they are filmed at the gym where I go.

    But def. a great post Jen. I try to welcome new women at the gym. Sometimes I think as women we can intimidate others as much as the guys.

  • Reply
    December 15, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I love this post and love that you made it look so easy for women to become accostomed to the weight room. Whenever I have female clients one of my main goals is to make them feel comfortable lifting and strength training without me there. I definately find that a plan helps so you know exactly what you are doing the second you walk into 'that section' if you feel like a lost puppy dog, this is where the intimidation factor comes into play!


  • Reply
    May 8, 2012 at 11:58 am

    It took my husband 11 years to talk me into going to the gym with him on a regular basis. I was terrified of all the big guys in there, not knowing exactly what I was doing and looking like a total fool. I finally just told myself to "get over it", the only one there I needed to impress was myself (and maybe my husband every now and then!:) He has been an amazing teacher/coach in making sure I learn to lift correctly and is cheering me on to compete in my first ever powerlifting competition next month. It's been almost a year since I started lifting and I'm now one of the regulars in the weight room. I agree with every single one of your tips, I think having a partner and a plan are the two most important. And of course looking good while you're lifting – I just recently bought some purple squat shoes, my purple lifting belt is on it's way and I deadlift with no shoes on so I always make sure I'm wearing my purple socks on deadlift day – purple makes me smile! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Great article. I will be sharing with several ladies who are just that, intimidated. The one or two trainers at our gym might have are never around. I have made friends with the guys who lift weights and use the machines, asking them for advice. I've picked out the guys who are consistent in showing up and listen to their conversations between each other about their workouts. I've made friends and learned some great tips!

    I also like the reference to the book and website. I'm always up for learning more!! THANKS!! CJ in FLA

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