I don’t care how ripped, yolked, jacked, stacked, or cracked you are. The first time you go to work out at a new gym is scarier than starting a new school, job, marriage, or when Verizon tells you you’re at 90 percent of your data with eight days left in the month. (sidenote: if the Maccabees could keep that candle lit for eight days, you can make that 10 percent of data last for eight days).
Starting a new gym is so terrifying, in fact, I delayed going to a new gym for close to two months.
My office changed locations in late July, and instead of moving to the gym close to the new office, I just started going to the gym closest to my home. The whole point of going to the gym close to work was to let traffic die down, then have an easy commute home. I spat in the face of this, sat in traffic, and went to my much more crowded gym in the city rather than just go to my gym closest to the new office. But I couldn’t keep up with this. I had to face my fears.
There’s a familiarity with your gym and the people that go there. After a few years, even months, you know all the faces. You know their routine. You never speak with these people, but you build a familial-like bond with them. You get to the point where you’re not afraid to try a new exercise in front of them and fail, because they’ve seen you work hard before and know you sort of know what you’re doing. With the fairer sex, you know what they’re bringing on the radar gun. You’ve checked each other out and spent so much time sweating near each other you’re past the point of trying to make yourselves look halfway sexy while lifting. There’s no gymtimidation to be found after you’ve put in a few consistent months at the dojo.
I’m no stranger to starting at a new gym, but it still gives me lose-your-virginity type nerves. When I got to my new gym, I was instantly shook. Never mind the fact that I legitimately got lost in a giant industrial park off the highway trying to find the damn place. I walked in and immediately couldn’t find the locker room. I just wandered around the place and it took me a solid ten minutes before I actually found the locker room. And the locker rooms aren’t well labeled, so I almost walked into the women’s locker room, but this could have been in part due to the fact that I had my head buried in my (dying) phone like a damn ostrich for fear of making eye contact with any of my new fellow gym goers.
Once on the gym floor, I felt like a kid on the first day at a new school. There’s a cadence about every gym you’re in, and no two gyms flow the same way. Trying to navigate a gym floor where you don’t know where anything feels like, well, driving around an industrial park looking for your new gym but your cell is dying so you don’t use your GPS. I was rattled. Wandering around looking for weights and benches and machines, it was brutal.
Like an idiot, I let my phone die within minutes so I had zero music to listen to. I couldn’t even screw around on Twitter between sets, which relegated me to either staring at the ground, staring at myself in the mirror, or staring at the other people working out. It ended up being a mix of all that, and while I assume nobody really even took notice of me, the fact that I think the whole world revolves around me gave me wicked bad anxiety.
And the people at this new gym? Oh boy. It’s a whole new batch of dudes to size up! It’s a whole slew of women who have butts in yoga pants you haven’t seen yet! It’s sensory overload. If I kept my head down the whole time, I’d look strange. Keep staring at myself in the mirror and I’d come across as a self-centered prick who’s got gym-selfie Bumble photos. Look at anyone doing squats and I already get labeled the creepy dude. It’s a lose-lose.
There’s no telling when I’ll finally feel comfortable at my new gym. It could be tomorrow. It might be next month. Maybe it’ll be when I can bench 300 pounds and earn the respect of guys who look like they’d fit in better at Muscle Beach than the Boston Sports Club. I have no idea. But I do know one thing is certain: there’s nothing scary about sitting on a bean bag chair naked eating Cheetos, so that’s where you can find me today after work when I should be trying to get used to my new gym..
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