Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's My Gym Too!

So I know I've been a little negligent of the blog ever since school started (my posts went from 14 per month to 5!).  Since school started up again, I've been insanely busy during the week working part time, going to school full time, tutoring, and doing field work in a local school.  I also feel like since I don't have time to bake and exercise as much any more I don't really have too many things to talk about.  October is my favorite month so hopefully I will have many things to post about apples, pumpkins, changing leaves, and baseball.  October also means colder weather and usually rain, so towards the end of the month I end up spending more time in the gym working on my conditioning than running outside.  So I thought that maybe a good way to kick off the month would be to do a series on conditioning workouts.  I got this idea from my mother, actually, when she asked me to take her to the gym to show her how to use the free weights.

I feel like the set up is the same in every gym - the free weights are always in the back, lined up against a wall that is just one giant mirror.  There are a few benches, but they're usually occupied by boys about twice your size, wearing shirts without sleeves that show way too much of their armpit (I mean seriously, did you rip off the sides of your shirt with your sleeves?).  I can understand where my mom was coming from - for women, it can be a very intimidating place, especially for people who have never used the free weights before.

My mom, like many women, chooses to use the machines that guide your workouts for you using pulleys rather than brave the free weights in the back of the gym.  However, you get a better workout with free weights because it engages not just the muscle you are targeting, but all of the muscles around it that help you lift or pull the weight.  Think about it, when you're at a machine doing bicep curls, your arms are resting on cushions, you're sitting on your butt, and the only thing you have to concentrate on is keeping your wrists straight.  However, imagine standing with a 5 lb free weight in each hand, keeping your core tight to support the weight in your hands and your forearms and triceps engaged to help your bicep bring the free weight up close to your shoulder.  So instead of just working out your biceps, you're also improving your posture by creating a stronger core and getting a slight workout in all of the other muscles of your arms as well.

If you go to a gym like mine, the free weight section is primarily geared towards men.  The free weights on the bench go up to 225 lbs, and the 5, 10, and 12.5 lb free weights are usually on the floor in a corner.  The boys are usually there in packs, with each of them taking up a bench even if they're not working out.  It's frustrating and intimidating and hard to get past but I want you to because believe me once you get past those boys in the back of the room and start focusing on you and your workout, you'll instantly fall in love with working out with free weights and never go back to those machines again.  My mom has barely used the machines since I showed her an arm circuit.

So when you go to the back of the room here are a few things I want you to remember.
- Be confident - you have a right to use the free weights too.
- Be polite - if the boys are in your way, just say "excuse me," especially if they're just hanging out and talking.  Make your presence known and don't be afraid to ask for a bench if they're just using it to hold their protein shake.
- Focus on you - believe me, that's what the other boys in the gym are doing too.  You're here for your workout, so don't even think about the workouts the other people are doing.  And everyone started somewhere.  Who cares if you're using 3 lb weights?  This is your workout tailored to fit your needs, you'll get stronger with practice.

Next time when I post an arm circuit, I want you all to remember this post when heading to the back of the gym.  Until then!


  1. lovelovelove this post Ali!!!!!! I could rant on and on about this but a few more things I want to add (because I can't keep my mouth shut).

    90% of the "big men" in there don't know what they're doing, they're big because they're mostly fat and/or have good genetics. The ones who DO know what they're doing will have a profound respect for a female picking up a weight.

    Don't be afraid to do big compound movements like squat, deadlift, press and row variations. You'll get a LOT more out of the movements. Deadlifts in particular work not only your hamstrings and booty (what girl doesn't want a nice round butt, eh?) but also the entire back, your arms, and your core. (hence they're my *favorite* movement)

  2. @Juliet Thanks Juliet! I love hearing from an expert ;D. Any input you have would be great!

  3. I love this :) My other bugbear, along the same topic, is when a gym separates off the 'light' weights from the heavier ones entirely - both my current and previous gym put all the light, 'girly' weights on one side of the room, then put the 'manly' weights on the other, so if any girl wanted to use a weight heavier than 10kg, they stand out even more!

  4. Hi Ali. I'm not sure how I stumbled across your blog but I love it. :) It's so true about the weights area. It seems intimidating (and usually there are the odd one or two guys who are just rude) but generally people don't realise they're in your way and will move if you ask. You just have to be brave! I'll look forward to reading more posts from you! xxx


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