Health & Wellness

Shape Shifter

It’s normal to feel self-conscious when starting a new fitness program

By Jackilyn Rock
Photos by Lindsay Frendt Photography

Health and fitness-based goals are by far the most common of all the New Year’s resolutions. We set these goals to improve our lives, and it takes a tremendous amount of motivation to see them through. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when many of us cancel our gym memberships and forget our resolutions. We can easily walk back out the door to the fitness center as eagerly as we walked in when we allow ourselves to be consumed by self-limiting thoughts such as:

• I am the most out-of-shape person here!
• I look like a fool.
• I don’t know if I am doing this right.
• Everyone is staring at me.

If you need help maintaining your motivation to go to the gym, read on.

Don’t be intimidated

You look around, and everyone looks so strong. You feel weak and out of place. You are not alone. Others at the gym are in the same boat as you. Many are inexperienced, lacking confidence, self-conscious and desperately seeking knowledge. Try not to compare yourself with others. The fittest and strongest started at the bottom, too. Go in focusing on you and your goals. Then, relax.

Figure out your ‘why’

The easiest way to follow through with your intentions is to be 100 percent certain of your “why”—the reason you want to make the change. Why should you move in this direction? What is it about your current situation that is no longer working? How will your life be different if you achieve this goal? When motivation starts to dwindle—and at some point, it will—you will need to revisit your why. Once your goal is set, keep going despite any and all bumps in the road: injuries, illness, busy schedules, family, career, fatigue, budget, etc. Where there is a genuine why, there is a way. Just keep going.

Seek Help

Ask for a gym tour or orientation to familiarize yourself with the facility and its offerings. Be sure to ask plenty of questions and if possible, ask for instructions on how to use the various machines.

Consider a qualified personal trainer

As a trainer, most people I encounter in the gym want to know how to achieve their desired results. Others simply want to learn the proper form and technique to reap the maximum benefits from their time working out. Consider hiring a qualified trainer who educates you as they work you.

Personal trainers range widely in price. Ask about their qualifications and certifications, as working with a trainer will likely be a substantial investment. You should learn valuable skills from them that you can use after your training sessions end. You should not walk away with little knowledge of what you worked on or why you worked it. All too often, I hear stories about people paying large amounts of money but not learning anything in the process.

Research & Plan

If you cannot afford a trainer, be sure to research and learn proper form so you don’t rely on watching others around you (who may be exercising incorrectly, or working toward different goals than you are). The last thing you want is an injury. Also, research and follow a basic beginners’ workout plan, so you aren’t roaming the gym wondering what to do and how to do it.

Master the Basics

Initial goals are crucial, as this is where a lot of us unknowingly set ourselves up for failure. Unsustainable workout plans, unrealistic aesthetic goals, numbers on the scale or lofty strength goals can be too much too soon and mentally overwhelming. Set goals that are realistic and gradual in nature. Are you comfortable committing to one group class a week? Great! Schedule that and stick to it. You can’t get to five or six days a week without conquering one day a week. Start slowly and hold yourself accountable. Not only will you find your long-term goals easier to achieve, you will be at less risk of injury by not overloading your body right out of the gate.


1. Begin on the ground in a prone position (face down) supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Elbows are directly under your shoulders.

2. Keep your body straight, head in neutral alignment (look straight forward and not toward your toes). Draw the belly button in toward the spine, brace your core and squeeze the glutes. Keep your shoulders and upper back engaged. Try to envision creating a long, straight line with your body. Hold this position for as long as you are able.

Air Squat

1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place your hands behind your head. This is your starting position.

2. Start the movement by sitting with your hips back as if you are on an imaginary chair. Bend your knees as you inhale.

3. Continue squatting down to full depth with your upper thighs parallel to the floor. Then, reverse the movement, exhaling until you return to the starting position. Keep your head and chest up, your feet flat on the ground and press your knees gently outward throughout the movement. Allow your lower back to arch slightly as you descend to avoid rounding (or hunching) of the back.

Push Up

1. Begin on the floor face down supporting your weight on your toes and hands, a shoulder’s width apart (or slightly wider). Brace your core (as if you are preparing to take a punch to the stomach) and engage your glutes and hamstrings keeping your hips slightly lifted to avoid bowing of the back. Bending the elbows and looking just past the fingertips, inhale and lower yourself toward the ground until your chest almost touches.

2. Exhale as you press your hands into the ground, squeeze your chest and push your body back up to the starting position. If you do not have the strength to perform this exercise, try it on an elevated surface such as a bench or against a wall. This exercise can also be performed on the knees if needed.


1. Begin with feet shoulder-width apart and step one foot forward, bending the knees to lower your hips toward the ground. Posture should remain upright throughout the movement (do not lean forward) and the knee of the front leg should stay behind the toes.

2. Pressing through the heel of the front foot return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Incorporate these basic exercises into your new fitness routine starting with reps of 10 for 3 rounds, gradually increasing the numbers as you become stronger.

Ready, set, go!

Set a schedule, easing into your new workout routine and stick to it. Keep your why in sight to stay motivated. And remember, you belong in the gym as much as anyone else, so try to be OK with being uncomfortable and let go of self-doubt.