I was comparing gym habits with a coworker the other day. She weight trains, but "wouldn't be caught dead" in the main weightlifting area (vs. the women's only section). That got me thinking, what are the top things I wish I had known when I started lifting weights?
1. There's Nothing Wrong With Lifting in the Women's Section
Um, provided you're a woman, I suppose. This area is usually far less busy, generally quieter, and consequently you'll have more equipment options. In theory. If you're comfortable here, rock on.
2. The Main Section Gives You More Options
A women's section may be missing crucial equipment - I'm talking about no bench press or squat rack, more often than not. Can you work around it? Yes. But if you're paying for the full gym experience, you should feel comfortable taking advantage of everything the gym has to offer.
3. Don't Be Afraid of the Bench Press or Squat Rack
Yes, these machines are intimidating at first. There are no diagrams on the side, and as a free weight machine you may feel like you're more likely to injure yourself or drop the weights. However, it is infinitely worth it to master these exercises. Start light, ask for help, and don't be afraid to go slow.
4. Get a Spotter - or Just Ask for One
Having a spotter is like adding plus ten to your strength for every lift. Last week, with no spotter I dropped the weight for my six set after three; today, I pushed 15 pounds more with my spotter there. It's a weird mental thing, but it works. If you don't have a regular gym buddy, don't be afraid to ask for a spot from a trainer or even someone working out near you. Just remember to ask in between sets (you'd be surprised how often people talk to me in the middle of a set!), and look for someone who is a) strong enough to do it and b) looks comfortable with the exercise you're doing. Asking someone to spot me for a squat in between his free weight shoulder raises has backfired, and there's nothing worse than having a spotter you don't trust (minus ten to strength).
5. Find a Gym Buddy
Gym buddies are great. They push you to go on days you don't want to, they help you push more weight, and they keep you accountable if you're slacking. It never ceases to amaze me how willing others are to help you out and share knowledge, so take advantage! Just make sure you find someone you can trust and ideally who matches where you are in your training (at least relatively).