Face it, the first time you walk into a gym, it’s not easy. It’s like walking into a new school and not knowing a soul. You don’t know where things are, you don’t know the cliques and you don’t know the unwritten rules. It can be intimidating.
I remember the first time I walked into a gym that was filled with absolute monsters. I mean this was clearly where the gorillas and pros trained and here I was, walking in, not even knowing where the locker rooms were, let alone how the equipment was organized. Now I have been in my fair share of gyms and this one was one of the most intense ones I have ever been in. Everyone, and I mean everyone, there was serious about their training. No chat, no music, just the clang of iron and the smell of years of commitment. And I thought to myself, wow, if I feel like a new kid walking in here, imagine how it would feel to someone that is even new to the game.
It was after that when I realized, we really need to be ambassadors for the sport (yes, to me it’s a sport and no, I am not going to get into that debate). Put yourself in someone else’s shoes that is walking into your gym for the first time and remember what they have gone through to get to the point where they actually walk in the door. This is someone that has made a decision to better themselves and their life and how that first workout goes could certainly dictate if they return.
Now we can all spot the newbie as there are tell-tale signs. The wandering, the just looking around, the watching what you are doing; if you spend any time in gyms you know these people. So here is my challenge to you; welcome them. No, I am not saying run over with a basket of protein bars and a pre workout drink, but be welcoming. Yes, we know you are big and tough but it’s okay to smile. Give that all-to-familiar head nod that we all do. And please, if this newbie gets up the courage to step up and ask you something or actually say hello, be hospitable.
Now please don’t confuse being welcoming with being that person that struts around spouting their own training wisdom on other people. Seriously, that is near the top of my gym pet-peeves and nobody likes that person or their pseudo trainer style. But instead, be understanding of what this newbie is doing and recognize how they may not know how to adjust a machine or something. So instead of just watching and rolling your eyes when they struggle to adjust a pad on an iso row, here’s an idea, offer to help. Your interaction will go a long way towards helping make someone feel comfortable and feel that the gym can be a collaborative and a positive environment. And if you want to take it a step further, now this is crazy so hang on, offer a handshake and introduce yourself. Yes, I said it; be human, drop the ego and interact in a positive way with this person that is brave enough to put themselves into this perceived hyper-competitive environment.
So that is my thought for today….be an ambassador. Be kind, be helpful and be approachable. And you can help someone new to it all just maybe feel a little better about the experience. Remember, how that first time goes can certainly impact how they feel about their next workout. You had your very first workout in a gym once too; don’t forget that.