Ask the trainer: How do I gain confidence to go to the gym?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

—Blake M.*, Santa Clara University, California

*Name changed

Gaining enough confidence to start going to the gym could be one of the best things you do for yourself all year. If you have the desire to be physically active, don’t let a lack of confidence keep you from reaching your goals.

Typically, a lack of confidence comes from focusing too much on the unrealistic expectations or standards that you think others may have. Going to the gym should be something you do for yourself, to make yourself feel good and to contribute positively to your overall health. Here are two ways to help you combat lack of confidence and get to the gym:

1. Set your own realistic expectations This starts before you even go near the gym. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Different people are going to have different goals. Some people might be trying to build muscle while others are trying to lose weight or gain flexibility. Some might be recovering from an injury or an illness and are trying to gain back endurance and strength. You don’t know everyone’s story and they don’t know yours. Decide what you want to improve on and go into the gym with a plan to achieve that goal.

2. Learn proper form Another contributor to a lack of confidence is not trusting your abilities. The workout world can be intimidating, from all of the different types of cardiovascular and weight machines, to free weights, to a variety of classes in yoga, spinning, kickboxing, etc. It can be difficult to figure out what will work best for you and how to perform that specific activity. To help you get started in the gym with a specific plan, seek out the help of a personal trainer, a coach, or a friend who knows what they’re doing. Many fitness centers have someone on staff who provides complimentary sessions for first-time gym goers to help them learn what’s available and how to properly perform various moves.

Ask the trainer: How can I improve my endurance?

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“How can I improve my endurance?”

—Amber L., Concordia College, New York

Endurance, or the body’s ability to withstand physical stress over a long period of time, is a key component of overall health and wellness. If you find yourself getting tired after regular daily activities (e.g., walking to class or going up and down stairs), focusing on your endurance may be a good idea.

The key to building endurance? Consistency. To help prevent injury, increase the duration and intensity of your exercise gradually over time. The goal is to remain injury-free so you can be consistent with your physical activity.

These three approaches can help you improve your endurance:

1. Build muscle

A common misconception is that building endurance requires only aerobic activity. Stronger muscles will pump a larger amount of blood back to the heart with each contraction. This increases the amount of blood that’s available to be pumped back out to the body by the beating heart. Blood carries oxygen to working muscles, so the more blood being pumped through the body, the better.

2. Cross train

Sustained periods of aerobic activity are essential to building endurance. There are a lot of ways to get the heart pumping and achieve the positive effects of aerobic activity, so don’t focus on just one. Running, swimming, walking, and using an elliptical machine or a stationary or regular bike are all good forms of exercise. If you find that the intensity level becomes unsustainable (you’re breathing too hard), slow it down a little so you can continue the activity for a longer period of time.

3. Combine strength and cardiovascular workouts

An efficient way to build endurance is to combine strength training and aerobic activity (circuit training) with little rest in between. For example, perform a strength exercise (say, a squat). Then, without rest, go right into an activity, like biking hard for a minute. You can also add a set of core work into the circuit, like holding a plank for 30 seconds. Circuits like this not only make your muscles stronger but also keep your heart rate up and keep you breathing hard, increasing your overall endurance.