Overcoming Gym Intimidation and Weightlifting Fears with Expert Guidance

Removing Barriers of Entry to the Weight Room: Intimidation

An ongoing series (1 of 3)

If you are new to the Gym world and weight lifting, it can be intimidating, uncomfortable, and even scary at times.  This is normal. These posts will address the common concerns of clients and try to highlight the facts over fears of weightlifting at Smart Strength.

Gym Intimidation

I vividly remember the first time I entered the high school weight room as a husky, uncoordinated middle schooler.  In addition to my uncertainties, I had to face the “cool kids” of the school throwing around iron and looking Fly.  It was extremely uncomfortable and made me so nervous I was sick to my stomach.  I am guessing most of you have had a similar experience somewhere along your fitness journey.

Creating Fearless Entry into the Weight Room Culture

These scenarios often act as barriers to entry into the weight room.  We recently surveyed what people do and do not like about working out. 

The top 2 things people feared about working out were “working out in front of others” and “feeling judged.”  Simply put, almost everyone has these concerns about the weight room atmosphere. 

I have observed from my personal experiences. This is a common theme at every gym where I have worked, especially for newcomers to the weight room culture.  That is why I want to do it differently when building Smart Strength.  I wanted to eliminate as many barriers to entry as possible for potential clients.

Personalized Excellence

We have created a very intimate setting.  We only offer personal training or small group training sessions to ensure the most comfortable atmosphere possible for our clients.  Our coaching is the industry leader in being professional, personable, and respectful of each client and their abilities.  We are here to help.  We are here to do whatever we possibly can to see that you accomplish your fitness goals.

Building Trust Through Understanding

When I coach a client, I am responsible for being as welcoming, understanding, and relatable to them as possible.  I develop strong relationships with clients by working hard to get to know them.  There is no room for intimidation at Smart Strength, and we work daily to eliminate anything that might create an intimidating atmosphere for our clients.

From Middle School Awkwardness to Fitness Confidence

If I am ever the source of intimidation, please rest assured I do not mean to be.  All you have to do is think of that Chubby, uncoordinated middle schooler, and BOOM intimidated no more 😊  Oh. I also used to rock a Pineapple haircut with 3-inch bangs, so rest assured, no judgment here…


Not only are some lifts physically uncomfortable for some (Squatting with a barbell across the back immediately comes to mind), but they can make us mentally uncomfortable, too.

Redefining Fitness with Pain-Free Approach 

At Smart Strength, we do not preach or follow the adage, “No pain, no gain.”  We do not believe that it must hurt to be effective.  We do not even believe or prescribe Burpees…  We are not here to intimidate or make you mentally uncomfortable.  Our Strength training is all about making exercise fun and enjoyable.  There is always 2-way communication, so if you ever have anything on your mind, please let us know so we can accommodate it ASAP.

Adaptable Fitness at Smart Strength

We are educated in our fitness.  If a client does not like a particular lift, cannot perform the exercise, or does not feel like doing that sort of thing today, no problem.  We can always modify or substitute an exercise for something that accomplishes the same goal.  Variety is the spice of life!

Navigating the Uncomfortable

Something uncomfortable but, if programmed and managed correctly, can be drastically minimized is DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Every person has a different pain tolerance and perception of this pain.  Many newcomers are shocked at the feeling of soreness and pain of shocked muscle groups that have suddenly been brought back to life.

Smart Strength’s Guide to DOMS

DOMS is perfectly normal, natural, and to be expected.  In almost all cases, it will subside in a few days.  As we continue to train, the DOMS will become less and less severe.   Ice, Ibuprofen, a proper diet, and good sleep will help you overcome these initial bouts of DOMS.

Minimizing DOMS for a Painless Fitness Journey

To help minimize the harmful effects of DOMS, we continually assess new clients to see their current fitness level so we do not over-prescribe exercises or initially administer too much load on the muscles.  We respect each client’s susceptibility to DOMS and work tirelessly on our programming to ensure we deliver a great workout without causing extreme DOMS and pain.

Beyond DOMS – Embracing Consistency in Your Fitness  

Once you have committed to a workout routine for an extended amount of time, you will rarely experience DOMS, and it may even bum you out that you haven’t been sore in a while… I know it seems crazy, but I hear this comment a lot from experienced clients. 

Navigating Gym Confusion

Another source of discomfort is not knowing what to do in a gym.  We will call this Gym confusion.  Unfortunately, gym culture has taken on a life of its own, with unique jargon, acronyms, and clothing styles…..  We do not embrace the CrossFit culture here, we do not judge the style of clothing you wear, we do not endorse gym selfies, and we don’t even have mirrors in the facility. 

Scientific Education to Becoming a Weight Room Veteran

We offer scientific education on exercise equipment and take the time to orient you to everything you need to know to be a weight room veteran.  Your program may seem a different language to you initially, but after training and education with your coach, you can read, write, and speak fluently!  It may even spark an interest in you that you never knew existed…

Empowering Your Fitness Journey with Supportive Coaching

Scary- We all have fears.  They range in scope and severity.  Fear and anxiety in the weight room are things that we can and will overcome together.  This is why our gym trainers are here: to help you overcome any barrier you may encounter in your fitness journey.

Some of the most common fears I hear from clients are related to injury.  The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) and several other governing bodies have published findings regarding injury rates due to weight/resistance training.  

The ACSM has different categories (ranging from strain and sprain to catastrophic, including sudden cardiac arrest, injury requiring hospitalization, and death).

Understanding the Reality of Injuries in Fitness

Research shows that minor injuries are the most common. But we can reduce these significantly when a professional monitors the exercise session.  

Catastrophic injuries are extremely rare (even though they are often publicized).  The prevalence rate ranges from 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 1.5 million depending on which governing body you reference, which age group you analyze, and which gender (males are twice as likely to suffer a catastrophic event, and no, that is not due to having a smaller brain, but rather an increased likelihood of a cardiovascular event). 


Fearless Pursuit of Goals at Smart Strength

Another fear that clients experience is fear of failure.  Failure in the weight room comes in several forms.  Failure 1 is coming up short of our fitness goals, of failing to execute a lift properly or failing to hit or exceed a Personal record.  A good coach and a proper perspective can help remedy these fears very quickly.

Embracing the Challenge: From Goal Failures to Max Rep Triumphs

Failure 2 is a different kind of experience.  This is reserved for the moderate to advanced weightlifter.  It is the failure to complete a rep at maximum exhaustion.   Pushing your reps to failure is a learned skill. For example, falling while trying to attempt a barbell squat, failing to extend on a deadlift, or being unable to press the barbell from your chest on a bench press.  These are uncomfortable and scary when you first experience them.  However, these two are easily overcome with a spotter and an experienced coach who can walk you through and ensure your safety while performing maximal lifts.  I guarantee that Max Day will become your favourite day after you overcome the failure butterflies.

Smart Strength: Where Passion Meets Expertise

Smart Strength Growth and Conditioning was designed to make the fitness experience fun, exciting, and rewarding.  If you have any comments or reservations, please let us know, or feel free to make an anonymous suggestion.

This is why I earned a BA in Exercise Science from Albion College.

I also earned an MS in Exercise Physiology from Michigan State University.

This is why I worked in East Lansing, Ann Arbor, New York City

That is the reason I started my own company, Smart Strength

This is why I do what I do,

To help you

Your Trainer,