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Intimidated by the weight room? How to get in there anyways

Updated: Jun 3

You’ve seen all the videos, articles, and posts about how strength training can help improve your climbing and your life. You’re ready to take the jump and start doing it yourself. Maybe you’ve even purchased a strength training program, or written your own! There’s just one thing left to do… 

Build up the courage to actually go in the weight room and do it. 

The weight room can be an uncomfortable and intimidating place if you haven’t spent much time in one before. Unfamiliar equipment, loud noises, and a bunch of people who look like they know what they’re doing. What we call “gym-timidation” is real! And it’s super common – I promise you’re not the only one feeling this way. 

But I have good news: you don’t have to feel this way forever. Think about how you might have felt similarly uncomfortable the first time you stepped into a climbing gym – and hopefully you feel pretty good there now. Just like the climbing gym, it takes time to get comfortable in a new space, and the more you do it, the better you’ll feel. 

As someone who’s experienced my fair share of gym-timidation but now feels 100% comfortable in the weight room, I want to share some strategies that can help you tackle the discomfort and find your place among the weights. This process will take time, but by taking small intentional steps every week, you’ll be able to walk in like you own the place. 

1. Scope out the weight room beforehand.

Take time to check out the space you’ll be working with before you go to workout! Familiarize yourself with what equipment there is and what space is available. This will help you know what to expect when you go in to exercise, and make sure you aren’t caught off guard or wandering around looking for something. Take a look around, identify where equipment is that you might want to use, see how people are utilizing the space, etc. 

If you’ll be using the climbing gym’s weight room, just go walk through it the next time you’re there to climb! Ask your front desk staff if you have questions about it.

If you’ll be going to a commercial gym, ask for a tour. Ask questions! Especially in a commercial gym, the staff can help you understand where everything is and how to use equipment.

2. Make a simple plan.

Whether it’s a plan from a coach, or one you wrote yourself, just have one! Going in knowing what you intend to do will help you feel more confident in yourself, instead of just aimlessly wandering. And, if you start to feel overwhelmed and tempted to give up, it’s easier to follow through and finish what you started when you have a plan!

Make the plan simple, especially if it’s your first time strength training. Pick 2-4 exercises that are straightforward (like squats, lunges, push-ups, RDL, etc) and use little equipment & space, like dumbbells only. Having a simple plan will reduce the likelihood that you have to make on-the-spot modifications if equipment is missing/taken or space is limited.

3. Start with something you're confident in.

You don’t have to start right away by doing a full workout. Maybe you just take one thing that you know how to do – whether that’s core workouts, stretching, bodyweight exercises like push-ups or pull-ups, bar hangs, whatever – and do it in the weight room (as long as it is appropriate to do so in your gym). Doing things that you already feel comfortable with will help you feel less intimidated in the space, opening the door for you to eventually move into things you’re less familiar with. 

This is great to do as part of your climbing warm-up every day! Spend 5 minutes doing some part of your warm-up in the weight room every day, to build that comfort over time

4. Go during non-peak hours.

Going when the gym is less busy can help you feel less stressed, especially if your nervousness revolves around being seen / people watching you. Usually this will be in the early morning (6am-7am), late morning (9am-11am), or midday (12pm-3pm), but you’ll have to find the optimal times based on the community’s schedule in your gym. Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can, do it!

5. Bring a friend.

Having a friend with you to do the workout together can help ease your nerves and shift the focus away from the environment of the gym. You’ll feel more confident together than alone. You can also look at each other’s exercise form and learn how to do movements together.

6. Look into your gym's fitness programs.

Pretty much all commercial gyms have fitness programs, and many climbing gyms now do too. Classes are a great way to build your exercise selection, learn proper form, ask questions, and push your boundaries in a safe way with a qualified instructor! They are usually included with your day pass or membership. Ask your front desk staff about your gym’s fitness programs and what would be best for someone who is newer to fitness.

7. Remember why you're there in the first place.

At the end of the day, you might do all of these things, and still feel intimidated. That’s okay! Ultimately, you just have to remember: you are there to build healthy & sustainable strength that will benefit your climbing & your life. You are not there to convince the other people in the room that you can lift heavy weight, that you’re an experienced lifter, or that you know what you're doing. Whether people are watching you and whatever they think of you, though it may be uncomfortable, is completely secondary to the reason why you’re actually there. Remember what's important.

You don’t have to feel this way forever, and you don’t have to throw yourself in all at once. You just have to be willing to push your comfort zone in small steps at a time over the course of days & weeks. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable enough to walk in the weight room, take up your space, and get your workout done without batting an eye. 


If this article helped you, you can help me out by sharing it on social media or sending it to someone who might also benefit from it. You can follow me on Instagram @pinkpointclimbing for more content about training for beginner & intermediate climbers!


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