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A First Timer’s Experience of Using The Gym

Please be aware, the bottom of this post contains talk about weight loss – please look after yourself is you feel you can’t read past the ‘My Overall Experience of the Gym’ paragraph.

As part of running the Great North Run with St Michael’s Hospice in September, I got a free 7 day gym pass to Nuffield Health. Not one to pass up an opportunity, I quickly sorted this out and headed on down to my local branch.

Thankfully my local branch of Nuffield Health isn’t too far away from where I live, so I was able to walk to it each day. Which also added a little extra to my day and helped to cool me down after I’d finished my workouts.

As I’m still in training mode for the Great North Run, I decided to use the treadmill in the gym to knock out some of my runs. I also used the pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room which all helped to totally knock me out after my first day!

So, how did a first time gym user get on? Read on to find out!

My First Day

So, on my first day I’ll admit I was a little nervous and apprehensive about going into a gym environment, but I decided that I had just as much right to be there as everyone else and shouldn’t feel anything less than the badass human that I am!

The changing room layout is communal, with a couple of lockers being built into an area behind a little curtain if you’re wanting to maintain a little bit of modesty.

Although I’d argue that it’s freeing to be able to get naked in such a place where no-one else is looking at you or caring what you look like, because they’re too busy getting on with whatever they’re doing!

After changing, I headed up to the gym floor to use the treadmill. Being someone who usually runs outside, it took me a minute to get set up but thankfully they were really easy to use and even better, I could watch TV whilst running!

As I’m training for the Great North Run, I’m using the Nike Run Club app so I still needed to run with my phone on me as such because I wasn’t sure if it would still work if I just put my phone on the treadmill.

Anyway, I sorted everything out and kind of enjoyed using the treadmill to do my run, it went well apart from the fact that I was really hot and the fan on my particular treadmill didn’t work that well, so I was left being a hot, sweaty mess (as per!) after my run!

Thankfully, with Nuffield Health there was a pool I could use so it was here I went afterwards. Although there was a baby swimming class going on at the same time so I didn’t really go in the pool this day.

Instead I used the spa, sauna and steam room which was definitely the best post run routine I’ve ever had!

My Second Day

My second day at the gym found me undertaking a speed workout on a treadmill! Something I wasn’t sure would actually work as well as when I do them outside, but I think it went OK? It’s hard to tell really, but I certainly worked hard and completed my workout dripping in sweat like usual! Anyone else?

I went a bit earlier on this day and found the gym to be a bit quieter which helped, although to be honest, on the gym floor itself it was fairly quiet all the time I was there.

It was only in the pool and changing areas where it was busier than I’d ideally like, but I guess that’s just something I’d have to get used to if I were to use the gym on a more regular basis.

After my run I again went into the pool for a cool down swim and used the spa facilities which I have to say is simply the best way to relax after an intense workout!

My only gripe was that the pool itself was smaller than I’m used to so I felt like I couldn’t get a proper swim in as I’m used to swimming in a 25m pool and working out for about 30 minutes or so.

Either way, I loved having the option to use the pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi at any time with my 7 day pass. It was a real perk to also being able to run in the gym itself.

My Third Day

OK so my third day was a day off from running and it found me in the pool – again! What can I say, I’m a water baby at heart!

Swimming is such a good all round exercise to do in tandem with running as whilst you’re using your body to power yourself through the pool, it’s weightless feeling allows your body to also recover at the same time, which is a wonderful feeling.

This time I was determined to swim for longer in the pool to really get a good workout in, although to be fair there were a few people in the pool area on this day so I felt like I couldn’t really go like I normally would but I enjoyed it nonetheless!

I of course also used the jacuzzi again but the more I use it, the less enamoured I’m becoming with it! Maybe again because of the other people around, even though I was trying to not be bothered with them? I don’t know, it’s an odd situation I guess…

I have to admit that, by now I wasn’t really enjoy going and was already having to almost physically force myself to go which wasn’t good seeing as I was thinking about taking advantage of the membership sale they were offering whilst I was there….

This is why I’ve never been a gym goer, because literally everyone I’ve known who is, always seems to be forcing themselves to go because they haven’t been for a few days or because they’ve paid for their membership! It’s always put me off so I have no real idea why I even wanted one of my own…

My Fourth – Seventh Days

This week was leading up the me running in a local 10K race – one which I’d only done for the first time last year and I used it as my long run for the week – I was due to run one anyway in my Half Marathon training.

I didn’t do Parkrun that day, but I think I may have done an easier run just to get some miles in the legs before my big run on Sunday.

To be honest here, I can’t really remember if I went to the gym during this time but I don’t think that’s important here, as this post is more about my overall experience rather than documenting what I did and when!

But what I CAN tell you about, is that my 10K race went really well and I even managed to shave off a massive 15 minutes from last year’s time! I couldn’t believe it, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re a year further down the line and have even taken part in a half marathon!

My Overall Gym Experience

I’d guess I would say that overall it was a positive experience as I didn’t feel judged on my body or during my workouts, I guess in that sense I was lucky and I also went when it wasn’t overly busy either.

I went in with a fairly positive mindset so before I even stepped foot into the gym I was thinking that it didn’t matter what I looked like or what I was doing. I was only really apprehensive about, as silly as it sounds, how to actually use the machines in the gym itself and where everything was!

Thankfully the gym I went to was fairly small so it wasn’t like I was wandering around a massive space looking like a lost child! It was easy to find all the equipment – although I was only using the treadmills and they were all lined up along the windows which provided a nice view to run with.

On one of my run days, I actually used a setting on the treadmill where it looked like I was running on a beach. It was really lovely but I did find myself looking out of the windows more than at the screen! Either way it was fun to change up my running and have a go on a treadmill for once.

I tell you what I did enjoy, the freedom to do what I wanted, whenever I wanted. To actively choose to go on the treadmill for example, or have a dip in the pool. It felt good to choose how to spend my time at the gym and not have it dictated to by a PT or even a regime I had to follow.

It was also good to see so many different bodies in the changing room. Going to the gym and having to change in the open may have some of you skuttling to the toilets, but honestly? Nobody cares about what anyone else looks like because they’re too busy concentrating on themselves!

For the times I did go to the gym when I had my free pass, I enjoyed it but I also realised that the gym life just isn’t for me. Which is okay, sometimes we try things and they aren’t for us. Just means we find other ways to do the same things we’d do in a gym environment!

So, overall I’d say I had a positive experience and wouldn’t hesitate to use a free gym pass again if I got the opportunity. It was actually quite empowering to see so many different people using it and each having their own goals to work towards.

I enjoyed using the treadmill and having the pool and spa facilities all under the same roof and free to use whilst I was there.

Would I recommend going to the gym? Yes I absolutely would if that’s something which would lead to a positive experience for you then go ahead, but I’d also warn against going if it would mess with your mindset. We should all start to frame exercise as gaining fitness rather than something we do to lose something.

Through running I’ve started to reframe my mindset towards exercise and I now see my runs as a place where I gain fitness, or happiness or peace instead of a place where something is lost and it’s made a massive difference to my mindset as a whole.

How The Gym Helped Change My Mindset Towards Exercise

I know it’s hard to get past all the in built bullshit we’ve been taught about how we need to shrink ourselves to fit in – especially if you grew up in the 90s – 2000s era of ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’ quotes (thanks Kate Moss!), punishing Jane Fonda workouts and skinny af models and celebrities on the catwalks and magazine covers.

It’s OK, I get it, I understand, I WAS that fat child who desperately wanted to be thin to ‘fit in’ and who was praised when I joined Weight Watchers the first time and lost 2.5 stone. Even at the weight I was, I still felt the pressure to be smaller and eat less than I already was.

Thankfully of late, I’ve got rid of this toxic mindset and gained something far more valuable – peace of mind. Now I’m not saying I’m ‘cured’ or that I don’t still have days where I dislike what I see in the mirror, but running has helped my mental health way more than I ever thought possible.

The feeling I get after running myself to a new distance or covering the same but in less time has me more in a grip than any weight loss mantra ever did! I now chase that infamous runners’ high and enjoy pushing myself further each time I lace up my trainers to see how far I can get on that days run.

I’m way more active now than I’ve ever been in my whole life and that’s saying something considering I used to walk dogs for a living and worked with horses in Australia every day for weeks at a time!

I still struggle with seeing my weight on the scales and people complimenting how good I’m looking, because to me that instantly means I can eat whatever I like, because obviously I’ll not put on weight, but of course that isn’t true because inevitably I do which only makes me feel worse.

So it’s clear I still have some way to go, but whenever I go out for a run I’m reminded that my body (at whatever weight or stage it’s at) can still power me to a 5K, 10K or half marathon distance. And that’s the high I’m chasing now, give me that any day over a rice cake and hummus lunch!!

So, what are your thoughts regarding going to the gym and exercise? Do you have latent negative bodily associations because of the era you grew up in?

Let’s chat in the comments as I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this one!



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A 30 something woman navigating life, sharing posts focussing on mental health, midsize fashion, self-care routines and life as a vegan.

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