I was talking to a colleague at work today who commented on how often I frequent the gym:

“Everyday!?!?! WTF is wrong with you?” he asked.

Since I was ten I have been absolutely addicted to fitness – not so much group sports, but just working up a good sweat, feeling the beat of my heart in my chest and revelling in all those post workout endorphins.

I used to go for runs every day, rather than hitting the gym because I found the idea of a sweaty cesspit of fitness freaks fairly intimidating. But about 5 years ago I worked up the courage to try out group classes and now I do one almost every day!

We all make (and break) new years resolutions every single year. This year, literally every person I’ve spoken to has told me “2015 is the year I get fit!” That’s great, but what if (like me 5 years ago) you are terrified of the gym? If faced with the choice of a spin class or a free fall from the eiffel tower, many of my friends would choose the latter.

1. Try not to compare yourself to others

This is by far the number one rule I live by when at the gym. Yes, healthy competition is good, but trying to beat other people’s goals is a silly mistake. If you try and fail, you are likely to feel frustrated and defeated and will probably decide gym life just isn’t for you. We all have different bodies; heart rates, mental strength, muscle strength, ailments and schedules. Compare yourself only to your previous workout and set small, achievable goals over time. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t achieve your personal best every single day – remember, you showed up (that’s better than a lot of people)!

2. Give classes a try

So many people are embarrassed to try a fitness class because they think they are uncoordinated or won’t be able to keep up. No one in that class is looking at you, trust me! Everyone is focusing on themselves and on their own goals. If you haven’t attempted a class before, take your place at the back of the room. That way if it gets too much for you, you can slip away easily without being noticed. You aren’t expected to have the same fitness level as anyone else – build up your strength and stamina over time. That’s the whole point of going to the gym!

3. Don’t let the trainer bully you

Some bad fitness instructors (a small minority) decide to “encourage” people during the class very loudly whilst speaking into a microphone which everyone can hear (“girl in the red tights, up the load on that bike”, “if you don’t want to try, leave!”) Never tolerate this! I’m not trying to scare you even further – this is fairly uncommon. However, if this happens you need to remember that you are the one paying for the gym membership. If anyone makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed, voice or write a complaint! You’re probably not the only one that feels that way.

4. Mix it up

Sticking with the same routine gets boring for anyone. Try different classes. Alternate between cardio and strength exercises to give your muscle groups a rest in between. Listen to music that motivates you while you work. Not only will it make the class more fun, but the time will tick away twice as fast!

5. Workout because you love your body, not because you hate it

This is a hard one for most of us, but it is by far the most important! It’s so easy to focus on the things we don’t like about our bodies (modern media has taught us that), but focus instead on the things that you love and workout because you care about yourself. Once you take a positive approach to exercise you will naturally start to enjoy it.

If you have any tips for maximising your gym experience, be sure to leave a comment below to let us all know.