The Stages of Going to the Gym

The Trigger

Something triggers you to join a gym. New Year’s, or a desire to finally do it, or a picture, either of someone who did do it, or a picture of yourself, and you are shocked at how you changed so much without noticing. 

There’s a gym by your work, or by your house, or next to a shop you frequent. It’s intimidating to go in to sign up, but put on a brave face and head in to get signed up, possibly with a trainer who enthusiastically tells to sign up for personal training, trying to sell you a bundle of sessions. Maybe you sign up, needing to get that appointment on  your calendar for motivation, maybe you push it off, not wanting any critique or awkward feelings as you start. 

The Beginning

Your first day at the gym is awkward and uncomfortable. It’s unfamiliar territory, and you feel everyone’s eyes on you, judging you, making you self conscious. Your friend at work told you to try weight lifting, or your neighbor said jogging is best, so you pick a machine based on their advice and awkwardly try to use it. 

As time goes on, you feel a bit more comfortable, and establish a neat little routine of exercises you like to do, still feeling like a doofus among all these people who know exactly what they are doing. 

The Wait

It’s been a week, or maybe even a couple of weeks, and I don’t look any different. Why haven’t I lost weight yet? Why do I still seem so flabby? You look at yourself in the mirror, and except for being a sweaty, red faced mess, absolutely nothing has changed. The lack of any instant or semi-instant results is discouraging. You’re really trying, and you want something to happen, but nothing at all is happening. Why even bother? There’s no point to this.

Despite the disappointment, you keep going. Maybe it’s willpower, or maybe it’s because your gym is at your work and you like to use it to get ready for work,  but you push through and keep working out. 

Why do you not show me what I want, scale?!

The First Great Workout

One day, as you’re working out, you push yourself a little more. You jog a little further (or at all). You put the weights up another 5 lbs. It burns, and it burns good. It wears you down in the moment, but after you recover your breath, the soreness is welcome and invigorating. As you go around the rest of the day you still feel it. It sticks with you, reminding you of what you did that day. It feels good, and you want it again. It’s addicting, and you know the only way to both soothe out your soreness, and get more sore, is to go again. It’s not so hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym now. The workout addiction starts.

The Results Start Trickling In

One day, you notice your pants feel a little looser. You’re not quite sure anything has happened yet, but that seems positive. You ask other people if you look thinner. They aren’t sure. You want them desperately to say yes, but you also don’t want to come off as a weirdo.  

But then, without asking for it, people start saying it without you saying anything. They tell you look different, and it’s surprising to you that you don’t actually feel any different. You’re the same person, but just getting fitter. 

The Habit Forms

Weeks into forcing yourself to go to the gym, it eases into your life as a habit. Just like you set aside time for lunch and dinner, you set aside time for the gym. Your day feels incomplete if you don’t go to the gym. You feel comfortable at the gym, and you’ve finally realized that no one else at the gym is judging you. In fact, most people are so caught up in themselves, they hardly notice you. You know this because you’re so interested in your sets or your time, that you hardly notice them.

The Lifestyle Takes Hold

Now, you’re focusing on fitness and working out so much, you naturally become interested in other aspects. You wonder if your diet is appropriate, and start looking into the ideal protein to eat after a workout. You notice people on Instagram flaunting various body parts and wonder what’s the ideal workout to get that look. You branch out your workout, trying out HIIT, or crossfit, or any of the classes offered. Where once it might have brought you anxiety to try new things, you’re excited at the prospect of what the new workout will incorporate. You eagerly compare workouts with other enthusiasts to see what works for them. 

And on top of it all, you’re looking better than ever. You might have bought fancy gym clothes to work out in. Your normal clothes are fitting loosely, or it might be time for a whole new wardrobe. You catch sight of yourself in mirrors and marvel at how much you’ve changed. It doesn’t even seem now like it was hard physically. It was mainly a battle of willpower, and you beat it. You’re proud of yourself for sticking with it, and knowing you are in control of yourself. 


Results may vary person to person, but this is the general process I’ve been through the two times I began taking the gym seriously. I’m not an expert, but I have now moved to the Lifestyle phase, where I devote time daily to both working out, thinking about working out, and talking about working out. It’s firmly ingrained as part of my life. 

The final phase could be burnout, but I’m hoping to avoid that part. Trying out new workouts or pushing myself is going to keep working out interesting, and I still have a long way to go to get to my goals. I’ve just made it part of my morning routine, and I will always spend that time on some aspect of it. 

It’s hard to start up, but it’s basically just a new habit to be formed. If you really want it, force yourself to do it, and after a while, it’s just part of the routine. You can do it!

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