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Overcoming Weight Room Fears

The weight room — jammed with odd-shaped iron and strange-looking machines — can appear intimidating. Bust through your first-timer fears by following these four simple rules: 

• Don’t try to build Rome in a day. You wouldn’t try Rachmaninoff your first day at the piano, right? So don’t worry about advanced exercises and big weights your first day in the gym. “Start with something that makes you feel successful,” says Jolie Kobrinsky, owner of Prime Personal Training in Monterey, Calif. Do less than you think you can and leave the gym glowing, not exhausted. 

• Keep it simple. The strongest people in the world practice variations on basic moves: pushups, squats, lunges, rows, planks. Those multijoint movements will form the backbone of your workouts, now and forever. “String four or five of those moves back to back, do 10 reps of each, rest, and repeat,” says Kobrinsky. “Presto — you’re a weightlifter.” 

• Show up. For the first few weeks, carving out the time and energy to get to the gym can feel like a Herculean task. But fear not. If you’re consistent, you’ll accrue enough little successes after three or four weeks that you’ll start to wonder how you ever went without it. “Pretty quickly you wake up your inner superhero and start to feel like you can do anything,” says Kobrinsky. “That’s when strength training gets really exciting.” 

• Don’t go it alone. If you’re unsure about where to start, or simply need some added motivation and accountability, there are many options: Hire a coach or personal trainer, find an accountability group (in-person or online), or enlist a friend or partner as your workout buddy. 

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