These Mental Tricks Take The Intimidation Factor Out The Weight Room

by Emily Arata

Take out your earbuds and step off the elliptical. We need to talk.

There's a chronic problem plaguing most of our workouts: The fear of stepping out of our comfortable cardio boxes.

When it comes to fitness goals, many women believe the only way to become svelte, toned and happy is by pounding out countless miles on the track or treadmill. Fitness magazines and media consistently show us the empowered female runner who seems like the epitome of an athlete.

In reality, being toned and fit means way more than that. A complete fitness training program involves time spent in the weight room, an intimidating territory often marked by hulking men and messily strewn weights.

It's not easy to step over the threshold, but someone's got to do it.

Once you're regularly working on strength training, you'll start to see an increase in muscle definition and leanness. You won't even be forced to eat salads for every other meal to maintain your body's shape.

Fitness coach Nia Shanks knows a thing or two about weights. She's the brains behind the incredibly popular "Lift Like A Girl" brand.

Here are her best tips for finding -- and keeping -- a strength training routine.

Choose a beginner program and stick with it.

When you're entering the weight room for the first time, Shanks recommends keeping realistic goals at the front of your mind. It doesn’t matter how many pounds the bulky man at the squat rack in front of you is lifting, fitness is all about individual performance, not comparison.

Instead of freaking out, get down to business. Create a weight training schedule fit for a beginner — Shanks has plenty on her site — before committing to stick with it.

Feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by all the new terminology? Log in to a forum like Reddit’s XX Fitness, where community members will be happy to help you figure it out.

Invest in earbuds.

Although there’s a stereotype that gym-going men feel threatened by a woman in the weight room, Shanks says she rarely comes across that particular species of male.

In her experience, the weight room’s regular visitors largely keep to themselves. Although it may seem as if they’re judging you, Shanks firmly believes you’re probably just experiencing newbie's nerves.

Can’t shake the feeling those guys in the corner are making fun of your form? Drop a few dollars on noise canceling earphones. Not only will you forget about the haters, but you’ll also work harder because of all the motivational tunes.

Remember why you’re there.

Here’s another trick for staying active: Think about the progress you’re making. By establishing a routine and committing to a training program, you’re becoming a stronger person every day.

When Shanks gets discouraged or distracted, she takes a moment to refocus her energy on personal improvement. And then she picks up another weight.

Find your own routine.

According to Shanks, there’s no wrong way to work. Whether that means setting an early alarm to get in your reps before work or wearing coordinating outfits to the gym with your best friend, physically arriving at the gym is the hardest part of the day.

If accountability is your weakness, try teaming up with a friend for a week. A short time frame should give you a good idea of whether or not a buddy system works for you.

Work out to feel empowered.

The most crucial part of the exercise isn’t whether or not you did more reps than the person next to you. It’s the feeling of having pushed yourself and won, knowing your brain is still capable of overriding your body.

Shanks puts it like this:

Workouts aren't about burning calories -- they're about getting stronger, both mentally and physically… It should be an empowering activity that makes you feel great about yourself.

Don’t exercise to look like any Instagram fitness model. Fitness isn’t just about looking a certain way, but feeling it as well.

Get better.

Each hour in the gym, heavy weight and a drop of sweat should bring you closer to your goals. Stick to the training plan, and you will make progress.

What's more, you’ll become a better version of yourself.