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How to Start and Feel Comfortable at a Gym

Joining a new gym can be intimidating.  Henry Mayo Fitness and Health Member Services Director Jennifer Quinn offers some practical tips to help you find a gym that’s right for you and to help you feel comfortable from day one.
How to Start and Feel Comfortable at a Gym
Featured Speaker:
Jennifer Quinn
Jennifer Quinn has been in the Health and Wellness industry for over seven years, and before that she was a music educator. When you combine those skillsets you get a leader who seeks to help people understand their goals and create healthy and sustainable ways to reach them. Whether she is working with her clients or leading her team, respect, kindness and communication are at the forefront.
When she stepped into the Fitness Profession she saw a gap in Women’s Education and became a certified personal trainer with an emphasis in women’s empowerment, post and pre-natal training. Deciding to step into a gym for the first time or the 100th time can be overwhelming when you don’t have the right support and accountability. If you are not enjoying your time at the gym, you probably won’t keep coming. Jennifer creates programs that encourage her clients to reach for success while still having fun!

As the Membership Services Director at the Henry Mayo Fitness center, she is most excited about the opportunity to use her skills to reach even more people and support them in their journey to live their best lives!

It's Your Health Radio, a special podcast series presented by Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. Here's Melanie Cole.

Melanie Cole, MS: You know you want to work out and maybe you want to go to the gym, but you're not sure if you would feel comfortable in that environment, especially if you're a woman or if you have body insecurities. Well, today, we're talking about how anyone can feel comfortable working out at the gym. Welcome to It's Your Health Radio with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. I'm Melanie Cole. And joining me today is Jennifer Quinn. She's the Director of Member Services at Henry Mayo Fitness and Health.

Jennifer, I'm so glad that you joined us today, because this is really a great topic and a lot of people, especially women, and as I said in the intro, people with body insecurities, they really want to work out where there's the electricity, the excitement, the music, all the things that go on at the gym that make it such a great place to work out. Tell us a great way to begin as a new exerciser. If someone wants to join a gym, what's the first thing they should be looking for when they're looking around?

Jennifer Quinn: First of all, this is a conversation that needed to happen about 10 years ago. So I'm so glad that you're bringing this up right now. It's interesting when someone makes that decision, big, deep breath, "And now I'm going to go into the gym." There's so many things that can get in the way. And so in my 12 years of experience in a specific gym, and then all the experience as an educator, a plan is what helps you. If you were to walk in and you're so excited and you look around and you start to see people and then the fear sets in and then you see people that know what they're doing. And then, a little bit of insecurity comes in and then you notice that people have been there, they know what they're doing and there's a community and you're not a part of it, it's enough to make people just turn around and walk out.

So what I always say that's really important before you even walk into a gym is to have a plan of some sort. And then, people say, "Well, I don't know what I'm doing." I always say, "Find something that you love. What do you love to do?" It might be dancing. It might be a high fitness class. It might be a Zumba class. It might be that you're just into yoga. And you would like something low key. It might be that you've always wanted to try Tai Chi and never thought about doing it before. But yet, there's this pressure to come into the gym and to show off and to lift heavy and to do all these things that you don't know what you're doing and then, you just create mistrust in yourself. So I always say, "Find something that you love. Have a plan. Make sure that there's a class there." That's what I would say. That's one way to encourage you to not only go the first time, but then to continue to go.

Melanie Cole, MS: That was great advice. I remember those days and it's such a great environment for all of that. Now, you're learning. People are learning when they go to a club for the first time. And as you said, you mentioned that you see people that do know what they're doing. Well, that can either add to the intimidation or kind of give you a little bit more confidence because you see people and that motivation builds on itself. Who do they ask for help? I mean, when they see people wandering around in the gym there, in the free weight room especially, are we looking for certain shirts? You know, who do we go to?

Jennifer Quinn: So, this is where, when I joined forces with Henry Mayo Fitness and Health, this is one thing that I just thought to myself needs to be implemented in all gyms. So everybody who walks through my door, I walk through my gym. And I introduce them to all of our rooms. I introduce them to all of our trainers that are around. We actually set them up with three free sessions when you first get there. In those three sessions we talk about, "So what is your background? What is your medical background? Have you had any injuries?" "Okay. So now, what are your goals?" And they'll help you create goals here that are healthy and are actually sustainable.

And then, they'll set up another meeting and they'll actually go over with you an equipment orientation. They'll show you how to use the gym. So based off of what your goals are, they'll actually walk you through it and they'll show you, "Here are some exercises. Here are some strength exercises. Here are some stretches that are going to help you get to your goals." And then, they follow up in 90 days and they say, "Well, how did that work?" And you know, at Henry Mayo, we have so many options. We have mat pilates. We have an entire weight room. We have reformer Pilates. We have Zumba classes. We have spin classes. We even have Aquafit. So what I love about this gym is that we have something that works for everybody. And we actually give you the plan when you walk through the door. Everybody who walks through the door at Henry Mayo is a part of our family and you'll know it just by going through a tour. The gym sells itself. Very rare are you going to have a gym that is service-based and not sales-based, and that's what this gym is about.

Melanie Cole, MS: I love that you said that. You know, I've been a personal trainer for 35 years, and I still have some of the same clients that I started with. So I can tell you that service and not sales is what makes people feel so much more comfortable. Now, one of the questions that I know, I was asked about a million times, especially by women is, "Do I use free weights or do I use machines if I'm really interested in strength training? But I don't want to bulk up." You know, there's always that myth about bulking up with free weights, but how do I know what I'm doing and which one is better for my body type?

Jennifer Quinn: Yes. So I might give you a little bit of a different answer than you're used to. I'm going to give you the answer of which one makes you feel like you're ready to come into the gym and train. If you are more comfortable working on free weights, then I would say, "Do that first." And then, maybe eventually you'll develop into using more of the machines. However, if the machines is what makes you go, "I got this. I'm ready to come in," just start with the machines and then you'll build your confidence again in what you like and what you're comfortable doing. And then, you'll be ready and you'll have the confidence to move on to something else. I really don't believe that there's one way and only one way to get your goal. And I also feel that is what's created in a lot of marketing, is that there's one way and that's just not true.

Melanie Cole, MS: I'm glad you said that. Now, but what about the intimidation factor? Because you do see people chest press and they're using these big old 45 plates and, you know. What about that? What would you like to tell people that might have body insecurities and/or someone who's not been around this very much about that intimidation factor, about the fact that they are there for their own goals, for their own lifestyle, for their own feelings of "I'm doing something." You know, this is just such a great feeling and their own motivation. What would you like them to know?

Jennifer Quinn: I feel like that's a multifaceted question. The first thing I would suggest is trying out different gyms and paying attention to how you feel when you're in them. Because there's gyms out here where you'll walk into and you'll feel confident. You'll see people are walking around with smiles on their face and people who are maybe in that same boat with you and feel confident. There's also gyms you can walk into that automatically shut down your nervous system. Those are the ones that you don't want to go into at first. But then, I'm going to give you a second.

The second facet of that is that we belong anywhere we want to be. And if there's a very specific gym in your area and you want to get a part of that gym, I would highly suggest getting involved with a personal trainer that's there that again makes you comfortable and confident, or maybe even working with a coach that works with you on those mindset tools, that it will help you override the negative conversation in your brain and allow you the peace to be able to walk into any gym that you want to. So those are my two suggestions.

Melanie Cole, MS: Rock on. I love those suggestions. Now, you know, I have a few more questions before we wrap up. And as people are getting ready to do this and they go in for the first time and they feel like, you know, sales is going to be weird and then all that stuff that goes with this, what about the outfits because at some gyms, it's all about the clothes. The shoes are such an important aspect of being able to work out safely and without injury and feel good and bouncy. And tell us a little bit about the clothes, the outfits, the shoes, what they can expect or what you think you want them to wear.

Jennifer Quinn: Well, number one, it's not about what I want people to wear. So, I'm going to go back to the very first thing. I'm going to be a little bit of a repeater here. Shoes and what you wear is what you're confident in period. What I will tell you about Henry Mayo in specific is that this is a gym where it doesn't matter what you're wearing. It matters that you show up every day. We have people from all different walks of life in our gym specifically. Therefore, it makes it very comfortable to walk in. However, you might like the gym, you know, that has all the latest trends of clothing and shoes, and that might be what you want, then I would find a gym that would-- and I'm not going to say names, but there are a lot of gyms that are like that, that you can definitely go out and find. But, you know, again, it's really about what makes you comfortable and confident. You know, we could go into some shoes that don't help you from a physiological standpoint, but I don't think that's what the question is.

Melanie Cole, MS: Well, it actually is a bit. I would like you to touch on that, just because if people walk in in flip-flops, that could be a dangerous situation, right? So you want to be comfortable and you want to be in clothes that make you feel comfortable and like you can really get a good workout, but shoes are important for safety reasons as well.

Jennifer Quinn: You know, you have a really good point. I mean, and that's why we do have a closed-toed shoe policy in our gym for that reason in particular. But again, I don't want to sit here and tell people what shoes they should get and what they shouldn't get. But I will tell you that a nice pair of shoes that actually don't squeeze your feet, your toes together, that allow your toes to stretch out and to fill out the shoe, making sure that it's not too tight, make sure it's not too high. You know, if you have a big arch in your foot, wearing things like converse is not going to support you. It's not going to support you from the ground up. If you have more arch, you might actually want to get into the Nike shoe because your Nike shoe has more arch in it. So really paying attention to the comfort level of your feet is very important because, as you know, the feet is the first part of that structure. And if your feet are uncomfortable, then the rest of your hips are going to be unaligned and your shoulders are going to be unaligned, et cetera.

Melanie Cole, MS: One hundred percent. Wow. This is great information and really intended to make somebody who might not be so comfortable feel really at home. I'd love for you to wrap it up for us, Jennifer. Your best advice when somebody is really looking to get motivated and they want to work out, whether it's just for themselves or for weight loss or to get healthier, whatever their reason and motivation is. What I would love is for you to wrap it up with your best advice about visiting Henry Mayo Fitness and Health and what they can expect, what you want them to know and the key takeaways from this podcast.

Jennifer Quinn: Well, what I love about our gym in particular is that we are not going to address a certain body part. We are going to address the body as a whole, the mind, the soul, the muscles all as a whole. When you come into our gym, we have these great free classes that teach you how to fuel your body. They teach you how much water you should drink. They teach you how much sleep, so that we come at it from that holistic aspect. So that way, before you even come into the gym, you're already preparing yourself, right? You're preparing your body, you're preparing your sleep to actually be able to come in and get everything that you need out of this gym.

In this gym, we focus on the journey. We don't get too wrapped up in the end goal. We focus on how do you want to feel each day when you wake up. We want to talk about how much energy do you have after your train, or maybe after you take your Zumba or your swim class. And again, then we follow up and we make sure that you're not in it alone. You're not doing this on your own. We're going to make sure that you have a community that's fun and it's safe to try something new. And then again, we will work with you, follow up with you to make sure that your experience is exactly what you need, and that's why Henry Mayo Fitness and Health is the place to be.

Melanie Cole, MS: Well, it certainly is, Jennifer. You're just a wealth of information and I just love your upbeat attitude and enthusiasm. Thank you so much for joining us.

And that concludes this episode of It's Your Health Radio with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. For more information, you can always visit, and that's where you can find out all of the great information joining a gym, feeling comfortable, what's involved, all of it's on there. You can also visit the free health information library at for so much great information that we have here. All our podcasts have quality information that you can trust. We're learning from the experts at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital together. I'm Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Jennifer Quinn: Melanie, thank you so much.