Don’t let the gym spook you . . .

BFP Beat It Appeal. Barry Peters is doing a year of gym sessions to raise money for appeal. He is being coached by fitness trainer Helen Bye'Helen Bye
BFP Beat It Appeal. Barry Peters is doing a year of gym sessions to raise money for appeal. He is being coached by fitness trainer Helen Bye'Helen Bye

It’s a place loved and feared in equal measure across the country – ‘the gym’.

While avid users will extoll the virtues of cardio equipment, ‘training programmes’ and the magical touch of a personal trainer, for many the gym is a strange and hostile environment full of bodies which are invariably in better shape than yours.

The feelings of insecurity, embarassment and bafflement at the machines everyone else seems to instinctively know how to use can be an off-putting start to your health and fitness journey.

To help you fight the fear this Hallowe’en and kickstart your health and fitness journey, Abbeycroft Leisure is offering a free five day pass this month for new users with full access to the gym’s facilities.

But if you find yourself quivering at the thought of these shrines to bugling biceps and startling six-packs? Fear not, says gym convert and Bury Free Press Communities Content Editor Barry Peters.

In January 2013, Barry decided he wanted to lose weight and raise money for the Bury Free Press Beat It! appeal which aimed to raise £55,000 for a prostate probe for West Suffolk Hospital. So he decided to combine the two and approached Abbeycroft Leisure for help.

Barry started an exercise and healthy eating programme, supported by Abbeycroft fitness instructor Helen Bye. Barry lost four stone, dropped six trouser sizes and his blood pressure, which was very high, is now normal. He has continued to use the gym but he still remembers his first gym session.

“Every time I go past the Costcutter garage near West Suffolk College, the cold chill of my first gym session comes to mind.

“I stopped there to get a bottle of water for the gym – I was delaying the inevitable really, but it gave me a few more precious minutes of ‘freedom’. The look on the guy’s face on the till was seemingly a knowing one. ‘Ah, off to the gym are you? Good luck...’

“If truth be told, I never looked back. Everyone was really friendly, there were no prima donnas in lycra parading their super-fit bodies (well, apart from that personal trainer with the rather natty line in colourful clothes and shoes...) and advice and help was on hand but never rammed down my throat.

“I was lucky to have personal training sessions, which gave me focus, proper instruction and provided goals. I’d recommend these so you don’t pick up bad habits and there are helpful Abbeycroft trainers always on site for free, too.

“My initial session was back in January 2013 and I’ve been going ever since, rain, shine, snow or flood (yes, a fault of the roof) with the 6am crowd. My policy is to get it over with before my body realises what’s happening.

“So don’t be afraid - it’s hard initially in physical and emotional terms but the long-term rewards are well worth the effort.”

Abbeycroft fitness instructors have shared some top tips on how to take the fear away:

1. Wear comfortable clothing that you can move freely in, T-shirt and shorts or leggings /joggers. It doesn’t have to be lycra, if you look around Abbeycroft’s gyms the percentage of lycra is quiet low. No jeans though! Bring a towel and water bottle.

2. Bring a friend or buddy, not only does it help with motivation, as we know we can always let ourselves down, but we are far more unlikely to let others down.

3. Don’t go for a three-course meal an hour before you train, a small snack will suffice. Just as importantly, do make sure you eat something an hour or two beforehand as fainting on the gym floor through low blood sugar is never a good way to begin your gym experience. Make sure you bring a water bottle -you should drink 300ml water two hours before training sessions.

4. If you are worried that you may do something wrong, fear not. The instructors here are on hand to write a tailored program for you (us guys in red are not that scary). We will guide you through each step of the way and help you programming machines and setting up.

5. Please don’t feel that everyone will stop and stare as you walk into the gym – that moment where the music stops and all heads turn – believe me in all the 15 years I have been here it has never happened. Customers are very focused on what they are training for themselves, and we have all walks of life through the door every day. Remember everybody has been in your position before.

Barry’s instructor, Helen Bye, said: “There is no doubt that there will be some anxiety about coming to the gym on those first visits, but within a short time you will be feeling more confident, fitter and wondering what you were worrying about.”

So now you’ve heard it from the experts at Abbeycroft and a convert – going to the gym doesn’t have to be a terrying and/or mortifying experience.

Simply go to acleisure.com/frightenedtojoin/ to download your free pass.