With new year on the horizon, it's likely if you're reading this you're considering joining a gym in 2022 (or now, why wait!?). If that is the case, you might be feeling anxious which, for most people, is completely normal. However, if you're Trans, the gym can feel like an even more intimidating place to be. To bind or not to bind? How do I manage the changing rooms? Here's some pointers if you're feeling a tad nervous...
First off, if you don't need to get changed into your gym gear at the gym, don't. It's perfectly normal to arrive at the gym in your gym gear and, in fact, that's what most people actually do. However, if you're stopping off at the gym before or after work, you might not have any other choice.
First things first, establish with yourself what you're happy to do. If you're happy to go ahead and use the changing rooms, go for it. If you're not feeling confident, my next best suggestion is to see if you can hunt out a disabled toilet. Some people might not like me suggesting that as, at the end of the day, they're there for disabled people. However, if nobody else is about and needing to use it, and you feel safer using it, who the hell cares!?
If there isn't a disabled toilet, or someone else is using it, next up I would consider using a toilet cubicle. This way, you can use your changing room of preference but, if you haven't had top surgery yet, you can get changed safely and privately.
Binding & Sleeveless Hoodies
Please, I beg you, don't bind in the gym. I don't care what a binder company (who's job it is to sell to you) says about "their binders being safe in a gym", they're not.
Sleeveless hoodies were sent from above to save those of us who are pre-top surgery in a gym. I wore these religiously for years before finally getting my shiny flat chest. Don't get me wrong, it's not going to give you a super flat look. However, it's a million times better than nothing, and keeps you safe. It's a win in my eyes. I would wear a sports bra, t-shirt, and then wear my sleeveless hoodie over the top.
If you're feeling super anxious about going to the gym alone, it might be time to search for a training partner. If you're with a friend or family member, there's a big chance you'll not only enjoy your workout more, but you'll also feel a hell of a lot less anxious.
When I first started going to the gym 8 years ago (yes, it really was that long ago), I initially went with my dad, as I was wayyyyyy too scared to go alone. After a while I built up my confidence and, if I'm being honest, I can't think of anything worse now than training with someone. I love doing it alone haha.
A few years ago when my social anxiety was horrendous, I learnt a method which, granted, sounds super basic, but sometimes the best ideas are simple. It's all about breaking down a task. If you want to go to the gym, but you're too anxious, it's very unlikely you're just going to wake up one day and go. So, you have to break it down into stages. Just like this...
Week One: Go to your chosen gym for a free tour and, if you're happy, sign up for a membership.
Week Two: Go to the gym for 10 minutes. This could be something as simple as walking on a treadmill.
Week Three: Go to the gym for 20 minutes. Do 10 minutes of walking on the treadmill, and try out a couple of resistance machines for the final 10 minutes.
Week Four: Go to the gym for 40 minutes. Do 10 minutes of walking on the treadmill, and then use the resistance machines for 30 minutes.
In 4 weeks you've gone from being too scared to go to the gym, to going for 40 minutes. From there you can keep on building on your new found confidence.
Personal Training / Online Coaching
If you decide you're enjoying your time in the gym, and want some help furthering your knowledge in order to hit your goals, you might decide you want to get a professional to help you. From here, you have to make the decision between a personal trainer or an online coach,
For a large amount of beginners, having in-person support can often be better, especially if you need help with exercise form. However, if you're looking for something more specific (i.e. a Trans coach *cough*), then it might be time to look for an online coach. I'll leave you with that super heavy hint from me.