I used to use a local YMCA gym near me, it was cheap but small, and very limited in equipment. It didn't even have a kettlebell in sight. But it was 2 minutes from my house, and I've found that convenience is a crucial factor for me in attending a gym.
I moved house, and didn't join a gym right away, moving is always expensive and there weren't any right near my house. So it was perfect timing when Fitness First offered me a small trial of the gym in Liverpool Street Station (its in the actual train station if you've never noticed it before!).
It's always scary going to a new gym. I suppose we're nervous of standing out, being looked at, and being seen to not know what we're doing. I asked for a tour, and the staff were super helpful, although didn't actually show me how to use the equipment. Fitness First don't have the standard weight machines you may expect, they use equipment that provides functional fitness - in that they require you to use your body as a whole. However this does make the equipment rather more alien and intimidating! I had no clue how to use a lot of it, but it did look exciting!
On my first visit I did find it a little hard to find a space I felt comfortable doing some floor work on. The machines all face inwards to a square, which gives the floor space a rather 'stage' feeling. I ended up pulling a mat into a corner and using that, but definitely felt out of place.
I returned with a friend the next time (Ella from Ella Masters) to give me some extra bravery points! We ended to the studio at the back, which I'd been told I could use if no class was in session. This felt so luxurious; a whole studio to ourselves! I tried some boxing, some weights, some box jumping etc. All things I wouldn't have tried in the main gym, so it was fun to just be able to give some new things a go.
Fitness First is the first higher end gym I've tried, and the brand new equipment was definitely exciting. I loved trying some new ways to push my body. However it takes a brave and bold person to start using them alone, so I'm guessing its a gym suited to working with a personal trainer to begin with, just to find your feet.
My tips to feel less nervous about joining a new gym?
1. On your first visit stick to machines you feel confident about using, and just settle in. I started on a treadmill, and just used the time to look around.
2. Ask to be shown some of the machines by someone who works there. They're there to help, even though it feels scary at first.
3. Watch other people use the equipment first.
4. Remember that everyone is very focused on themselves at the gym, and barely cares who else is there, as long as you're not in their way. Working out is a time to completely indulge in yourself, and not worry about anyone else.
5. Everyone is new at some point, and most people in your gym will just be happy for you that you've started your journey to fitness. Generally everyone is supportive of other gym users, and respect you for turning up and giving it a go.
6. Go with a friend for the first few visits.
7. Book a few personal training sessions just to kick start you, so you get shown how to use the equipment and have a routine you can get on with.
8. Start with taking some classes, so you get used to being in the new environment, before heading off on your own to use the gym.
9. Try not to take it too seriously, everyone falls of or drops something at some time. It's ok.
10. Try going at a few different times. The atmosphere in gyms can really vary depending on the time of day, and you may find you feel more relaxed with a certain crowd over another.
Remember, your nervousness won't last, it's just first-day-at-school nerves. You'll soon be the person newbies look at feel intimidated by - promise!