RFT: Iron in Heels – Let’s Get Started!

RFT: Iron in Heels is a new bi-weekly series on tamilyouth.ca that seeks to educate, inspire, and empower Tamil youth to improve their fitness and well-being by developing an active lifestyle.

Written by: Sulaksana Sabaratnam 


As I walk through the doors of the gym, I can’t help but immediately map the fastest way to the change room to escape the piercing eyes of those drenched and breathless on the rows of treadmills. Once I have reached my temporary safe haven, I start contemplating whether I should even go out there or perhaps, I can get away with just sitting in the sauna for a bit and see my way out? Why do I even bother putting myself through this? Forcing myself to finally leave the change room, my mind narrows in on the path leading to the least intimidating machine next to the fragile, old woman, blurring out all that surround it. There I stand, fidgeting with the machine that this old woman used with ease, but I finally get it started! For the next hour, I speed walk on this treadmill, just analyzing the environment of the gym. Tomorrow I will find myself on this same machine – it’s now, the one thing in this place that I can use without the fear of looking clueless.

This was once something, I too, had felt when I started going to the gym. Let it be known, the fear that comes with entering a new environment is inevitable. However, that fear can be diminished by speaking to someone that frequents a gym or educating yourself with what a gym has to offer, its equipment and how it impacts your body. This can help mentally prepare those first timers and make your first experience one that doesn’t turn you off of your initial goals.

I’m going to let you in on a few tips that I wish someone had told me before entering the gym. These tips will speed up the learning curve and ultimately help one reach their fitness goals that much faster.

1. There is an abundance of males in the gym.

training-601214_640Some of you may think I am stating the obvious, but it is definitely something to discuss. For women that are planning on attending a co-ed gym, do not be intimidated by young boys and men lifting weights that, sometimes, are more than what they can handle. It’s a “male thing” – lifting heavy and gaining muscle apparently makes one “more of a man.” There will also be your regulars, who will go from each machine, knowing exactly what they are going to do next; their comfort somewhat daunting as they own their workout. Having said that, entering the gym for the first time, man or woman, you may not know where each machine or equipment is and at times find yourself standing there puzzled, wondering what the hell this doohickey even is!

Now ladies, we all know what the major concern is – gym creeps. Are there boys and men that stare from across the gym while you work out? Yes. Are there boys and men that may hit on you? Definitely. Will they insist on helping you? Yes. Gosh, I have even had young men try to find an excuse to try and workout with me, following my entire program and me across the gym. Sigh. It happens. Whether it be at the gym or outside the gym, I always found that putting your headphones on and zoning out to be a great tactic to being “unaware” of those around you. I’m going to let you in on one of my secrets – I sometimes keep them on and pretend I’m listening to music even when my iPod has died! Do what you have to do to get in that gym, get your workout in efficiently, effectively and get out.

 2. Educate yourself on your body and how certain workouts will get you to your goal.

“I want to get toned, lose weight and get that fit body I’ve always wanted.” One month passes by. “I’ve lost ten pounds, but I want to lose five more! Maybe I’ll add thirty minutes to each one hour cardio session I do six days out of the week?.”

Don’t be that girl! I know… I’ve been there, done that! The treadmill, the infamous stair master and elliptical. I find that women entering the gym for the first time are drawn to these notorious contraptions. Nine times out of ten, this is the result of comfort. You know you’re burning calories, because it says so on the machine. You know you’re working hard, because you’re sweating through your shirt. You know you’re losing weight, because the scale wouldn’t lie!

THE TRUTH – I’m going to break it down for you very simply why cardio, alone, is not going to get you that toned, fit body that you want. Initially, cardio is something that will help rid your body of water weight and a bit of fat. However, for prolonged periods of time, cardio also burns muscle mass. Fat is something your body does not need to feed in order for it to stay, but to sustain muscle mass, your body needs to provide protein and nutrients. When doing cardio and putting your body under stress for a prolonged period of time, your body will be prone to eliminating that hard earned muscle mass! That being said, you may notice a loss of weight, but your body is not toning up – the jiggle remains.

Gym_wikiSo ladies, I urge you to do your research! With the technology we have today, we are provided with access to various applications and websites that not only list workouts and programs catering to your goal, but also showcase a video example of each exercise – all at our fingertips!

Gaining this knowledge will help you recognize and become familiar with the various machines and equipment a typical gym has. That way, when you enter the gym, you can discard that fear of doing something wrong and having people watch you. You will be confident in what you’re doing.

When I first started weight training, I had actually printed pictures of specific exercises and a description of what I should be doing in terms of form, all put into this little book I’d carry around the entire gym. Beside each one, I would record my weight range, so I remember the weight I was capable of lifting. That gave me the confidence I needed to try out and incorporate weight training into my routine without being scared of being “that clueless girl.”

Another secret weapon of mine has got to be www.bodybuilding.com. This site offers an ample amount of information on workouts, programs and nutrition that will help gear you in the right direction. I definitely encourage you to take a look at that site. It was the site my brother had recommended for me and became the foundation to help me start strength training.

BOTTOM LINE – the gym does not have to be a place dominated by men. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not something that is more or less important for either genders, but should be prescribed to every individual. By knowing what you should expect ahead of time, you will most definitely have a better first experience. That being said, prepare yourself ladies, for your journey towards that ultimate body begins now!

Stay Tuned for my next piece on “Strength Training and Feminine Curves!” For questions and inquiries, you can contact me on Instagram at @sulaksanas or send questions to blogs@ctya.org! Your question may be the topic of a future post! 


SulaksanaSabaratnamSulaksana Sabaratnam is a certified personal trainer and weight-loss consultant. She is currently working towards her nutrition manager (NM) certification. With her passion in fitness and her drive to challenge the limits of her body, Sulaksana also enjoys educating her male and female clientele who benefit from both, her physical weight training and complementary nutrition knowledge. Through her articles, she hopes to help women feel comfortable in the gym atmosphere, invite women to take on strength training to strengthen and accentuate the feminine curves and encourage them to ask questions freely. Follow her via Instagram at @sulaksanas for daily inspiration! 

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