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chemgeek

What do you look for in a lifting gym?

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Long story short: Back in high school, I was big into power lifting, even went to provincials a couple times (placed ok for my weight division, nothing special). Then, due to a combination of being strongly mesomorphic and therefore getting super muscly when I was into lifting and getting a lot of flack for it from relatives who felt "real girls" don't have muscles and a bad skiing injury followed by a bad horse-riding injury just as I was almost ready to return, I got out of it. Flash forward almost 15 years, and I'm realizing that muscle-me is happy-with-my-body-me and this monk wants to cross-class to warrior. 

 

So, my region has a decent number of the frankly-irresponsible style of gym (the kind run by folks who think showing how tough they are is more important than getting fit safely - not limited to lifting, we also have a lot of nose-breaker martial arts schools - y'know the kind where they think "teaching a newbie the basics" is "throw them in a ring with someone and beat the crap out of them until they learn to block" - etc. It's a thing here.), and the only gym I've encountered that I'd really love to try lifting at (the folks there are knowledgable, the community is frigging awesome, the head of the place has the right attitude which creates the right culture, and they have the kit I'd like to train with) is way beyond what I can do for budget (think in the realm of $250/mo plus tax, but it includes personal training, constant gym supervision and assistance/spotting if needed by trained and certified coaches, and all the courses they offer there. It's not unreasonable for what you get, but it's just not something I can make work right now). I looked at it really long and really hard, but I just can't make it work until some of my fixed expenses change. Because of that, I need to look for a second-choice option until the budget situation changes so I can afford my dream gym (which likely won't happen for another 4 years - that's when my mortgage's payed off and I can use some of monthly I threw thataway for gym membership and the rest can go to savings - FYI, no, I'm not rich, I just live a place where property is cheap but appreciating so I bought because it was cheaper than renting on monthly payment. Our housing market is weird.). 

 

With the above context: I want to know what you would recommend in terms of a good lifting gym for someone to get back into it, in a serious way both to build functional strength and some level of muscle bulk (I don't really want to go full-on bodybuilder, but I do want to regain the "man arms" my relatives despaired over). What should I be looking for? What are the red flags to avoid? Since I've been out of serious lifting for over a decade, would a beginners lifting course be worth it or a waste of money?

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Well, at the end of the day, all you really need are a squat rack and place to deadlift.  So I'd just look for a place with rules that allow for squatting and deadlifting.  No need to over think it. That plus Starting Strength/Stronglifts/531 was and is pretty much the only thing that was needed.

 

 I lift at a GloboGym (Workout World), solely because it's cheap, has a couple of squat racks, and people leave me alone.  That said, I'm an introvert who likes lifting because it's a solo activity - I DON'T want a community where I feel like I have to be engaged with people while I'm there.  Anything beyond some small banter and a head nod is too much for me.

 

So yea.  If you're just looking to get back into it, a place with free weights and people who will mostly leave you alone is what I'd say aim for.

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That's my thing too - though I do like classes & clinics, mainly because I'm one of those people who is naturally clumsy so if there's a way to hurt myself with bad form, I'll find it. So I like having someone who can keep an eye on my form to make sure I'm not about to hurt myself. Aside from that, though, you do your thing and I'll do mine. If you need a spotter, I'll spot, but aside from that I want to be left alone when I'm working out. What I meant my "great community" above was "Everyone is super knowledgable about their thing, but they're all also focused on doing their training and not on socializing - so you can get help if needed, but you're not expected to socialize beyond, 'hey can I get a spotter?' and in fact it's a little rude to take someone out of their training on something not directly related to training there."

 

Bit more backstory: I largely gave up on local gyms a few years back because I was having a hard time finding a place where guys would not come and disrupt my training (often mid-set) to be "helpful" by "showing" me how to use equipment I had previously been showing no interest in and in fact was not there for. "Oh, a girl in the weight room, she must be here for the machines! Surely she's picking up the free weights by mistake. I'll be a Nice Guy and show her how to use this treadmill she has totally ignored, while interrupting her training to do so. And then I'll act like she's the jerk when she says thanks but no thanks, I'm good here with the free weights." It's annoying as hell and completely knocks me out of the groove. Like, I don't mind someone offering help if I'm looking like I'm having trouble, but someone deciding for me that I will interrupt my current work out to listen to them explain something I'm not even interested in, and then getting pissed off when I don't comply isn't helpful, it's rude. 

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5 hours ago, chemgeek said:

 

Bit more backstory: I largely gave up on local gyms a few years back because I was having a hard time finding a place where guys would not come and disrupt my training (often mid-set) to be "helpful" by "showing" me how to use equipment I had previously been showing no interest in and in fact was not there for. "Oh, a girl in the weight room, she must be here for the machines! Surely she's picking up the free weights by mistake. I'll be a Nice Guy and show her how to use this treadmill she has totally ignored, while interrupting her training to do so. And then I'll act like she's the jerk when she says thanks but no thanks, I'm good here with the free weights." It's annoying as hell and completely knocks me out of the groove. Like, I don't mind someone offering help if I'm looking like I'm having trouble, but someone deciding for me that I will interrupt my current work out to listen to them explain something I'm not even interested in, and then getting pissed off when I don't comply isn't helpful, it's rude. 

 

I hate to say it, you're going to get this at pretty much every place ever that is not a straight up expensive powerlifting/strongman gym.  The better thing to do is keep the headphones in, not acknowledge them, and have a nice list of  "Sorry, I'm busy lifting" variants.  It sucks, but even Staci still gets that crap from guys.  Who she then outlifts.  So if that's the only thing stopping you from Globo gyms, I say it's best to armor up, get a nice pair of dagger eyes when idiots start to approach, and lift the heavy things.

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The potential deal-breaker on that idea for me is that I won't pay money for sexual harassment. I get enough of that BS at work conferences and training courses. I work in STEM so I do have a thick skin, it is just super tiring to be on guard for it all week at work (not from people I work with to be clear, but from clients, businesses my group does work with, attendees at the same conferences I'm attending, etc. - my coworkers are awesome but they're the exception not the rule) and I don't want to put up with it in what is supposed to be my fun time.

 

I will have to think hard on whether or not this is in fact a deal-breaker and I will have to wait a few years to get back into lifting. 

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The potential deal-breaker on that idea for me is that I won't pay money for sexual harassment. I get enough of that BS at work conferences and training courses. I work in STEM so I do have a thick skin, it is just super tiring to be on guard for it all week at work (not from people I work with to be clear, but from clients, businesses my group does work with, attendees at the same conferences I'm attending, etc. - my coworkers are awesome but they're the exception not the rule) and I don't want to put up with it in what is supposed to be my fun time.

 

I will have to think hard on whether or not this is in fact a deal-breaker and I will have to wait a few years to get back into lifting. 

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3 hours ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

I hate to say it, you're going to get this at pretty much every place ever that is not a straight up expensive powerlifting/strongman gym.  The better thing to do is keep the headphones in, not acknowledge them, and have a nice list of  "Sorry, I'm busy lifting" variants.  It sucks, but even Staci still gets that crap from guys.  Who she then outlifts.  So if that's the only thing stopping you from Globo gyms, I say it's best to armor up, get a nice pair of dagger eyes when idiots start to approach, and lift the heavy things.

Hate to say it, but I get this at my powerlifting/strongman gym too.

It's not as bad as I ever got at a commercial gym (and certainly more seldom) but still happens occasionally. 

 

My specific lifting gym is actually a bit cheaper than the typical commercial gyms in my area. But there is no personal training or coaching like you have said in the above. I would maybe look a bit more see if there is anything else. Otherwise, maybe look at a crossfit style of gym? See if they will let you sign up for just open gym pass, instead of classes? Not sure if they do that, but worth a shot. 

 

Good luck.

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17 hours ago, miss_marissa said:

Hate to say it, but I get this at my powerlifting/strongman gym too.

It's not as bad as I ever got at a commercial gym (and certainly more seldom) but still happens occasionally. 

 

Not that I had much hope for humanity in the first place, but thanks for lowering the bar just that much more for me, Marissa. :P

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1 hour ago, RisenPhoenix said:

 

Not that I had much hope for humanity in the first place, but thanks for lowering the bar just that much more for me, Marissa. :P

 

6 minutes ago, miss_marissa said:

my bad.

 

I mean... it's safe to say that people are pretty much just the worst, everywhere :P I've had the "constantly given unsolicited advise" issue my whole life, from the weight room to the produce aisle, and have had the same exact experience everywhere... with the exception of my current training situation, but that's in my coach's private facility filled only with his personal one-on-one clients. (He would be pretty pissed if any of us gave each other advise of any kind, and why would we when we're being looked after by him on a constant basis?)

 

Regardless, that's the same kind $$$ situation that's not always manageable. So I'm with MM and RP ^^^ Hoody up, plug out, dagger eyes if needed. Feel free to be the bitch that answers questions with silence, wear a tee shirt that says "FUCK OFF." File complaints with management if you feel you're being harassed. Just don't let other people keep you from doing what you want the way you want to.

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