So, we all know the feeling even if we have been long term lifters of that first time that we walked into the weight room and we were completely intimidated. It smells like man sweat, and all of the girls are in a far away cardio land and you are alone looking at all of these free weights that you have no idea what to do with. You are new to this game so you don't want to make yourself look stupid, so you play it cool. You don't know how to use the equipment and you certainly don't know how to do the lifts. You think to yourself "I don't want a lot of muscle anyway, so why am I even doing this?" YEP. I gotchu girl.
Thing is-everyone needs muscle. It doesn't matter if you are just "toning up" or if you are wanting to help your metabolism, muscle is good for everyone. Lifting DOES NOT equal big defined muscles. It's going to take you a long time most likely. In the beginning, you will get something called beginner gains most likely if you are doing it right which just basically means that you tone up quickly. It's a good thing...not a bulky thing.
The thing to remember is that WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE. Most of the guys there think that you are cool, not that you are dumb and most of the time if you ask them for help, they will again think it's awesome that you are stroking their ego and valuing their opinion because when else do we ask for their advice #yafeelme ;)
Typically, if you have begun your journey with lifting, you aren't just walking into the weight area with no clue of exercises. You probably have a program from online (maybe one of mine right wink wink) and so you have these exercises that you are supposed to do but you don't know what they are. Before you go, you should really look those up on youtube or wherever it might be. Watch how the exercise is done. If it something like a squat or deadlift, then it would even be awesome to look into some articles about proper form. It's just like ANYTHING else that you are going to learn. You can't just walk into pharmacy school, and know every drug. It takes time. That doesn't mean that on the first day of class, you give up. You just have to build the bank of exercises in your head.
So, I typically say to add 2-4 exercises to your memory bank each week. Don't even worry about doing all the exercises that you are supposed to do and just get a feel for things when you start.
With a program, you will probably have reps and sets listed. So if it says 3 x 12, this means that you do 3 sets of 12 reps. This may be common knowledge for some but if you are new, you might have no idea. If it says 2 x 8 then thats 2 sets of 8 reps. So, how much weight do you do? This is SO individual, and as much as people want me to tell them numbers, this is going to be up to you. Whatever it is that you are aiming to do, you want to be able to complete that rep scheme. For example, if you do 2 sets of 8 reps for what I mentioned and you are not having to try hard at all at the end, then you should go up in weight. The weight should be difficult at the end where you are having to crank it out, but also that you are able to keep proper form. If your form is awful because it's too heavy then it's pointless, and you should go down in weight for that exercise. The goal is that you are breaking down that muscle and building it back stronger and leaner, so you want to go as heavy as you can with correct form.
There are tons of different words that are thrown around. Superset, drop set, pyramid set, etc. Again it's just like anything...it just takes practice to get to know these words and what they mean in your workout. Maybe I'll do a blog on lifting terms, and I should also do one on running terms (tempo, farklet, etc).
If you have a program that has a rotation of leg day, back, shoulders, chest, etc then I recommend that the first couple of weeks (like I mentioned above), you only do 2-4 of those exercises. Look them up before you, complete the rep scheme that is mentioned, make sure that you are trying your best to have good form while doing it.
The thing is-we all are intimidated when first starting. As experienced as I am in lifting, if I go into a new gym when I move locations, I'm immediately intimidated again. I feel like the guys are going to think I'm some little pipsqueek who has no idea what she's doing and wasting their space. But, the truth is, that space is NOT just theirs. It's yours, so OWN.IT. Rock that pony tail girlfriend. You just have to be brave.
It's worth it. I promise. My body composition has never drastically changed so much as it did when I began lifting and I hear that time and time again from women and men.