As a former high school student-athlete, I thought I would be able to confidently stroll into the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport and work out without feeling the least bit intimidated or self-conscious. News flash: it’s not that easy, and I was dead wrong.

My first day at Goldring was the third day of my frosh week. I thought it would be a great idea to get in a nice morning workout, but the second I entered the building I soon felt out of place.

Almost everyone around me was wearing Varsity Blues athletic gear, showing it off with confidence. At this point I was anxious, sticking out like a sore thumb, with my bright pink t-shirt and neon green shorts in a sea of dark blue.

I ran on the treadmill — quite slowly, I might add — due to the fear of being looked at for my bad form and awkward stance. I then moved up to the weight racks on the fourth floor, the building’s notoriously intimidating and dignity-crushing area. The weight racks have been known as a place for football jocks and weightlifters alike, and they will now forever be known as the place where my soul died.

I proceeded to find a rack, completely oblivious to this unspoken rule, and prepared to squat. Of course, I could not squat that much, not even close to one plate, so I decided to use just the bar. Bar in hand, preparing to squat, I stared in the mirror, and saw all of the athletes working out their already near-perfect physiques. I couldn’t help but feel all eyes were on me, an inexperienced first-year, even though no one could care less. Cringing from my own thoughts, I proceeded to abort the mission and run back down to the treadmill before I even lifted the bar off the rack.

Phew. I made it back to the second floor, the land of cardio, and in my eyes, an area that I really couldn’t mess up in even if I tried. I thought wrong. My eyes were drawn to a climbing machine that seemed less intimidating. It made me feel comfortable knowing a non-varsity-gear-wearing student was successfully using it. I stepped up and started to climb. This was the all-defining moment where my dignity just completely went out the window. I climbed for a grand total of 10 seconds before feeling every muscle in my body cramp. Then I gladly proceeded to stumble off the machine and fall to the ground. To this day, I have so much respect for that person on the machine as I watched them climb with ease for another five minutes from my very comfortable place on the gym floor.

Panicking as to what I should do next, I found some free weights, hid in a corner, and did some lunges, secluding myself from the judgment that I thought was being projected onto me. Walking, or more like limping, out of my first trip to Goldring was probably the most embarrassingly painful walk I’ve ever had leaving a gym.

Now, nearing the end of my first-year, I have personally conquered the beast that I call Goldring Centre. For future U of T students, or anyone too scared to attempt to go to the facility, I have three tips to help you get over your fears and enter the gym.

Go with friends: going with my friends really helped me feel more comfortable. A gym buddy is a great way to have someone to spot you or to laugh with you when you fail on a machine.

Try one of U of T’s other gyms: Hart House is a great place for gym beginners, with people of all ages using the facility. Most athletes stick to the Goldring Centre, so if you’re afraid of intimidating peers, don’t worry. All U of T gyms have most of the same equipment so you won’t be missing out.

STOP CARING: if you want to enter the beast called Goldring Centre, just do it. People really do not care about how you work out, in comparison to popular belief. Just do you. Wear what you’re comfortable wearing, lift what you can lift, and don’t compare yourself to Varsity Blues athletes. They’ve been training their whole lives for this.

Although I normally workout at Hart House, I enter Goldring once in a while and still feel comfortable doing so. Finding what works for you is the most important thing you can do. I hope that through sharing my embarrassing story, I can help other students realize that, yes, we all have bad gym experiences that make us want to curl up into a ball and retreat, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid working out altogether.

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