I’m no stranger to gyms, but to be honest, I’ve never been really 100-percent comfortable in them. Back when I was a teenager, my friend Tara and I would take Jazzercise classes, and eventually we joined an all-women’s gym, but after I moved and joined co-ed gyms, I stuck with group fitness classes or treadmills, elliptical machines, and a few of the circuit-training machines. Needless to say, I probably wasn’t pushing myself.

As for the weight room, it seemed like a faraway land that I had no interest in visiting. The thought of working out next to sweaty guys huffing, puffing, and grunting as they tried to bench press hundreds of pounds made me feel uncomfortable.

However, that changed the day my trainer, Tomery, made me cross the line into the weight room. I recall Tomery saying, “This is where the magic happens.”

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Still, I felt awkward. But every time since that day I’ve walk into this section feeling more and more comfortable. Week after week, I’ve gotten to know almost every dumbbell between 12.5 and 35 pounds, and my deadlift weight has increased from 55 to 95 pounds. I’m even bench pressing 65 pounds—something I never imagined I’d do. I conquered my fear of the weight room by:

1. Having a good attitude. Part of feeling confident in the gym is simply knowing I belong there. Instead of feeling intimidated by the beautiful people, I look to them as inspiration: They worked hard to get where they are. I look forward to the day someone looks at me as inspiration.

2. Making friends. When I feel awkward or forget how a machine is supposed to be set up, I simply ask someone. Everyone has been so nice and helpful every time I feel stumped.

3. Getting digital. In this day of twitter and Instagram, sharing our daily encounters is natural. Therefore I’ve gotten into the habit of taking pictures of the weight I'm lifting. I even share them on social media from time to time. The virtual cheers from friends keep me motivated, and it will be fun to look back in a year and see how far I've come.

4. Challenging myself. Finally I make an effort to push myself to always do better. Setting goals like one more pushup, more weight than last time, and finishing an entire set is only setting me up for success, and I leave feeling accomplished. The way I look at it is, "Why would I want to waste my time while I’m there?" I make every pull, push, and squat count.

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I love that my relationship with the gym has changed. In fact, facing my fear head-on has made me feel stronger on the inside and outside. I think Tomery was right—the weight room is where the magic happens.

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