Getting in the door: Overcoming barriers to participation in physical activity

I’ve realized I’ve done you all a great disservice by not expanding the perspective from which I write. I’ve recently come to appreciate just how easy it may be for me to engage in physical activity on campus compared to some of my peers. So this year, I vow to do my best to step out of my shoes and into some of yours. To start, I asked what prevents students from participating. With help from my peers and the people of Reddit, I’ve become aware of a few big hurdles… Nobody likes to be the new kid. Being new at the gym can be incredibly unnerving. I can totally understand that. Gym culture these days is hard to avoid and it seems to be growing increasingly garish.
White and grey text on a black background reads "Set some goals, then demolish them."
The community can be a little intense sometimes.
What you need to know is that we’re not as scary as we seem to think we are. Everyone was new at some point, and a lot of regular gym rats appreciate and acknowledge that you took a first step and came into the gym despite feeling a little unsure and/or nervous. My biggest fear when I was just beginning to weight train was embarrassing myself. I didn’t want to be that girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing. I think that’s a very natural fear to have. The good news is at U of T you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. The Athletic Centre and Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport both offer a variety of FREE orientations to help you get started. You’ll learn the basics behind weight training and gain equipment “how-to.” These orientations are a great place to start because they give you the information you need to train safely and thereby enjoy your workout to the fullest.  You can register for an orientation through the Online Registration portal.
A girl performing a bench press is pictured from above.
You can also ask for help anytime! The red t-shirt-clad employees in the athletic centres are there for you. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions as it’s always better to ask than to risk injury. Finally, the internet is undeniably a very valuable resource to any gym goer. Personally, I love which has a comprehensive exercise database that you can search based on muscle group, experience level and equipment. Each exercise is explained step by step in text, photos and video. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself the credit you deserve 🙂
The Athletic Centre is pictured from the corner of Spadina and Harbord St.
“The Athletic Centre can be intimidating.” I won’t lie, the Strength and Conditioning Centre (colloquially known as the “SCC”) can be a little intimidating if you’re coming into it for the first time. My advice for the beginner is to start by visiting the SCC during quiet hours (no Olympic Weight Lifting (OWL) allowed) or women’s hours and avoiding the peak times (early mornings and late evenings are a good choice, and Sunday tends to be the day the SCC is emptiest). These are only two of what I’m sure are numerous reasons students may hesitate when it comes to engaging with physical activity programming and using the facilities we have on campus. I’d love to hear about your experiences and how I can help you add a healthy, active habit to your Life@UofT. Don’t forget about our comments section below!   Until next time, Annette  

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