Alex Dacks: Overcoming Gym Intimidation to Gain Confidence and Physical Strength
“I felt like the app was putting all of the workout theory into practice and I didn’t need to think about whether I was doing something wrong or not” -Alex Dacks
When I was a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, I frequently worked one-on-one with people who had never stepped foot in a gym previously.
I vividly remember their faces on the first day walking into the weight section.
A look of complete confusion — not knowing what to do or how to coexist with other gym members without feeling intimidated.
The good news is they had a trusted coach (me!) to guide them every step of the way.
My job was to teach them how to develop a solid base of technique, understand the dos and don’ts of weight training, and build their repertoire of exercises.
Ultimately, over months of personal coaching, they began to feel more confident and independent in the weight room.
It was always the most gratifying experience seeing someone who went from being timid and shy when working out to proud and capable.
However, I always felt there was a deeper problem at play.
The Problem With Working Out For The First Time
As a coach, I was only able to help transition people from gym noob to gym pro if they decided to hire me.
However, this was bothersome because I knew not everyone had the ability to hire a personal trainer, and I was personally limited by how many people I could help.
A lot of people who don’t have the proper knowledge will quit out of lack of confidence and not knowing what to do in the gym before ever getting a chance to succeed.
The Not-So-Happy Gym Stats
Here are the facts:
In the US there are 62.5 million gym members.
Out of those gym members, only 12.5% hire a personal trainer. This leaves the majority of gym members to learn how to weight train on their own or in alternate ways.
In terms of people quitting, 50% of new members quit their gym membership within 6 months.
The stats are even starker for those gym-goers who join during the New Year’s Resolution. Of those who sign up in January, 80% quit after 5 months.
Why Do People Quit The Gym?
A 2016 study revealed that some of the top reasons to quit the gym included feeling out of place in the gym (lack of confidence), losing motivation, and not using the gym membership.
From my experience working with hundreds of clients over the years, success begins when you feel confident in the gym.
When you feel confident, you are more willing to learn how to weight train properly, and take risks doing new exercises that you wouldn’t have done previously.
At that point, when you’ve consistently trained on a structured program for a period of time, you’ll reap the physical benefits of weight training.
In other words, feeling confident in the gym fuels physical success.
What Is Fitbod’s Solution?
Fast forward almost a decade, and I now work for Fitbod, a technology company that prides itself on providing the tools necessary to help people succeed in their fitness journey.
Fitbod’s mobile app is powered by artificial intelligence, using over 150 million data points, in order to learn from a person’s unique gym experience and workout history to prescribe the most targeted workout possible.
A person can open the app and have a workout automatically created that suits their precise level of fatigue, recovery, and fitness.
What excites me about Fitbod’s underlying mission is that we’re fixing the original problem that I felt was unsolved in the fitness industry.
Rather than solely relying on individual coaches to show people the ins and outs, we’re now able to teach people at mass scale how to workout properly through our personalized workout recommendations, exercise videos, and descriptions.
These personalized workouts challenge a person at their ‘just right’ fitness level. And, knowing they just accomplished a challenging workout, they become more confident to continue to progress.
In fact, I have a success story to illustrate this point further.
Recently, I was inspired by one of our most active users, Alex Dacks, on how she overcame gym intimidation through using Fitbod in order to build physical strength.
Introducing Fitbodder: Alex Dacks
Alex was always on the smaller side.
She had a fast metabolism.
In college she admits to having a few too late nights, which wasn’t conducive to living a healthy lifestyle.
She said she went to the gym occasionally, doing endless crunches and hours on the elliptical machine, but without much progress.
However, the late nights and lack of consistency with working out lead to an unhealthy and inactive lifestyle.
And, she felt it.
Alex knew she needed to make a lifestyle change, which happened when she moved from her hometown of Las Vegas to San Francisco for grad school.
She began by simply walking more and participating in yoga classes.
This helped her feel increasingly healthier.
At the same time, she began focusing a lot more on eating whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, fruits, and veggies, along with healthy fats and oils.
She also found a group of friends who were extremely active. These new friends were former high-level athletes.
Alex said, “they worked out A LOT and were really intense with it”.
This was extremely motivating for her because she was always intrigued by the idea of using weights to get stronger.
She wanted to have muscles and be strong.
However, at the same time, she was intimidated by the thought of strength training.
She remembers a particular experience of going to the gym and feeling really nervous that people would look at her while lifting weights. This made her feel inadequate and that she didn’t belong.
She would try to start with the gym, but would just end up stopping. It was always a constant process of ‘starting’ and then ‘stopping’.
To top things off, she felt a sense of ‘information overload’ when it came to working out for beginners.
She remembered thinking, “there is so much information out there around ‘beginner workouts’, like switching up muscle groups, but it was so hard to put it into practice”.
She always questioned herself, “when you walk into the gym, what do you actually do? How do you put that information to use?”.
This lack of ‘knowing what to do’ is the exact point in which a lot of people quit and end up being part of the 50% of new gym members who stop within 6 months.
However, on Alex’s 30th birthday she made a goal that she wanted to “get into strength training – for good”.
She decided to purchase some basic home workout equipment like dumbbells and bands.
This is where Alex said that she found Fitbod, and things started to become a lot easier for her.
She opened up the app, set her equipment preferences to dumbbells and bands, and began the first workout.
She quickly did another.
She felt like the app was putting all of the workout theory into practice and didn’t need to think about whether she was doing something wrong or not.
Everything started to become “self-explanatory”.
She began moving weights easier and seeing muscles grow that had never appeared before.
Alex continued to build her confidence, and after a while, decided to return to the gym to try more advanced exercises.
She changed her gym profile to include exercises that used machines, which she was always intimidated by.
However, she learned how to do them properly this time around by having the app guide her with video demonstrations.
One of the things she loved was that “the app forces you to do things that follow your next level of progression, like moving to more challenging variations of the plank and iron cross”.
She admitted that these progressions “were so hard, but now they’re easy, and I’m doing them every day”.
She also remembered being able to barely bicep curl 5lbs and now curling 20lbs.
She was extremely motivated to see the objective progress in her levels of strength since Fitbod automatically tracked every rep max for each exercise and rep range.
Alex admitted that before she knew what to do in the gym she was her own toughest critic and that she would constantly put herself down for how she felt in the gym.
However, she has gained so much confidence over the last several months that she posted her first Instagram video of herself working out, which she would have never done previously.
Alex also said that in the next 6 months she is looking to learn how to start powerlifting, and lifting even heavier weights, which she knows the app will help her progress into when the time comes.
A Success Story Defined By Confidence
Alex’s success is defined by the confidence she developed through intentional strength training.
By trusting a system that guided her through the process, she didn’t have to question whether she was making mistakes or not.
She started slowly by using a few pieces of equipment that allowed her to work out at home.
Then, after seeing some initial progress and becoming more competent in her workout skills, she overcame her gym intimidation to tackle more advanced exercises.
She broke the cycle of ‘starting’ and ‘stopping’ working out and reaped the rewards of her consistency and hard work.
It is my belief that no matter what your workout goal is that if you increase confidence at the start of your fitness journey, you’ll have the right foundation to build success in the gym.
Much like Alex’s success story, you can see how easy it is to simply stop going to the gym when you begin to feel uncomfortable working out.
But Alex is not unique in her experience, as millions of people stop exercising every year for the same reasons.
Yet, she was able to find solutions to help her stay on track, build motivation, and make progress.
This is why I’m excited to share Alex’s story, in addition to demonstrating how Fitbod gives people the power and knowledge to start (and continue) working out.