I was afraid of being judged as weak. Here's how I got over it. 

By Liz Steelman
Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images

I can’t do a push-up. And until recently, I was too afraid to brave the weight room for fear of being judged for how weak I am. I also felt clueless about where to start. So instead I stuck with cardio—like running or using the elliptical machine—because it had a clear directive and a repetitive movement that’s hard to mess up in any drastic way.

It’s not that I lacked an understanding of the benefits of strength training. I know it raises lean muscle mass and helps keep body fat in check, which not only keeps you looking good but also reduces your risks of things like heart disease and diabetes. So when my editor challenged me to turn strength-training hatred into love, I had my “It’s now or never” moment.

I figured the only way to get comfortable would be to address my fear head-on, through private training. I scheduled three one-hour sessions with Rebecca Kennedy, a personal trainer at SoHo Strength Lab, and two one-on-ones with Don Saladino, celebrity trainer and owner of Drive 495 gym in New York City.

Entering each gym, I was nervous that I’d be surrounded by bodybuilders or that my trainers would talk down to me. But both pros treated me as an equal. They didn’t even ask me to touch equipment immediately; they wanted to walk through my reservations and come up with ways to make me feel more comfortable.

When we did start exercising, they taught me basic moves, explaining the purpose of each exercise and the muscle group it targeted. They also paid extra attention to my form: Today I can do a good-looking squat, and I know how to hold a kettlebell.

So can I do a push-up yet? No. But I’ve finally learned to stop feeling insecure about it. The real aha moment for me was when Kennedy told me to let go of “benchmarks” for what strong means, like being able to do multiple gorgeous push-ups. The fact that I can walk into a weight room and know how to handle myself is crazy empowering. And, yes, it’ll be cool when I can do that push-up—but I’ll get there.

No-Excuses Guide to Strength Training

Your first thought: “I don’t want to swap my sacred yoga time for strength training.”

Rethink it: You can do the bare minimum— even 10 minutes a day— and still see results, says Saladino.

Your first thought: “Reps feel...repetitive.”

Rethink it: Disguise exercise as something else you love. For instance, if dance cardio is your thing, imagine that side steps with resistance bands are a dance move.

Your first thought: “I just waste time doing random moves.”

Rethink it: Follow a strength workout on an app that provides videos or visuals of the exercises, like the Fitner app ($10 monthly Apple iOS app subscription).

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