If you've never lifted, the gym can be an intimidating place to start. (Do I really know what I'm doing? What if people stare? Will I look super weak?) But Casey Johnston (a.k.a. A Swole Woman) has news for you: Weight training doesn't have to be scary; you just need a game plan. She's here to help you overcome your weight room fears and become a total beast—or just a little bit stronger.

Check out an excerpt from her advice column below, but it's really worth reading the whole post on The Hairpin:

No one is looking at you. One of the great things about lifting heavy weights, in my correct opinion, is that the workouts actually involve a lot of resting — a minute and often more between sets. A workout can easily be MORE resting than anything else, so one does quite a bit of standing around in the free weights section. It’s a great time to be on Twitter or Instagram, attending to your clan in Clash of Clans, etc. However, that also means that there is a feeling of A Lot of People (men) Hanging Around and Potentially Leering in there. While I’m not about to absolve men of generally terrible behavior, what you should know about rest time between sets is: If you’re doing it right, you should be exhausted.

When you finish a set, it should have been so hard that all you’re doing for most of that rest time is catching your breath and being stunned and a little impressed with yourself (the gym is high Me Time). After you’re done recovering, you’re gearing up for the next set. The last thing on anyone’s mind should be what other people are up to. Even if someone is throwing you a thousand-yard stare, they are probably looking right through you, because they’re trying to visualize not failing the next set. It’s not about you.

On average, most people go to the gym to work out and don’t have time to fuck around. Resting is a necessary part of the process; just because someone is standing around doesn’t mean they’re trying to scope out the scene (likewise, just because you’re standing around doesn’t mean you’re in want of a conversation — MOST people in a gym will know that and won’t bother you).

OK but what if someone is looking at you? Yes, there are creepers. But there are creepers everywhere in life! I’ve been far more creeped on walking the two blocks to my subway stop than at my gym, and my gym is no Equinox. If we get in the position of avoiding things to cut down on incidences of creeping, who is winning in that scenario? Not you. That is not the path of swoleness. Wouldn’t you rather have some muscles to scare catcallers with? Same.

If someone is creeping on you at the gym, you don’t owe them a damn thing. I wear headphones, and if someone insists on trying to speak to me, I make a very big and annoyed show of pulling an earbud out to hear them. Feel free to cold-shoulder them: “Well, gotta do this set now, good talk.” If anyone is making you uncomfortable — lingering, leering, Lord forbid taking photos or videos of you — tell the gym staff. They should help you (it’s a reportable offense!). Don’t be afraid; working at a gym’s front desk is very boring and most gym attendants should leap at the chance to do something other than idle, and they should want to know if someone is driving away customers.

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