The Art of Changing Gyms

by Joseph B. St. John

This article’s lesson is one that every person who has ever moved to another location or travels for his or her job will understand. Changing gyms is a pain in the A$$$$$$. Make no mistake, for those of us who have done it, we understand the importance of every nuance and quirk in our workout.

Every subtle difference is noticed. Every change in our routine is magnified and every extra move is calculated. It is as if the entire workout has been recreated. It is as if you are working out on another planet.

Often, I have said and written that working out is almost all mental. As much as exercise is a physical event, the most important part of a routine is often inside your head. It is an inescapable fact. We have to deal with it.

When I first enter a new gym, I can feel the difference in the atmosphere. The way the gym feels, smells and looks is completely foreign to me.  Even equipment that should be the same weight, size and texture somehow feels different. It is almost an eerie experience.

I went through this situation during the last week. I am in Michigan now and found a great gym, ”RIVERTOWN.”  It is everything I was looking for. It was designed with weightlifters, bodybuilders, and powerlifters in mind. It has other amenities as well, but for me these are the necessities. I am honesty a “Meat Head” and I need a lot of equipment and a lot of weight. I have been to gyms whose only real limitation was that it had a limited number of weights.

Limited weights are not a deterrent for some people and there is nothing wrong with that. To each their own. But for me, it is the most important thing and I need to have a wide variety of equipment also. So, I was delighted to find a gym that meets my needs.  I would encourage anyone who is moving or visiting a location for more than a week or two to really research the gyms in the area. Finding the best fit for you will help with the transition.

But you may not have that option with limited travel times or if you are in a hotel/motel situation or if you are only going to be on vacation for a week. These situations are more difficult to adapt to. But workout people workout, so we have to adapt. That is a simple fact. Just do what you have to do. I have used a leg press only using a single leg to lift max. It is what it is.

Even in a great situation like I found myself in, I still had to make some adjustments. My first day at the gym was odd. I noticed that I was not seeing the same faces I had seen over the past year or two.  There were different faces and people. It did not rattle me since I am an extrovert, but I was shocked that the routine of seeing the same people over and over was somewhat comforting to me in my workout.  It seems silly, but I was feeling it.

I went to do squats and I placed the bar on the rack, and I could feel the difference. You might say a 45lb bar is a 45lb bar, but I was in another state and in another gym. Weird. I could feel how the padding under my feet felt peculiar…different and almost strange. But was it really or was it just in my head?  Did the mat even matter? Probably not, but I could feel it. I had to shake it out of my mind. I had maxed my lift at 405lbs the week before on my squats in Newport News. It was not pretty but I did three reps. The most I had done since my open-heart surgery in December 2020.

I knew not to push it here at the new gym the first time. I would have to get my mindset and get used to the place. I did 365lbs five times and felt good, but I knew I was being apprehensive because I was uncomfortable. I will become comfortable with my new surroundings, and I will exceed my past success. It will come.

The next time I visited the gym, I did my “Hex” deadlifts. This time the adjustment was more radical.  The “Hex” I was using was one I had never used before, but I knew it was more than adequate. I worked with the gym owner and made the adjustments and did my routine. Once again, my weight output was limited. I had hit 430lbs before leaving Newport News. I hit 350lbs this time. It was different but I also know it is a learning process. This exercise too will come back to my regular results.

When I was done with my workouts, I knew it was part learning a new gym and part mental. I have done it before, and I will do it this time. So, the lesson is don’t push your workout just because you did something at another gym. Relax and get comfortable with your surrounding and make friends, and the results will come back, and you will move forward.

On a side note, I love that  ”RIVERTOWN” uses metal plates. I love the sound and feel of good old-fashioned hard-core weights. It reminded me of this:

And I will always love iron!  I still want to be Iron Man!