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Ask a regular lifter, “Is the gym a welcoming place?” and they may wax poetic about the support and acceptance they find there. Ask a person whose last experience with gym was PE class — which they hated with a passion — and you’ll get a very different answer. The reality contains a little of both.

Our friend here in Pec Fly, for example, looks pretty hostile, but he just wants to give the best hugs he can. This is a pretty common type in the weight room — a genuinely open, even affectionate person who gets worked up so they can pour everything into their workouts. There are some jerks in there, too, of course, and some zoned-out people who are engrossed in their own world, and some folks who seem like they’re just there to socialize, and so on. There are even some people like you, or who started out the same way you did. The gym is not any single kind of environment. It’s a melting pot of whoever shows up.

If you’re anxious about going into a weight room, don’t be. Free weights and other resistance training are great for your health, and you have just as much right to use them as any other gym-goer.

Form is important to safe lifting, so get good instruction in the basics. Gyms often have training services available, and some may let you bring an outside trainer.

If your schedule is flexible, try another time or different days of the week. Many gyms have quite a different feel at different times of the day.

Keep going into the weight room, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. You’ll get your bearings.

And if you see Hug Bro in there, rest assured that he’s there to achieve his goals — not to judge you.

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