You see them often on social media … pics of your friends at the gym, looking proud and fit after a great workout. You wish it could be you, but just the thought of stepping into the gym leaves your heart racing – and not in a good way. What if everyone saw how out of shape you were? What if you looked completely uncoordinated trying new exercises? And what if … God forbid … you ran into your high-school ex after sweating buckets on the stair climber?
If any of these thoughts have run through your mind, you likely have a case of Gym Intimidation: the fear of going to (or embarrassing yourself at) the gym. But don’t worry, we’ve got some simple tips to help ease your anxiety. Try one or all of them, and you’ll be a happy gym-goer in no time.
Tip #1: Do Your Research
You might think you’re not a gym person, but with the variety of facilities out there, there’s one that’s just right for you. Take some time to search online, call around, or stop by gyms in your area to see what type would suit you best. Would you prefer a smaller gym with a Cheers-esque vibe where everyone knows your name? Or would you rather a large, multi-level facility that’s packed to the brim with amenities? Most places will be happy to offer you a free tour, or even a free trial, so you can get a taste of the environment. Once you decide what’s most important to you – i.e. friendly staff, good equipment, location, etc. – it’ll be easier for you to choose “the one.”
Tip #2: Focus on Yourself
One of the great things about going to a gym is being inspired by other, fitter people. For example, someone with great shoulders may motivate you to lift a little heaver. Similarly, someone who’s a real powerhouse on the treadmill could inspire you to pick up your speed. With that said, don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others. When you’re constantly trying to live up to someone else, you run the risk of feeling defeated and giving up early. Instead, focus on your own personal goals and celebrate your individual achievements – big and small.
Tip #3: Look Around
Seem contradictory to Tip #2? Maybe so; but keep reading. As mentioned earlier, sometimes what’s scariest about gyms is that feeling that everyone is watching you. You might be afraid to try a new piece of equipment because you don’t want to look like a novice trying to figure it out. Or maybe even just choosing what to wear to the gym is stress-inducing. You don’t want to show up in your grubby painting clothes, but you also don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard. When these worries start flooding your mind, take a deep breath and look around. You may be surprised to find that people aren’t even looking at you! After all, most people are too busy worrying about themselves or thinking through their own insecurities. Bottom line: the gym may not be the judgment-laden place you’ve always pictured it to be. Most people are just like you, and everyone has been a beginner at some point.
Tip #4: Go in Prepared
When it comes to beating gym intimidation, being prepared is half the battle. If you know what you’re going to do when you get there, you won’t have to risk the embarrassment of staring blindly at the weights or cardio machines. A simple online search will yield a variety of different exercise plans, complete with images and how-to-instructions. For example, if you want to commit to three days of resistance training per week, you can search for “three-day workout splits for women,” or something similar. Download the split to your phone or go old-school and bring a printed copy with you to the gym. This little bit of prep work will make a big difference in keeping you focused and on track.
Tip #5: Commit to a Challenge
Speaking of preparation, nothing helps establish healthy gym habits like a fitness challenge. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you might join a 12-week online weight-loss challenge. Your gym may even host regular challenges too. Not only will this keep you more motivated and accountable, you’ll start to see the gym as the key to your newfound success – rather than something to be afraid of.
Tip #6: Join a Class
If all this sounds great but you’re not ready to start your solo workouts just yet, then group classes are the way to go. From step, to dancing, to kickboxing, and everything in between, your options are endless. These classes are great if you’re a bit shy and want to blend in with the crowd. After all, virtually all the attention will be on the instructor, so you won’t have to worry about being in the spotlight. And if you can’t keep up or fumble on some moves? Don’t sweat it; no-one will even notice and there will be others in the same boat! You can even modify/simplify the moves as you go. You may even make a friend or two in the process.
Tip #7: Avoid Peak Hours
When you’re just starting out and wanting to go low-profile, try to schedule your workouts when the gym isn’t so packed. Usually, this is at the crack of dawn or right before the gym closes. Off-peak times vary from gym to gym though, so ask the front desk staff for their input. Not only will this help ease your gym anxiety, but you’ll have quicker access to the equipment. If you can only go during high times, try the Women’s Only section of your gym if it has one. While it’s great to exercise in a co-ed environment, there’s a certain comfort in being surrounded my females only.
Tip #8: Celebrate the Advantages
There are so many benefits to exercising at the gym versus at home. For example, gyms have way more equipment than the average person could ever afford or have space for. There’s also a great “energy” that you just can’t get in your dark, dreary basement workout space. And of course, there are the people – friendly staff and fellow fitness-seekers just like you. Once you embrace these and other advantages, your case of Gym Intimidation will be long gone!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.