Maybe it’s the fact that Instagram makes it look like everyone at the gym is a big-bootied, crop-top wearing, fitness goddess.
Maybe it’s the overwhelming array of confusing contraptions that you haven’t the slightest idea how to wriggle your body into.
Or maybe it’s the fear of other people seeing you and scrutinizing your every move.
Even if you know that making time for exercise is important and you’ve decided that you want to make it a priority, there are still several reasons why the gym might seem so intimidating that you never even set foot inside.
If this sounds familiar, then girrrrl I feel you. I’ve so been there. But don’t you worry Love! Today – with these 11 actionable tips – we’re going to change that.
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Before You Get to the Gym
1. Make a plan.
Picture this – you did it, you finally made it to the gym, and you see a machine that you recognize. Lat pulldowns, I can handle that. So you’re walking towards it, ready to get make those #backgainz when BAM!
Gramps and his crossword puzzle – which he will proceed to sit on the machine and complete for the next 30 minutes – comes out of nowhere and beats you to it.
Aaaaand cue the sudden wave of anxiety and the urge to seek refuge on a cardio machine or in the locker room.
When you’re new to the gym and making your workout up on the spot, little unexpected disruptions to your in-the-moment plans can trigger your fight-or-flight response and sabotage what would otherwise be a kick-ass workout.
The best way to combat this? Show up with a plan.
If you’re new to the gym, the internet is your friend. Use Instagram or Youtube (I’m a big fan of Whitney Simmons and Katy Hearn for exercise ideas) or a website like bodybuilding.com to select a few exercises for your workout, and when things get thrown off course, simply move on to the next exercise you have planned.
To make this tip even more effective, be sure to…
2. Practice new exercises at home first
If there’s a new exercise that you’d like to try but you’re too embarrassed to give it a go when you feel like you’re in the spotlight, work on mastering your form at home first.
Even if the exercise technically requires a barbell or cables, go through the basic motion at home in front of a mirror or record yourself on your phone so you can get a feel for the movement and ensure that you’re performing it correctly.
I like to think of these first two tips like preparing to give a speech. No matter what, you’re probably going to be a little nervous when the big moment comes – but the experience is going to be a hell of a lot easier if you’ve rehearsed and show up with some notes versus if you decide to show up empty-handed and wing it on the spot. Ya feel?
A little planning and practice goes a LONG way.
3. Create a playlist that makes you feel like a total badass
Music is an awesome way to pump yourself up before – and keep yourself going during – a workout. Not to mention, putting those earbuds in and cranking up the volume is a great way to block out what’s going on around you and get into your zone.
Create a playlist that motivates, inspires, and builds you up or check out this playlist of some confidence-boosting gym jams that I put together just for you!
4. Wear clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident
Whether you’re new to the gym or a seasoned pro, if you feel self conscious about what you’re wearing, it’s going to shift your focus from crushing your workout to worrying over how you look and what other people think.
Before heading to the gym, make sure that whatever you choose will still be just as comfy and cute when you’re actually exercising (i.e. Do your leggings pass the squat test? Do you have to pull up your pants every two seconds? Does your shirt ride up?).
For example, you might look damn good in your hot pink Nike compression shorts, but if you find yourself spending the entire workout worrying that people are noticing your butt sweat, is it really worth it? Answer: no.
Dress in a way that supports your confidence so you can focus on what you’re there to do, instead of how you look.
At the Gym
5. Focus on small wins in the beginning
Don’t go into the gym thinking you have to train like an Olympic gold medalist on Day 1 (or ever…). Start small and build on your successes.
Kicking things off with a complex workout program when you’re already struggling just to get there is often so overwhelming that you may never work up the courage or motivation to go at all.
Once the gym becomes a regular habit, then you can focus on more elaborate programming, but in the beginning, just showing up day after day is an accomplishment in and of itself!
6. Avoid peak hours (if you can)
The gym is a much less intimidating place when you go at off-peak times.
Generally speaking, early mornings (5am – 7am-ish), late mornings (10am – 12pm) and late afternoons (after lunch but before the majority of people get off work) are less crowded times to work out.
Most gyms become exponentially busier after the traditional work day is done at 5PM.Make sure to do some research on the traffic at your specific gym by asking the staff when the best times to come in are, or by Googling your gym and looking at the “Popular Times” section in the sidebar of the Google search results.
7. Get a feel for the layout of the gym
Before joining a gym, ask a trainer or staff member for a tour of the facility.
If there’s no one available or asking makes you feel uncomfortable, you may be able to head to a cardio machine or grab a stretching mat so that you can take everything in and form a plan without looking like an obvious newb.
Wandering through and taking it all in solo is totally acceptable too! That’s what I do now, but in the beginning I found my obvious “new-ness” intimidating (Newsflash to me: nobody cared).
8. Workout with a friend
Bring along a friend who either a) is already in the habit of working out and can help you if you have questions or need some guidance, or b) is also new to the gym, so that you don’t feel alone in trying to figure it all out.
Use peer pressure in a positive way to motivate yourself to stick with your workout plans and keep you accountable to someone other than yourself.
9. Consider signing up for a class
If you’re really at a loss for where to even begin with exercises and workouts, try signing up for a class.
It’s almost like having your own personal trainer but without the expense or the feeling of being in the spotlight out on the gym floor.
It’s also a great way to make gym friends and figure out what types of exercises you prefer, so that you’ll have more confidence when you do hit the gym floor.
10. Know WHY you’re there, and remind yourself of it frequently
Even once you’ve been training for years, there will still be those days that you struggle to get your booty to the gym.
Motivation comes and goes, so in those moments you need to be crystal clear on WHY going to the gym is important to you.
The more specific your “why” the better.
Maybe your dream is to travel the globe, and you know that by being in better shape, a world of new opportunities becomes available to you like trekking through the jungles of Thailand or surfing in Bali.
Maybe you know that a certain disease runs in your family, and it’s important to you to use exercise as a preventative measure that can add literal years to your life.
Or maybe you just want to feel better about yourself, relieve stress, increase your confidence, boost your creativity and mental acuity or any of the other many benefits of regular exercise.
WHATEVER your reason, write it down, and on those days when you’re really feeling anxious or dragging your feet, read it to remind yourself of why it’s so important that you keep going.
11. Realize that everyone is too focused on themselves to care all that much about you
It may sound harsh, but it’s true. Unless you’re intentionally causing a spectacle by outrageously grunting and slamming weights around (every gym has that guy), odds are everyone is too busy focusing on their own workout to care all that much about what you’re doing.
Remember that everyone starts somewhere, so don’t be intimidated by those people who have clearly been at it for a while.
The secret to success in the gym is not any special talent – it’s consistency. And you have the power to be consistent by simply showing up to each workout.
Let that be your focus and the results will come. You’ve got this girl!
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Now I want to hear from you!
Which tips do you think will be the most helpful for you in beating your gym anxiety?
If you’ve faced “gymtimidation” in the past, what are your tips for overcoming it?
Let me know in the comments below!
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