5 Tips To Conquer Your Gym Anxiety

Last week I was having coffee with a friend (Lord, we were there for like 4 hours! Does that ever happen to you? Time flies, right?) and she was telling me that she and her husband just joined a gym. She went on to tell me that she feels intimidated when she goes there by herself though. Granted, it’s a smaller, more intimate gym, so it’s easier for there to be more eyes on you. Whereas, with big box gyms there’s usually more space, so you don’t have people “all up in yo’ grill.” Nah mean? But anyways, I think this is a common problem among women (and probably some men too), after all, isn’t that why Planet Fitness exists? (By the way, I personally feel really uncomfortable walking into a Planet Fitness because their marketing is so judgmental towards people who are actually in shape and have some muscle. Kind of hypocritical, huh?)

Anyways, I started giving her some advice on how to overcome those feelings while she’s at the gym. Yeah, sure, you’re ALWAYS going to worry a little bit about the way you look or perform, but you can’t let that stop you from trying to meet your goals. As I was advising her, I remembered that I had written a blog post on this a few years back, but since it’s such a common topic, I should probably hit on it once again!

So if you’re afraid of the weight room (or if you tend to move a lot, like me), this one is for you!

  1. Fake It Till You Make It: It’s okay to be new and not really know what you’re doing or know your way around. This is normal! Otherwise we’d never expose ourselves to new experiences and learn anything, right? But if being “new” to something and appearing like you’re “new” to something is really uncomfortable to you, then you might be more comfortable just “faking it till you make it.” You may or may not know that I am a military spouse, so we tend to move a lot. One thing this means for me is that I’m constantly trying new gyms. And let’s face it, they’re all extremely different. Maybe you’re the type to ask the front desk personnel where everything is, but if you know anything about DoD personnel (I generally train on post), they’re probably not very interested in helping you out much. Ha! So outside of asking where the locker room is, I figure it all out on my own.My tip: walk around with an air of confidence. I don’t care if it’s real or fake. By simply looking confident you will automatically feel more confident, even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Own your “newness.”  Don’t be afraid to explore. Scan your surroundings. Learn what pieces of equipment your new gym has and where everything is, this way you’re not hunting around for that one piece of equipment next time you’re in there. Although, in all honesty, I still find myself hunting every now and then. That’s just how it goes! Every gym is different! So if need-be, pop a stick of gum in your mouth and walk around with your best bitch-face possible, and most people won’t even think twice about why you’re there and what you’re doing!

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2. Have a Plan: It’s rare when I walk into the gym without a plan. While I feel confident in my abilities to ‘program’ on the fly, I still just don’t like walking into the gym without an overall plan of attack. If you’re new to the gym or even training in general, then I think it’s even more important for you to have a plan. Know what exercises you plan to do and know how many reps and sets of each you need to do.On day 1, you might want to keep everything very simple. Don’t rely on machines for everything because there’s a good chance that your gym just might not have every machine your plan calls for OR it could already be taken. Yes, there’s always substitutions, but you need to be aware of what those are and know how to perform them before you get there.

3.Remember Why You’re There: Why are you at the gym in the first place? To better yourself, right? That’s totally commendable! Just think of all the people out there who AREN’T at the gym or at least exercising in some way. You’re already in the minority, so give yourself a pat on the back. I know not caring about what others MIGHT be thinking of you is easier said than done, but you really can’t go your whole life thinking like that. Life’s short. Get your gym on. 😉 Also, remember not to compare yourself to others. Everyone is at a different point in their journey. It’s just important to get started and remain consistent!

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4. You’re Not Alone: See all those other people in the gym? Chances are half of them are worried about the same thing as you. They’re worrying about what others think of them; their clothes, their body, their exercise selection, their exercise form, whatever. I know. I care about these things too! Imagine the extra pressure you have on you when you’re a personal trainer! Just don’t let those things bother you so much that you stop going altogether. At a certain point you just have to get over it.

5. Hire a Trainer: If you find that you just can’t get your shit together, then it might be a good idea to hire a personal trainer! Even if it’s just for 1-2 sessions (often these are offered for free when joining a new gym too, so keep an eye out for that and don’t turn it down). Hopefully you’ll get lucky and they’ll be a decent trainer, but regardless, they’ll at least show you the ropes and run you through some exercises that you might not be totally familiar with. They can also show you how to use the machines, which can be really beneficial as I feel like I have to learn new machines every time I move to a different gym! Sometimes it’s even a challenge for the pros! (There’s nothing like watching a huge bodybuilder struggle to lock a fully-loaded leg press that he’s not familiar with…)

Remember, everyone was new to that gym at one point or another, so if they’re judging you for being “new,” screw them. You shouldn’t care about their thoughts anyways. Also, if you’re going to the gym consistently you will learn fast and quickly become a “regular” who totally knows their way around.  So just suck it up buttercup. You’ll be a pro in no time. 😉

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Is Fear Holding You Back From the Body of Your Dreams?

This past week I was interviewed for a local magazine regarding exercising in your home and one of the first questions was “why might someone decide to exercise at home rather than at a gym?” In my response I mentioned the obvious answer, that it might be more convenient for busy individuals or new moms. But in the other part of my answer I said, and this is somewhat sad, that some people often feel uncomfortable going to a gym. Sometimes they are ashamed of the way they look and oftentimes they are afraid that they will appear like they don’t know what they are doing.

While it’s not necessary to go to the gym to get in shape, it certainly might make it a little easier. There’s more equipment, more space (generally), and I tend to get an additional burst of energy and motivation when working out in a public gym instead of my own home. Although I can completely understand why someone might feel self-conscious in a gym, do you go through the rest of your life thinking this way? Do you stop yourself from going to the grocery store because you’re concerned about what other people might think about what you’re putting in your cart? Do you hold yourself back from clothes shopping because you’re concerned that someone might not like your taste in sweaters? No? So why would you be so utterly concerned about what other people might think of you in the gym? We’re all there for the same reasons…and that is to better ourselves.

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Yes, some people might judge you in the gym, but they’re also going to judge you on the street. Those people are probably jerks anyways, so who cares what they might think? You can’t let the potential thoughts of others keep you from living your life and attempting to meet your goals. I personally like seeing out of shape individuals going to the gym and trying to better themselves. How could I possibly laugh at that or view that negatively? We all started somewhere. I wasn’t in shape when I started working out. I couldn’t run long distances and I didn’t know how to properly use machines or weights. So what did I do? I eased into it. I did what I could figure out on my own, watched and learned from other people, and began picking it up myself. Now I’m at a point where I’m the teacher. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you just have to have the confidence to go in there and say “Screw what everyone thinks! I’m doing this for me!”

Like I said earlier, it’s okay if you prefer to workout at home, but don’t do it only because you’re worried about what other people might think or say. You can’t go through your life that way. If you’re not sure how to use the equipment, grab a friend or hire a trainer to show you the ropes. Watch videos online. Pick up some magazines with workout programs and photos in them to help guide you. Take some group classes that your gym offers. It’s a great way to meet people and they can be really motivating! There’s tons of ways to learn the basics, and it’s the basics that are going to take you the farthest.

Remember, don’t be scared! We’ve all been there.