Do you want to start your fitness journey but find yourself paralyzed by fear of stepping into the gym? You’re not alone. Many young women experience anxiety and trepidation when it comes to working out in public. Luckily, you can overcome these common fears and embrace the gym with confidence.
What Is Gym Anxiety?
Gym anxiety, or “gymtimidation,” is a common fear affecting many people new to working out. Symptoms can include nervousness, nausea, making excuses to avoid going, rapid breathing, feeling like you don’t belong, and self-doubt. Working out has plenty of benefits — especially as you enter young adulthood. It can be an effective way to destress and unwind between your studies and social commitments, and it promotes long-term health, enhances your mental well-being, and strengthens your brain.More than 60% of American adults don’t get enough physical activity, and committing to a gym is a great way to combat inactivity.
1. Understand Your Fear
It’s essential to recognize that fear is a natural response to the unknown. When you set foot into the gym for the first time, it’s common to feel overwhelmed, self-conscious, and maybe even intimidated. Acknowledging your worries is the first step to overcoming them.
2. Familiarize Yourself With the Layout
Spend some time getting to know the gym layout. Walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes and familiarize yourself with where everything is. You can navigate more confidently once you’re more comfortable with your surroundings.
3. Bring a Friend
One of the most effective ways to alleviate gym anxiety is to bring a friend along. A workout buddy can make the gym feel less intimidating and more enjoyable. You can motivate each other, share tips, provide emotional support, and hold each other accountable.
4. Choose Off-Peak Hours
Consider going to the gym during off-peak hours if you’re worried about crowds or being watched. Early mornings, late evenings, or weekdays during work hours are usually less busy times when you can exercise with more privacy and less pressure.
5. Dress Comfortably and Confidently
Wearing the right workout attire can boost your confidence and comfort in the gym. Invest in matching workout sets that make you feel good and more excited to go to the gym. Don’t feel pressured to wear the trendiest gym gear — focus on what makes you feel good.
6. Set Realistic Goals
Setting achievable fitness goals can strengthen your motivation and focus. Start with small, realistic objectives that are tailored to your fitness level. Gradually working toward them will give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your confidence.
7. Do Some Research
Knowledge is power — especially when it comes to the gym. Educate yourself about different exercises, proper form, and etiquette. For example, knowing how to lift weights correctly to prevent injury is vital.
Learning proper breathing techniques can help. Understanding what you’re doing will make you feel more self-assured and prevent injuries.
8. Start With Simple Workouts
If the idea of complex workouts with heavy weights intimidates you, start with simple exercises that require little equipment. Bodyweight moves like squats, lunges, pushups, and planks can be incredibly effective and build your confidence gradually. When I first started going to the gym, I did nothing but walk on the treadmill. It was easy and allowed me to survey my surroundings and build confidence before moving into the weights section.
9. Avoid Comparison
Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy?” Well, it’s 100% true. One of the biggest pitfalls at the gym is comparing yourself to others. Remember that everyone’s fitness journey is unique, and progress varies from person to person. Someone sprinting next to you on the treadmill may be training for a marathon while you’re just looking to get fit — everyone has different goals, so there’s no use comparing yourself.
Focus on your own improvements and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they seem. Everyone starts somewhere, and most people are focused on themselves anyway.
10. Hire a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer is definitely not a requirement, but consider hiring one to help you conquer your gym anxiety and smash your fitness goals. A professional can create a personalized workout plan, teach you proper technique, and provide constant support and guidance. It doesn’t have to be forever — just until you get past that initial fear and are ready to take it on solo.
11. Use Headphones
Music can be a powerful motivator and distraction at the gym. Invest in a good pair of headphones and create a workout playlist that pumps you up. Listening to your favorite tunes can help you focus on your workout and block out anxiety or self-doubt. I like to put on some upbeat music or a funny podcast and let my mind wander — it’s the perfect distraction and makes the time pass by faster.
12. Give Group Classes a Chance
Group fitness classes can be a fun way to ease yourself into the gym environment. Joining a class with like-minded individuals can make you feel part of a community and reduce the sense of isolation that sometimes comes with gym anxiety. Look at the schedule and find something up your alley — aerobic, high-intensity, yoga, or a spin class. It can also be a great way to make friends since you’ll have hobbies in common — I met my best friend of five years at a Pilates class.
13. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness techniques, like deep breathing and meditation, can calm your nerves and boost your confidence. Before entering the gym, take a few moments to center yourself, clear your mind, and remind yourself of your goals.
14. Think of It as an Act of Self-Love
Thinking of working out as an act of self-love can be a transformative mindset shift. Instead of viewing exercise as a chore or a way of achieving a certain body, consider it a powerful way to care for your physical and mental well-being. You’re nurturing your body, taking care of yourself, and working on self-improvement — the ultimate act of self-love.
15. Reward Yourself
Set up a rewards system for yourself. After reaching certain milestones, treat yourself to something you enjoy. For example, if you attend the gym a certain number of times a month, splurge on a new sports bra or a pair of running shoes you’ve been eyeing.
My favorite thing to do is treat myself to a cappuccino from my favorite cafe after a particularly challenging morning workout. It works every time!
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Getting over your fear of the gym is a journey of self-discovery. Recognize that fear is completely normal and that you have the power to conquer it. Act confident and self-assured, and you’re already halfway there in overcoming your gym anxiety.