Gymtimidation: How to conquer it and better your workout

In the age of Insta-fitness models, it’s easy to feel insecure and intimidated at the gym.

We’ve all been there: You enter the locker room and begin changing into your oversized t-shirt and running shorts. You’re feeling confident about the workout you’ve planned and have eaten well all day to ensure you’d have plenty of energy. Suddenly, you’re surrounded by a group of girls prancing around in Lululemon workout clothes, chatting about waist trainers and body fat percentages.

In this scenario, if your goals begin to feel unattainable and your self-confidence is waning, then you might be feeling gym anxiety.

Gym anxiety can come in all forms. For some of us, it’s a lack of confidence in our abilities to perform at the gym. For others, you might be fearful that people are judging you when doing an awkward exercise or feel intimidated by the person that is sprinting next to you on the treadmill.

However, the most important thing to remember is that your individual goals are going to be completely different from the person running next to you. Gym anxiety can be conquered. Here are seven tips for conquering your gym anxiety and reaching your personal goals:

Bring a friend

Photo by Mohammed F. Emran
Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

Having a friend that will support and encourage you while you both workout can be helpful in making your workout more successful. A friend will make things fun and take the attention off your anxiety of being in the spotlight around the other gym-goers. A good friend and gym partner will make you laugh during an awkward exercise, but also push you to reach your full potential.

Workout during off-peak hours

It can be easier to try new workouts or do an exercise that makes you feel uncomfortable when less people are around. Personally, I prefer going to the gym during off-peak hours – typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. – because I feel like I can take more time on the machines and have more room to do my favorite exercises.

It can feel intimidating when you’re trying a machine for the first time and there is a big, sweaty guy across the room waiting to pounce on it once you’re done. If you’re like me, then go to the gym when it’s quiet. That way, you don’t have to worry about dodging flying medicine balls and using sweaty equipment.

Take a class

Sometimes classes can heighten your gym anxieties because you’re brand new and unfamiliar with the workouts.  However, there are classes that are a given in the dark, such as cycling and yoga, at many gyms to help people feel more confident because no one can see them.

Classes can also be helpful because they attract new people all the time. Once you’re in a gym class and realize half the room is new just like you, then you’ll begin to feel more comfortable and maybe even make new friends to workout with.

It’s also helpful to talk to the instructor ahead of time. Let them know that you’re new and have a little anxiety about the pace of the class. Gym instructors are very understanding and accommodating and will definitely slow the pace of the class down or further breakdown a more challenging exercise.

Machines? Just ask an attendant

Photo by Mohammed F. Emran
Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

How many times have you walked up to a machine at the gym and had no idea if it was supposed to workout your arms, legs or abs? Don’t feel bad – everyone has encountered this situation. But the easiest solution to this problem is to just ask someone for help.

It may seem a little awkward to find a gym attendant and ask them how to use a machine you’re unfamiliar with, but hey, their job is to help you. Don’t let your anxiety of feeling judged by an stop you from exercising. The majority of the time, a gym attendant will not only show you the basics of using a machine, but will also explain how many reps to do with a certain amount of weight.

Remember, it is okay to admit you don’t know how to do something. Learning new exercises and asking questions will help you conquer your gym anxiety while becoming more fit.

Put together a playlist

Music is definitely an important factor in helping you feel more confident and pumped up about your workout. Take the time and put together a playlist of songs that are fast-paced and have encouraging song lyrics. My favorite workout song is “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. It’s an empowering song to women and helps me feel like I can do anything. I purposely place this song in the middle of my playlist to give me that extra boost I need to finish my workout.

Wear your confidence

When I used to play sports, I would feel discouraged all the time if I hit a bad shot or made a stupid mistake. I would begin to compare myself to my opponents and think that I didn’t deserve to win because they were better than I was. I let my anxieties take over me and never reminded myself that I was stronger than my fears.

Reminding yourself that you are strong is a huge part to conquering your anxiety. Just wearing a bracelet or necklace that has the words “strength” or “confident” on them can help you remember during a workout that you can do this, you can conquer your fears. Sometimes we need to be able to physically see those words for them to resonate inside of us.

Be you, do you

Photo by Mohammed F. Emran
Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

You’re at the gym for yourself, not the people around you. You are changing your lifestyle and becoming a healthier, stronger person. No one can stop you or make those changes for you. You – not your anxieties – are in control of your life. Be confident. Be proud. Be you.

That means, set personal goals and go after them. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we are not going to reach our goals overnight. But be confident that you will reach those goals and also be confident that everyone has felt gym anxiety before. No one is born with a six pack and ripped arms – we all have to begin somewhere. This is your journey into a healthier lifestyle. You have the power to conquer and achieve your goals!

Featured image by Mohammed F. Emran