Gym Intimidation: How to Overcome the Fear
Updated: Feb 6
The gym can be a very daunting and sensory overloading place. The abundance of machines that you don’t really know how to work, the constant slamming of weights, and the unforgiving mirrors that show every angle in every corner of the building can all be too much. The anxiety of the place itself only heightens when you are surrounded by a lot of people who all seem to know what they are doing. It is a very common feeling, so common that studies have shown that 50% of people feel that this gym intimidation. You are not alone. Gym intimidation can be a debilitating part of one's fitness journey and its time that we learn to overcome this fear.
Finding the Right Gym
Before you tackle how to feel comfortable working out in a space you need to feel comfortable and confident in the space, to begin with. Gyms now come in all different shapes and sizes. Each atmosphere is slightly different and caters to the specialized needs of its members. The positive side of these options means that there is a gym out there made just for you, the downside is that you may have to visit a few places to see where you are and are not comfortable.
Paying for a membership and signing a contract at a gym means nothing for your fitness journey if you are too intimidated to actually go and work out there. So save your time and money in the long run by touring a few gyms and meeting with its staff first.
Try Out Different Classes
I am horrible at exercising by myself because I don’t have a plan when I workout solo. This normally means that I end up running on the treadmill and trying some core exercises. Though I am proud of myself for even making it to the gym, I never feel as accomplished or exercised by myself than when I work out in a class setting. I can often feel anxiety from seeing other members flawlessly jumping from exercise to exercise without being told when and what to do. This is completely normal to feel but there is a way to combat that uncertain feeling.
Classes are great places for beginners of fearful members of the open floor section of the gym. Some traditional gyms will offer classes as a part of your membership. So consider trying out a spin cycle, Zumba, yoga, or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) class. The class will be led by an experienced instructor who is often more than happy to assist and modify any exercise to fit your experience level.
Finding an Accountability Partner or Trainer
Consistency is vital to overcoming gym anxiety, the anxiety can stem from being uncertain and new to all the machines and equipment that is surrounding you. The quickest way to learn the machines and overcome the fear is returning to them again and again. It can be very easy to go to the gym, be intimated, leave, and never return. Asking someone to hold you accountable for going to the gym will help motivate you to keep returning. An accountability partner can look like many things.
It can be a physical workout buddy that you regularly attend the gym with. If you have a friend that wants to begin their own fitness journey but is intimidated by the gym too than overcome the anxiety together!
If you don’t like working out with a partner than asking someone to ask you about the gym and if you went. This will motivate you to be able to answer “yes, I did go to the gym today.”
If you are really struggling with making it to the gym than hiring a personal trainer for a short time may be the answer. A personal trainer is a great accountability partner because you are paying someone for their services, and this may be an incentive enough for you to make it to the gym. A trainer will also help alleviate any uncertainty at the gym because they will walk you through each exercise and create a plan tailored to your needs.
Work at Your Pace
It can be very easy in the gym setting to look around and see others who are further along in a fitness journey or who can look more like society's image of a perfect gym goer. Comparing your journey to another's can negatively affect the overall outcome. Don’t let someone's progress discourage you from your progress, at the end of the day your progress is the only one that matters.
Keep in mind that everyone at the gym had the first day at the gym, everyone starts somewhere and one day you will be the ole’ pro gym goer and not even remember what it felt like to be intimidated by the machines.
Make a Gym Playlist
Music is a great way to tune out the sounds of heavyweights slamming to the ground or the aggressive sounds of the quick treadmills. If you feel overwhelmed with all the sounds of others exercising than listening to a soundtrack that is filled with your favorites can give you a little peace and comfort. The music will help zone you into your own workout and forget about others exercising near you.
Eat and Dress for Success
Another great way to overcome fear or intimidation in a gym (or really anything) is by feeling good and confident in yourself. If you eat a healthy diet, then not only will your body have more energy but you will feel more confident. The same goes for what you wear to the gym as well! Wear something that you feel good and confident in!
Ask yourself why you want to go to the gym. Are you there too lose weight and become more healthy? Looking to tone up before a wedding or school reunion? To alleviate anxiety through endorphins? There are a tons of reasons that might bring you into the gym, but find the one that will make you stay there.
Set a personal goal that you want to achieve and then allow that to motivate you. When you feel a bit of anxiety or uncertainty in the gym setting you can think of why you are there, why you are working hard to achieve your goal and everything will fall away. You are not at the gym to impress other fitness people, you are there for you. So you don’t need to be concerned with how others perceive you.