How to Deal with Gym Anxiety

Most gym frequenters have been there before: experiencing the fear of going to the gym for the first few times, that daunting sense of looking and feeling like you don't belong there. If you’re new to the gym, you might worry about not being dressed appropriately, not knowing how to handle the equipment, or even not being fit enough.

No matter how badly you may want to work out, it can be really difficult to overcome these fears and feel comfortable in the gym. Being uncertain about the gym's rules and norms can cause just enough distress and anxiety to scare people away from making the most of their memberships.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. There are so many ways to overcome your gym anxiety, both while you’re sitting at home and when you eventually make it into the gym. Here are a few tips I used to help me overcome my own fears and start regularly going to the gym:

1. Watch Workout Videos/Tutorials. 

One of the main contributors to gym anxiety is not knowing how to properly exercise and make use of the equipment. As a result, a lot of people tend to go straight to the cardio section because it’s what’s familiar to them, and they don’t get to experience the rest of what the gym has to offer.

It took me weeks to finally be able to step foot into the weights section for the first time, and I got there after watching video after video of people explaining what to do at the gym. Seeing people explain their routines and learning about how to use common gym machines helped me figure out exactly what to do when I actually made it to the gym and that really helped ease my nerves.

2. Plan Your Workout.

Find some exercises online that you feel comfortable with doing and write them down somewhere, including how many reps and sets to do. Learn about the most basic gym machines and write down how exactly to use one or two of them. Most machines also have instructions somewhere taped to the side of them, so you can reference those if you get confused! Just keep a list somewhere that you can reference so you always have a goal or plan when you're working out.

3. Dress Comfortably.

If you don’t feel comfortable at home, you’re definitely not going to feel comfortable at the gym. Only wear what you want to wear; if cropped or tight clothing doesn't make you feel good, then don’t wear it.

Honestly, people at the gym will wear anything from expensive yoga pants and sports bras to loose sweatpants and an old t-shirt they usually keep in their pajama drawers. The gym isn’t a fashion show no matter what any ads might make you think, so don’t sweat the clothing! And besides, everyone there is too busy watching themselves work out in the mirror to care about what you’re doing or what you look like, anyway.

4. Go With a Friend.

Of course, tackling anything new is always easier with someone else there to help you figure things out. If you know of anyone who’s interested in working out or who already goes to the gym regularly, just ask them if they'd be down to be your workout buddy sometime. Then you'll also have someone to seek tips from when you aren't sure what to do during your workout.

5. Remember: You Do Belong There.

It seems kind of redundant to feel out of place as a non-fit person when the whole point of the gym is to help people get fit. But when you walk in and see that everyone there is already muscled and lifting things that weigh as much as you do, it’s easy to feel insecure about your own state of fitness.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that everyone has completely different goals for the gym. Some people want to tone up, some people want to lose weight, and some people just want to get their heart rate up for a little bit. You belong at the gym because you’ve taken the time out of your day to show up, and nobody’s going to treat you any differently.

It might be hard to believe at first, but if you give it time and don’t give up on going, you’ll quickly become familiar enough with the gym and the environment that you’ll start to feel that sense of belonging you’re looking for. It's okay if it takes you a while before you can gather up the courage to try working out. Just ease yourself into it and after a few weeks you'll start feeling way more confident and comfortable at the gym than ever.


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