The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
New year, new me… right? The age-old tradition of having new year’s resolution will certainly be on mind: spend time with friends and family, quit smoking, spend less money, get fit. Joining the gym for the first time can seem like a very daunting experience, and the intimidation associated with a stressful and sometimes extremely crowded gym is enough to put anyone off. The gym should be a safe environment where you can socialise, make friends and above all assist in strengthening your mental and physical health – and I’m here to provide you with a guide to combatting this gym-timidation. I have never been a particularly sporty person, but ever since joining the gym I’ve never felt stronger or more confident. Everyone experiences gym anxiety from time to time, even people who have been going for years, but with patience and knowledge you’ll be able to focus on smashing your personal goals in no time.
As a disclaimer, everyone is and has different experiences. This guide is purely based on what I personally find helpful. In addition, progression should be personal and the worst thing to do is compare yourself to others. Make sure you are always adopting healthy habits which will benefit your mental and physical health. Going to the gym should be an enjoyable experience and you should never feel pressured into conforming to a certain ideal or lifestyle that implicates negatively on your wellbeing.
Bring a friend
When joining the gym for the first time, it is always helpful to bring a friend with you. Going alone is a daunting feeling, even for experienced gym goers. I’ve become so reliant on the gym as being both a physical and social experience that I even find myself feeling uncomfortable alone (especially waiting awkwardly for a squat rack *shudders*). If your friend is also a beginner, going together is a great chance to experience the gym together in a less intimidating form, and may help in motivating each other. Alternatively, you could go with a more experienced friend who can show you the ropes. Either way, having company will definitely break the ice – plus you’ll have someone to form and spot check you!
Research Research Research
Ok – this one is a bit of a double-edged sword. When looking up gym routines you may be presented with an obscene amount of content (sometimes complicating and contradictory) which can confuse you even more. On the other hand, it’s a really good starting point. An increase in knowledge will certainly increase your confidence in the gym so make sure you are looking at clear and concise beginners’ guides. Alternatively, most (if not all) gyms provide an induction tour of the gym to show you the ropes. It’s important to be knowledgeable on the health and safety aspect of the gym, as you don’t want to end up injuring yourself.
Follow a fitness program
Following a fitness program is a great place to start looking if you don’t have any ideas on what targeted muscle exercises you want to train. There are many fitness youtubers who provide free programs which are easy to follow, great for building yourself up slowly and getting comfortable with the equipment. When I started out at the gym, I would walk around without a set plan – which in turn made me feel more anxious as I’d be wondering around aimlessly. Make sure to get to the gym with a brief idea of what muscles you want to target and your goals for the day.
Start slow and set goals
This one might not necessarily cure you of your gym anxiety, but it’s important to say that starting slow and steady is the best way to go. If you set yourself small goals early on and aim to reach them gradually then you will find gym more enjoyable as you start to see results and smash personal goals, in turn making you motivated and committed.
Last but not least, be patient! Not everyone will feel comfortable in the gym straight away, nor will everyone follow the same programs and see the same results. It’s a slow and steady race and staying consistent and patient is a must. I find it particularly helpful setting myself a weekly schedule of what gym routines I’m doing in the week to work around my university and social life. If you’re not in the mood to work out on a day you’re ‘supposed’ to – don’t sweat it (pun intended). Listen to your body and remember to take rest days to let your body recover.
Ultimately, the gym is there for you and no one else. Find what works and try to be consistent – your body and mind will thank you! Wherever you are in your fitness journey; be it your first time getting back into it after a busy last year, or whether you’re a beginner – everyone starts somewhere.