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Ready To Divorce Your Gym Anxiety? A Step-By-Step Guide, From A Girl Who Gets It

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Whether you’re chronically shy or a certified girl boss, you’ve likely experienced some level of gym anxiety. I know the scene. The place is packed, there are mirrors everywhere, and you feel like a lost tourist. You don’t know how anything works and even if you did, where the heck is it? You came to try out the weights but suddenly you’re on the StairMaster again trying to get the lay of the land from above, like a pirate who’s climbed the mast. I know the gym can be daunting, but don’t jump ship! With a few tips and tricks, you’ll be smooth sailing in no time.

can’t get yourself in the door? Don’t be afraid to phone a friend

When I first began at my local Planet Fitness, I’d frequently waste 20 minutes in the parking lot just mustering up the courage to leave the car. Inside, I was either staring at my own feet or checking to make sure nobody was looking at me. Spoiler alert: nobody ever was. Regardless, I would’ve benefitted from some moral support. There were numerous occasions in which I felt so embarrassed by my amateur status that I turned around and left shortly after arriving at the gym. If this sounds like you, I urge you to form a workout alliance with your friends. If they’re more experienced than you, you’ll pick up a lot of skills from them. And if it’s the blind leading the blind, even better — sometimes it’s fun to be confused together. Either way, having the company will help alleviate your nerves and keep you from twiddling your thumbs in between sets. Plus, you can jam to your favorite songs together on the way there.

Not sure where to start? Get acquainted with the equipment ahead of time!

When you go to the grocery store without a list, you might end up pacing the aisles wondering what to buy. Or maybe you buy too much, leaving your wallet aching at the checkout line. Just like we go to the market with a plan in hand, the gym should be treated much the same. This will keep you from wandering aimlessly or leaving with unintended aches and pains. There are countless instructional workout videos on YouTube to help you get a feel for the equipment. Pick out a few exercises that interest you the most, and try them out next to you arrive at the gym. Oh, and as a general rule of thumb, I recommend sticking to three to six exercises per session; this will allow you to bring your A-game without overexerting yourself.

Most importantly, don’t fear your peers

While it may feel like everyone totally saw you wrestling with the smith machine, rest assured that most folks are too focused on themselves to notice. If you catch someone glancing your way in the gym, they’re likely either zoning out or admiring your grit. I’ll admit, when I see someone doing an exercise that’s not in my repertoire, I keep my eyes out to see what I can learn from them. And sometimes, I’m just trying to figure out where they got their shorts from. Though your peers in the gym may seem hard on the exterior, they all remember what it was like when they first started, and most of them are eager to help.

If you’re ready to step down from the mast and kiss your gym anxiety goodbye, you may find solace in the fact that nobody was born a professional. In fact, hardly anyone even becomes a professional. The learning curve in the gym — and in life — is ongoing. Every now and again, unfavorable circumstances will rock your ship. But thankfully, next time you hit turbulent waters, you’ll have both hands on deck.

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Katherine Fillion

U Mass Amherst '24