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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Virginia Tech chapter.

I love working out. Well, I wouldn’t say love. Maybe, “like.” Maybe, “getting used to it.” But I’m on my way to loving it. I like moving my body. I like working on myself and getting in overall better shape mentally and physically. I like being able to push my body to limits that I never would have reached 6 months ago. And some days, I just like the time to myself.

Whatever your reasons for going to the gym, it’s a unique experience. An experience which unfortunately entails working out next to dozens of people. With my anxiety, it always felt like even the most casual gym-goers were watching me intently. That guy by the squatting rack was judging my form, or the girl on the treadmill next to mine was secretly laughing at my slower speed. The classic advice people give when trying to get others to go to the gym is “everyone is too focused on themselves to even be looking at you.” While I’ve found this to be true, I wanted to share my experience about going to the gym, and what helped me to keep going as someone who was once terrified.

have a look around

The first thing I did before I even picked up a dumbbell was simply visit the gym. I wanted to familiarize myself with the environment, and it helped me immensely, especially in the beginning. Walking around and getting a sense of where equipment was, what machines they had, and even just being in that environment alleviated much of my stress when I went back for future workouts. Everything seemed much less foreign, which put me at ease right from the start.

go with friends

Before I started working out by myself, I asked some friends to go with me. Luckily, I have a few friends who are very into the gym, and they were kind enough to take me with them. They had me do their workouts, watching me to make sure my form was okay. The most important thing is to go with someone who understands your anxieties and is willing to work with you at whatever pace you can handle.

Create your own plan

I realized that part of the reason I felt so much anxiety when going to the gym was because I was walking in unprepared. I didn’t have a plan. Having no real idea where to start, I simply borrowed the workout plan my friends had me use. However, if you want to make one of your own, there are plenty of ways to do it! Ask around, think about your favorite exercises, or even just looking online. There are countless websites that give example plans for whatever type of workout you are looking for. Walking into a gym feeling like you actually know what you’re doing provides such a sense of security, and it has helped me tremendously.

realize that, yes, No one is looking

Remember that classic advice? Well it’s classic for a reason. While the words may seem hollow to someone terrified of setting foot in a gym (like I was), once you start working out regularly and with intention you realize that it’s true, no one is looking at you. Sure, someone’s eyes may rest on you for a minute while they take a break between sets and glance around the room, but I can promise that they’re thinking about their own workout. “How many sets do I have left?” “What machines are open right now?” “Is that person almost done with the leg-press? I wonder if I can use it soon?” Usually one or two of these is circulating my head most of the time, as well as the heads of everyone else in there.

enjoy yourself

Do I love the gym? No, but I do love certain things about the gym. One in particular being that I can take an hour and just focus on bettering myself. Even if I have an absolutely terrible workout, I did it. I went and dedicated my time to me. Whatever makes that experience more enjoyable for you, do it. Listen to your music, wear what makes you feel confident, because at the end of the day, you’re doing this for yourself. There’s not a single person in that gym who knows what’s best for you better than yourself. Keep that thought in your head. You know your own limits and you have unique goals, so don’t let anyone else influence how you want to achieve them.

Loralee Hoffer

Virginia Tech '23

Loralee Hoffer is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Psychology with minors in Creative Writing and Adaptive Brain and Behavior. Through her writing, she enjoys sharing her experiences with health and wellness, relationships, body positivity, and campus life. Proud to be a part of the Her Campus team, she hopes to empower women and gain valuable experience, education, and friends along the way.