After stepping through the doors of a new gym, you cautiously eye the bulky machines feeling awkward, lost, and shy in a room full of people. While you think of a game plan for your sweat sesh, you silently pray that everyone in the room is minding their muscles and paying no attention to yours.
The beginning of your fitness journey can be intimidating, as are most things when they are new to you. A survey of over 3,000 people conducted by My Protein found that almost 90% are worried about how others perceive them at the gym, and over 30% experience performance or appearance-based anxiety.
The first step to overcoming your fear of judgment is knowing that everybody belongs at the gym. Never allow anyone to make you feel otherwise. Next, understand that most people at the gym are there for a self-serving reason: to get fit, improve their mental health, find a community, or have other health and wellbeing-related intentions. They are primarily focused on themselves, not you.
Anxiety caused by working out in public can derail your goals, leaving you with an inconsistent stop-and-go routine and no progress. Here are our tips for overcoming gym shyness to help you stay centered and be a self-assured fitness baddie.
Research and create a plan you can stick with.
Thanks to the internet, there is a vast library of fitness information. Search for professional and science-based articles and videos on why and how to do different exercises and safely use machines. Then plan a personal program and save it as an easy-to-access list on your phone. Your programming should include specific exercises, how many reps and rounds of each, and which days you'll do them.
With a plan, you'll feel more at ease and won't have to figure it out on the fly. If you're still feeling queasy at the thought of working out in front of others, start at home to practice the movements.
Get familiar with your gym's layout and policies.
Learn the lay of the land and find which spots in the gym help you stay in a flow, whether that's a quiet corner or a row of equipment that isn't front and center. Learning your gym's policies and general gym etiquette will also help you feel like a regular. If possible, train during off-peak hours when the gym is less crowded.
Wear an outfit you feel comfortable and confident in.
Don't break your budget, especially in this economy, but having a few cute, buttery soft, and nonrestrictive workout leggings and tops can boost your confidence and allow you to move freely.
Listen to music or a podcast to stay in the zone.
Create a playlist of songs that keep you moving and make you feel powerful. Or throw on one of your favorite podcasts or an audiobook, and use that time to fire up your body and stimulate your mind.
Start with a personal trainer, gym buddy, or group class.
If going to the gym solo makes you uncomfortable, other options exist, such as teaming up with a friend or family member or working with a personal trainer to teach you exercises and correct your form. You can also sign up for a small beginner's class to level the playing field and maybe even make a new gym friend.
Taking various classes can also help you discover which activities you like best, whether Pilates, strength training, yoga, cycling, dance, boxing, or something else.
Go at your own pace.
You're in the gym to create a sustainable fitness practice tailored for you, not to keep up with everyone else. If you're new to working out, avoid going from zero to 100 because you’ll risk getting burnt out or injured. Challenge yourself, but go at your own pace.
Remember your "why" and focus on your goals.
Folks at the gym were once beginners too. Instead of comparing yourself to people around you, use the presence of others to serve as motivation and turn that into discipline. Being consistent is a result of discipline, more so than unreliable motivation. Focus on your why to give you the strength to stay on track. The more you show up for yourself at the gym, the less daunting it will feel.
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