Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site.
Does the thought of stepping foot in the gym result in sweaty palms and stomach butterflies? Many people feel intimidated by the idea of sharing a room with others while working out. But skipping the gym out of fear robs would-be fitness buffs of the healthy body they crave. Many of us are left wondering how to overcome intimidation at the gym.
Familiarity builds confidence, so take heart in the knowledge that once gym trips become a habit, fear will fade away fast. Those who still haven’t started on their New Year’s resolution to lose weight and defeat gym-phobia can overcome their anxieties by trying the following tips.
What holds people back from their gym-going goals? Feeling anxiety over new things is natural, and understanding the source of the apprehension sometimes eliminates nervousness instantly.
Those who feel self-conscious over their weight can join fitness facilities that cater to all body types. Would-be gym rats who worry about looking silly should consider booking a private session or two with a trainer to learn how to work the equipment.
High school is over. Any adult bully callous enough to still poke fun at others is saying more about themselves than the people they target. But people who fear judgment can seek a facility that prohibits putting others down.
Most gyms try to upsell their services by offering new members a complimentary training session or two with a certified pro. There’s no reason not to take full advantage of this opportunity. They will demonstrate how to perform exercises safely to prevent injury, how to adjust the equipment and even provide a personalized workout plan to follow.
Working out with a partner provides multiple benefits, including learning how to overcome intimidation. Any center where diverse groups of people mingle can feel scary when walking in solo, but rolling in with a partner eases social anxiety.
Those working out with a friend tend to work out for longer than solo gym goers. Plus, knowing a bestie waits at the fitness center door helps eliminate the temptation to go out for doughnuts instead of putting in miles on the treadmill. It proves especially useful when excuses like menstruation become reasons to skip the gym.
Taking fitness classes is another great way to learn slick new moves that crush calories. Group fitness classes can also help people form new friendships. Something about sweating it out together makes people bond.
Those who get nervous when taking a particular class for the first time can counter negative thoughts like, “I’m never going to get this,” with positive ones like, “If I keep practicing, I will improve.” People who get nervous about attending fast-paced classes with lots of choreography can learn how to overcome intimidation gradually by standing in the back row.
As a certified fitness instructor myself, I speak from the heart when I say this: Everyone else in the class is too busy focusing on their form to watch anyone else. Instead of being embarrassed, people should embrace the attitude of dancing, kickboxing or doing squats like no one is watching. Because they really aren’t!
Even those most rara of avis — women who hate to shop — enjoy rocking new gear at the gym. Something about snazzy new workout garb makes riding the elliptical more appealing. Plus, the right workout attire helps prevent injury, which justifies a minor gear spending spree.
The right shoes absorb impact to minimize jarring of the joints. Additionally, some with certain foot configurations like high arches need extra support to prevent plantar fasciitis. Yes, quality workout shoes cost a pretty penny, but on average, they still cost far less than a visit to the ER.
So many adorable workout clothing lines exist, women of any shape and size can rock super-cute garb to the gym to find how to overcome intimidation through their fashion statements. Those who are self-conscious about their bodies can easily find styles and patterns that flatter while still allowing for freedom of movement.
Though experts disagree on the best time to go to the gym, those needing to overcome intimidation to get moving benefit from hitting the weights during off-peak hours. On typical weekdays, early birds do best to work out before 6 a.m., before the shower-at-the-gym-before-work set arrives. Night owls will delight in the fact that most fitness facilities usually clear out by 8 p.m., sometimes giving them the whole place to themselves.
When possible, look for gyms that are open 24 hours a day. That way, should work schedules ever change, it doesn’t mean abandoning workout routines.
Different fitness facilities have different vibes. Sure, there are plenty of gyms that cater to the bodybuilding set and the muscle jock folks. But other facilities are better for beginner exercises and those who need to overcome intimidation before working out in public.
Nearly every gym offers a free trial to prospective new members — at least, all the ones I’ve taught at in multiple states always did. Take advantage of this to scope out the atmosphere before signing a membership contract. Gyms such as Planet Fitness and Curves are just two facilities that welcome members of all fitness levels with open arms.
Feeling anxious about hitting the gym is perfectly normal, but it doesn’t have to doom sufferers to an out-of-shape future. By following simple tips, anyone can overcome intimidation and reap the benefits of fitness. Once working out becomes a habit, anxiety fades away and gets replaced by pride in workout accomplishments.