Experiencing anxiousness or embarrassment at the gym is more common than you might think. Here’s how you can beat it.
The fact that terms like “gym-timidation” and “gym-xiety” are commonly used in the wellness world speaks volumes about the issue. For one reason or another, many people are terrified of working out at a gym. It’s why Planet Fitness centered its whole mission and marketing strategy around creating a “judgment-free zone.”
If you’ve ever let gym anxiety prevent you from walking through the gym doors, I want you to know how common (and fixable) it is. As a former athlete turned personal trainer, I want to share what I’ve learned from helping everyday women overcome their gym anxiety and reach their fitness goals.
Let’s get into it.
What is gym anxiety (and is it normal?)
In a survey of 1,000 Americans, more than half admitted to avoiding the gym altogether because of anxiety and fear of judgment. Another study showed that 37% of women believe others will think they aren’t “good enough” to work out, while 28% are worried about looking “unattractive” while exercising.
So what can we learn from this data?
For starters, people with gym anxiety are generally worried about the same issues — feeling judged, not knowing what to do, or not feeling fit enough— and while that is upsetting, it shows us that we’re far from alone.
Gym anxiety is incredibly common, but with the right support, doesn't have to hold us back.
Tips to overcome gym anxiety
1. Identify your mental blocks
To tackle our fears, let’s start at the source.
Grab a pen and paper or make a mental note of your beliefs about yourself, the gym, and the types of people who go to the gym that prevent you from moving forward. They might sound something like…
I’m not good-looking enough to be in a gym right now. I should lose 10 pounds first.
Everyone will judge me and know that I don’t belong.
I don’t know enough about the gym or exercise in general.
I’m too old.
Once you’ve identified your blocks, it’s time to give yourself a mental hug and know that the gym is truly for everyone and every level of fitness. Give yourself permission to show up exactly as you are, to be a beginner, and learn as you go.
Lastly, as difficult as it is to believe, know that others are too involved in their own worlds to even notice you on the machine next to them.
Here’s some food for thought: At some point, everyone has walked into a gym and picked up a weight for the first time.
2. Take a tour of the gym beforehand
Start by taking a gym tour to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and feel more confident.
The gym employee trying to pitch you a membership will likely offer a one-on-one guided tour to explain the locations of different machines and workout zones, how to use the lockers, if there are any women-only sections, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask for a tour even if one is not offered.
(Psst. You might also like to read up on the most important fitness terms for beginners)
3. Form a plan
Fail to plan, plan to fail.
Walking into the gym knowing what you’re going to do will not only take away a lot of stress but will set you up to achieve your goals.
If it’s been a while or your first time at the gym, allow yourself a day or two to ease into things with a short, simple exercise plan. Try walking on the treadmill, stretching, or doing basic bodyweight exercises like squats and planks. (I promise, no one is looking at you.)
Once you feel comfortable, you can start incorporating different exercises or using weights and machines. However you decide to structure your gym plan, know that the best one is the one you enjoy and will stick to.
4. Know gym etiquette
The baseline for gym etiquette is respecting the space and people around you. Here are a few common etiquette practices you should know going in:
Before hopping on a machine, be sure no one else is using it.
Always clean up after yourself (wipe down machines, put away weights, etc.)
Avoid using your phone for extended periods because others might be waiting for your spot.
Respect the personal space of those around you by keeping your phone, water bottle, and towel tidy.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Always ask an employee if you are unsure how to use a machine or perform an exercise. They are paid to help you and can provide advice that might save you from an injury or giving up on an exercise altogether.
If you’ve ever felt judged after asking a worker for help, know they were a bad apple, and the vast majority will be more than happy to assist you.
6. Go with a friend
If you’re still overwhelmed by the idea of hitting the gym alone, you can always seek out additional support from a gym buddy. They’re a built-in accountability partner who can help you feel more comfortable as you both go after your fitness goals.
7. Try group fitness classes
If things like barre, pilates, cycling, dance, or cardio-focused activities sound fun, consider joining a group fitness class. There is sure to be a wide range of fitness levels in every class, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded folks who can support your journey.
8. Work with a personal trainer
Lastly, working with a trainer can take away a lot of the pressure related to working out.
Personal trainers are experts in their craft and can guide you toward your goals while creating a safe environment. All you have to do is show up and give your best effort.
When choosing a personal trainer, remember that personal compatibility goes a long way. It’s best to choose a trainer you could see yourself enjoying a chat with.
Want to overcome your gym-timidation?
Hey, I’m Luan from Sculpt & Glo Fitness. I teach group fitness classes and provide personal training to everyday women like you. My mission is to help busy women and moms gain confidence and find their glo wherever they are on their fitness journeys (including the very beginning!)
I believe fitness is not a chore, it’s a choice! If you’re ready to take the leap, I’d love to help you realize your fitness goals.
If you have more questions about starting your fitness journey, schedule a free consultation call.