Taking up new activities can be really intimidating at first, and going to the gym is not an exception! Whether you’re attending a fitness class such as pilates, working out with a personal trainer, or you’re new to hitting the weights… Gym anxiety can be frustrating, especially if you’re serious about your fitness goals and just want to get your workouts done!
However, it's important to remember that it's completely normal to feel a little anxious about going to the gym. It actually happens to most people - if not everyone! Getting comfortable and building confidence at the gym doesn’t happen in a day, so we’re here to show you how to overcome fear of the gym by giving you gym anxiety tips. These tips will help you get out of your comfort zone as soon as possible so that you can crush your workouts without obstacles and get home feeling accomplished!
What triggers anxiety about going to the gym?
Gym anxiety or weight lifting anxiety is real and highly common. To overcome it, you have to look within and figure out why you feel that way. Everyone's experience is different, but common gym anxiety triggers are...
- Being afraid about what others think about your appearance.
- Being embarrassed or anxious about your fitness level compared to others.
- Not knowing how to use the gym equipment.
- Not having a workout plan or knowing what to actually do at the gym.
- Being concerned that the gym is too crowded.
- You're a woman in a male-dominated weight room.
How to get over gym anxiety
Gym anxiety, or any type of social anxiety, can stop you from doing things that you actually want to do – but don't let it! Anixety about going to the gym is normal, but overcoming it is important because you'll improve your health, hit your fitness goals, and most importantly, it'll help ease your anxiety!
There's research that shows exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and improves overall mood. One particular study showed that high-intensity workout routines, either aerobic exercise or strength training, seemed to be more effective at reducing anxiety opposed to low-intensity routines.
Overcoming your anxiety about going to the gym can actually help you conquer any negative feeling, and not only boost your physical health, but also your mental health. To help, here are a few gym anxiety tips that will help you step into any gym with confidence!
Listen to the stuff that you love
Sometimes the best way to set your anxiety aside is separating yourself from the rest of the world by putting on your headphones and pressing play on your favorite playlist! Blasting your favorite tunes can help you get more focused on your gym sessions because it helps ease and clear your mind, making the experience more comfortable and even exciting for you. And music isn’t the only thing that you can listen to! Podcasts are a great alternative since there are so many to choose from, just think of a topic that you really enjoy and find a podcast about it, you’ll get fit and maybe learn something new while you’re at it. And if you’ve been meaning to read a new book, you could also try listening to the audiobook, advancing through chapters as you keep coming back to the gym, making it easier for you each time and helping you look forward to your next visit.
When you’re at the gym, you’re usually surrounded by new people and a lot of machines. Feeling overwhelmed by what’s constantly going on around you is understandable, and you might want to run away, but instead of focusing on that, think about what you’ll achieve at the end of your routine.
Even more, think about what you’ll achieve by the end of the week, or in a few months. Is it your goal to increase muscle gains? Then think about how good you’ll feel at the end of the day when your arms and legs are tired but stronger from working hard towards your goal. Looking to lose a few pounds? Think about how, in a month from now, you’ll be closer to that goal and you’ll feel even better and more energized than how you feel right now.
Push your anxiety aside, remember why you’re doing this, and keep seeking that great feeling of achievement after every workout!
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself at first
Remember the big rule: start slow and build your way up, which applies to everything in the fitness world! When you're new to the gym, anxiety is almost unavoidable, so make it easier for yourself by creating a quick and easy workout plan to follow when you’re just starting out. This way you don’t pressure yourself too much, which could result in you feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, and quitting before you even get a real taste of the gym!
A simple way to do this is trying your favorite exercises first, the ones you feel more comfortable doing, or just some easy activities like light cardio or stretching, and only do those for half an hour each time, gradually exposing yourself to this new experience. Eventually, you’ll start gaining enough confidence to move on to harder and longer exercises, and spending time at the gym won’t feel as intimidating as it first did. Starting slow will allow you to be kind to yourself in this new process of adaptation, so don’t be afraid to do it. Do what feels more comfortable for you at the moment, and if you ever feel like you could go on for a little longer, then go for it!
Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones
Let’s say you already tried getting rid of the negative thoughts that get in your head when you step into the gym, but you failed… What now? Well, take those same thoughts and turn them into positive ones! It sounds difficult given how intrusive negative thoughts can be when you suffer from social anxiety, but we’ll help you modify some of the most common ones so that you can start implementing these every time you go to the gym:
“These people are so much fitter than me, I shouldn’t be here”
Yes, if you’re new to the gym chances are that there are a lot of weightlifters and fit people in general wherever you look. But instead of thinking that you don’t belong there, think of them as a visual reminder that hard work pays off and that you can achieve that too! If anything, it shows that you’re on the right path, so get inspired by their energy and fitness level, and keep going!
“This is hard and my muscles are tired, I should just quit”
At first, exercising can be really challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before or if it’s been a while since the last time. On top of that, getting used to a new strength training routine can be tough, and you can get tired pretty easily, but what you need to remember is that at the end of the day your body will thank you for it, and you’ll be one step closer to your goal. When you feel tired or want to give up, think instead “my muscles are clearly working very hard, if I focus and keep going I’ll see results very soon!”.
“I’m too embarrassed, everyone is probably staring at me”
This is probably one of your biggest fears when you first step into the gym, but we’re here to assure you… No one is actually looking! You just feel that way because you’re doing something new, and whenever we try new activities we feel highly self-conscious. But take a look around and you’ll see just how focused other gym goers are while doing their workouts. This is the real truth of the gym: everyone minds their own business. So keep this in mind next time you go to the gym, and just focus on yourself and your routine!
Avoid peak hours
When the gym is too crowded, it can feel overwhelming and intimidating because of all the people, but that’s not the only problem. Waiting in line to use a machine or a specific set of weights can also feel discouraging and make you lose focus, especially when it happens more than once during your workout routine. The first few times you attend the gym, try to go during non-busy hours to prevent these situations and help you focus more on your exercise. When you’re a beginner at the gym, you need to get comfortable first with the space you’re in and get to know the gym equipment and different areas, and you can’t do that if it’s too crowded, so try asking the staff about their non-busy hours and go there at those times to help you build confidence and get used to your gym! This takes us to the next point...
Do some research before going in
As we previously mentioned, when you’re new to the gym or you’re attending a new gym, getting comfortable is key to developing a good relationship with your new workout space. Knowing how each gym machine works, how you will be using them, and getting to know the different areas of the gym can help ease your anxiety.
So, before you actually step inside the gym, do some research about it and find out everything that you can to minimize your anxiety when you arrive. In fact, most gyms are happy to help and give you a tour around the gym! Don't be afraid to talk with the staff and ask for a tour or a question about how to use certain machines, they'd be happy to help and it'll help build your confidence so that your first gym experience can go as smoothly as possible.
Take a moment to breathe
Taking a moment to breathe and relax before you go into the gym or begin a new exercise can go a long way when dealing with gym anxiety. Most of the time, we just want to push through and get it over with, but sometimes our mind needs a moment to unwind, and you need to listen to it! If your heart’s racing and you feel your anxiety slowly increasing, try deep breathing through your nose, then exhale through your mouth. Repeat a few times until you feel like you’re in control again. You can do this in your car, in the changing room, or even inside a bathroom stall if you feel more comfortable that way. The important thing is that you focus on breathing only and forget about the rest until you feel calmer and well enough to keep going.
Feel the fear but do it anyway
If you feel the fear overcoming you, take it and turn it into fuel for your workout! Instead of running away, which is what your mind is probably telling you to do, use that energy and focus on finishing your routine. Block out everything else and just think about your next rep, and the next one, until you’re done with them. Fear is a natural reaction, but it’s not a negative one if you learn how to take advantage of it! Take that sudden energy rush and put it to good use, and you’ll notice how your fear gradually turns into motivation for your workouts, helping you push through until you’re finally done with your routine.
Have a workout plan ready
This one might sound contradictory since most new gym-goers don’t know how to plan workouts, but it will help ease your anxiety if you have an idea of what exercises you’ll be doing before stepping inside the gym. So, if you can, plan out your workout before actually getting to the gym! That way you’re not just walking around trying to figure out what exercise to do next. Plan everything from your warm-up, to gym machines you’ll be using, to the exercises and number of reps and sets!
If you want to make things easier for yourself, have someone plan it for you! The Fit With Iulia app is an excellent example of a fitness app because they provide new workouts every week - planned by Iulia herself! The Fit With Iulia app is centered around strength training, but there are workout programs (6 in total) that are focused on weight loss and include cardio and HIIT. Not only that, but the app includes video and written instructions to help you nail your form (easing your gym anxiety), macro tracking, progressive overload tracking, personal progress tracking, offline mode, and exercise alternatives! So, if your gym anxiety comes down to now knowing what to do at the gym and needing guidance then try the Fit With Iulia app - your new favorite workout buddy!
Here are two ways to try Fit With Iulia for free:
- Go to Goals & Workouts and try the first workout of any of the six goal-focused workout programs for free, no subscription required!
- Subscribe to activate your 7-Day Free Trial, giving you full access to all the greatest FWI features! If it's not a good fit for you, just cancel before the 7 days are up to avoid the subscription charge.
In summary, take your time to get used to the new environment of being in a gym! Remember, everyone’s new at one point and most people that go to the gym are focused on themselves and their workout - not you. Hopefully, this helps ease your gym anxiety, and don’t forget to keep our tips in mind, give the FWI app a try, and you’ll be on your way to a smooth fitness journey in no time!