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Taking the Fear out of the Gym

August 6th, 2019 by Ally Hopson


“I don’t belong here”.

“I have no clue what I’m doing and everyone else looks like they could do this in their sleep”.

“I have to get in shape before I start my membership”.

The fear of not being fit enough or not knowing enough to attend a gym is a common problem for many people. Nerves, fear, stress about whether or not you are capable of keeping up is absolutely normal.

You may have felt this the day of your first trial at a new gym.  Maybe there are days you still feel this way.  But what if I told you that most people are, or were, just as intimidated as you may feel when starting for the first time, or starting fresh after some time away?  We’ve all been there and it’s okay. There are tons of reasons people feel anxious about the gym, and typically these reasons look pretty darn similar. The good news? There are tons of ways to overcome this anxiety.

Anxiety and fear forms from our past experiences and is conditioned by our contact with the environment. Anxiety can look differently depending on who and what exists in the environment and how similar the environment is to the past environments we’ve been in.  Most big box gyms look very similar to each other. Heavy weights, rows and rows of machines, fast movement, heavy breathing, a lot of people, loud grunting, etc.  Whatever it may be, gyms have a lot going on!  So it’s not surprising that they can trigger anxiety, especially when you feel like your lack of knowledge means you don’t belong. If you’ve felt this way, I can assure you that so many people have been in your shoes.

Again gym anxiety can be caused by many different things: feeling uncertain, feeling judged by others, feeling like you aren’t fit enough to be there, or from comparing yourself to others. Walking into a new gym and not knowing what to do is stressful. Intimidating equipment can make you nervous, members who look like they’ve been doing it forever can leave you feeling out of place, and new exercises you’ve never seen can leave you feeling unsure. Oftentimes new members find themselves comparing themselves to others. You may walk in a gym and see people of all shapes and sizes, and your eyes are immediately drawn to the person who is lifting up more than your body weight. Totally normal! So, how do we overcome all of these factors that leave us unsure of our decision to start at the gym?

Find ways to help yourself feel more certain!

Research the facility before you go, call and speak to a coach or nutritionist, ask any and all questions, read about success stories, ask others about their experience at the gym, or find a gym buddy - new things are always better with a friend!

Try not to compare yourself to others. I know it’s hard. But when you compare yourself to others, you may end up convincing yourself that you aren’t capable of something before you even try. You may start to feel a false sense of judgment from others. Chances are they aren’t judging you. They were most likely standing in your shoes not too long ago. Try to remind yourself that everyone was new at one point. Every single person standing in the gym is moving through a different chapter of their fitness journey. If you do find yourself comparing and feeling “less than”, rework your thoughts and redirect the negative into a positive. You are not “less than”. You are “investing in your growth” and you will grow.

Allow yourself to be a beginner.  Allow yourself the time to learn, and make your first few sessions all about getting comfortable and finding your groove. The idea of getting in shape, before you get in shape keeps so many folks stuck!  Take action.  Identify the thoughts that have you feeling nervous or out of place, then challenge them with more positive ones (i.e. “I am not being judged. I am supported”).

You may be thinking to yourself, “well this is easier said than done”. And maybe it is. But what I can promise you is that showing up is important. It can be scary. It can be hard. It can be uncomfortable. But with the right training team and community, it won’t always be. Give yourself time. The more you show up and learn, the more familiar it will become, the more friends you will make, the more supported you’ll feel and the more comfortable you will be. Identifying what makes you anxious is the first step. Identify it, make sense of it, and overcome it. You can do this.  We'd love to help!

Posted in the category Mindset.