Dealing with gym nerves
Signing up for a gym membership (and actually training) is one of the best possible steps you can take in improving your overall fitness and well being.
Unfortunately, many people are kept out of the gym by their own nerves and insecurities. Our gym fear and intimidation research shows that 50% of non-gym-goers are scared to go to the gym - in fact, 25% would rather be in a room with a spider than go to the gym.
Whether you’re afraid of people staring, or of not knowing what to do, here’s a guide to overcoming gym nerves.
Visit at quiet times
Since nervous feelings in the gym always revolve around being insecure or uneasy around other people, one of the best solutions is to visit the gym at low-traffic times.
Every gym has its natural rhythms – times when it’s packed wall-to-wall, and times when it’s practically deserted. The general rule is that during weekdays, gyms are the busiest in the late afternoon and early evening, when lots of people are getting out of work.
If you want to avoid hordes of fitness fanatics crowding your space, consider visiting in the very early hours of the morning if possible.
Squeezing in a session before work will not only mean that you’re one of the few people in the gym, with plenty of equipment all to yourself, but also that you get to start off your day with a feeling of accomplishment and a feel-good endorphin rush.
Take group classes
There’s a well-known saying that there’s strength in numbers.
As a lone trainee, everything can feel pretty daunting when you’re trying to figure out and execute a decent workout as dozens of other people bustle around, doing dozens of different things.
A fitness class completely changes the dynamic of things. In most of these, you’re likely to find a wide range of people, with different fitness levels, at different ages, and with different levels of experience and confidence.
There’ll be an instructor to lead you through things, so you know what you’re doing, and everyone will be in roughly the same boat, doing roughly the same thing.
Of course, it can seem a bit daunting at first, stepping into a class full of strangers. Once you get into the routine of things, though, not only will you find the structure and the group reassuring, but you may even make a couple of new friends.
Train with a friend
If training as part of a class is a good way of reducing the stress of gym life, training with a friend is even better.
If you have a friend, or friends, who are regular gym goers and live nearby, see if they’d be happy to partner up and do joint workouts.
There are all kinds of benefits to this. For one, you’ll be less intimidated and shy with a friend at your side who you can laugh off the stress with. For another thing, you’ll push each other to train harder and be more consistent.
And if you have a friend who was thinking of starting at the gym, but hasn’t taken the dive yet, invite them down to train. That way you can support each other from the beginning, learn together, and have a good time.
Shut out the world (with music)
If you’re training alone, one of the worst habits you can develop is paying attention to the people around you, much less looking out for signs that they’re judging you.
You want to treat your visit to the gym as a careful mission to get a particular job done. You want to focus entirely on your workout, and as little as possible on anyone else.
(For what it’s worth, you may find comfort in the fact that this is basically what all the most experienced and serious gym addicts do. They focus on their training and more or less ignore everything else. They’re probably not judging you.)
Bring a music player with you to the gym, with a pre-selected soundtrack that’ll raise your energy, keep you focused, and get you ready to train hard. Pop in your earphones and train as if there’s no one else around.
Research what you’re getting into
One of the key causes of insecurity or nervousness in the gym is not knowing exactly how to train, or how to use the various bits of equipment.
No one wants to look lost, confused or foolish, falling all over themselves or trying made up exercises on the spot.
Luckily, we live in the internet age, and all the knowledge you could possibly need about how to train is at the tip of your fingers..
Before venturing down to the gym, check out our Starting Out at the Gym hub - there are plenty of helpful articles on there to help you on your journey – or else research different exercise types and create your own workout plan.
Watch plenty of videos demonstrating the correct form for different exercises, and the proper ways to use different equipment.
For good measure, why not research good gym etiquette?
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t know exactly what to expect before first setting foot in the gym.
CHALLENGE YOUR MINDSET
It often pays to remember that our emotions come from how we react to events, not from the events themselves. One of the best ways to deal with gym nerves is to begin the habit of challenging your negative thought processes, whenever you find yourself feeling down.
If you have a sudden burst of panic, try this:
Ask yourself what the evidence is. Did they glance at you a couple of times? What other explanations could there be for this behaviour? Do you savagely judge everyone you glance at?
Each situation and feeling will be different. The key is in learning to argue with yourself and challenge your negative thinking when it arises.
We spoke to Dr Margee Kerr, a fear and anxiety expert, and she provided some advice for overcoming mental hurdles and nerves when it comes to the gym. Check out her Advice on Overcoming Gym Anxiety
Don’t let nerves stand in the way of enjoying all the benefits of a gym workout. If you’re still unsure and would like additional support, consider booking a Personal Trainer who will be able to guide you and show you the ropes.