5 Things You Can Do to Overcome Gym Anxiety
Written by contributor Matt Weik
Beginners and novices alike can find themselves suffering from some sort of gym anxiety. There are many reasons for gym anxiety – many of them personal reasons that only the individual suffering from it can understand. What you need to understand if this is you is that you aren’t alone. There are many others who suffer as well.
In order to potentially help you break free of what you may feel is an unsurmountable weight on your chest, I have put together five things that have helped other people in your exact situation. While they may not all be the right fit for you, there may be one that triggers an emotional response that helps you better cope with and overcome your gym anxiety.
1. Purchase new workout clothes
There’s a saying I live by which generally tends to have me watch my bank account shrink, but it may be of use to you. The saying is, “Look good… Feel good.” Now, I’m not telling you to go on a shopping spree and blow thousands of dollars on a new wardrobe and miss a mortgage payment because of it, but rather go out and buy a few new pieces of workout apparel or footwear. And I don’t want you to just go buy ANYTHING new.
Based on what your goal is, you will want to do one of three things: consume your maintenance number, consume less than your maintenance number, or consume more than your maintenance number.
I want you to be very specific with your purchases. I want you to try everything on and look in the mirror. How does it make you FEEL? If you feel like a million bucks, put it in the purchase pile. If you feel as if it looks good but you’re unsure, ditch it and move on. When you feel good about yourself in what you’re wearing, it can boost your confidence and be enough to get you over the hump of your gym anxiety. Give it a shot and see if it works for you.
2. Find a gym where you are comfortable
Not every gym is for everyone. And just because it’s considered “The Mecca” doesn’t mean it will suit your needs, wants, or even fit within your comfort level. There’s a certain population who loves that type of atmosphere while others prefer something a little less “hardcore.” And that’s ok!
What I want you to do is, just like for clothing, shop around until you find something you fall in love with. You need to find a location you feel comfortable at and that minimizes your gym anxiety. It serves no benefit to join a gym based on who’s the lowest priced if you don’t feel comfortable there and therefore never go. You want to feel great with the gym you decide on before signing on the dotted line. And trust me, when you find the right gym, you will know it’s “the one.”
3. Have staff show you how to use the equipment
Gym anxiety can actually stem from simply not know what you’re doing. The first way to combat this is to understand how to properly use the gym equipment. The second thing (which I’ll get to next) is working with a personal trainer. But first and foremost, you need to know how to properly use the equipment not only to get the best results but to also stay safe and not get injured by incorrect form or incorrect use of the machines/equipment.
Most gyms, when you sign up, will put you through one free session where they take you around and show you the equipment. Be sure you take them up on this and learn how to change the weights, how to set up the cardio equipment, how to change the positions of the seat, back pad, chest pad, etc. You want to feel confident using the equipment and not timid because it seems foreign and you don’t know how to use it.
4. Sign up for sessions with a personal trainer
Unless you’re super into fitness, there’s a high probability that you have no idea what you’re doing or how to set yourself up for success. That’s where a personal trainer comes in and can alleviate some of your gym anxiety. Take all the guesswork out of your time in the gym by signing up for some sessions with a qualified personal trainer at your gym. They need to be certified and it should be with someone you feel comfortable with. You may need to “interview” a few of the trainers on staff until you find one you gel with and are comfortable around.
Let the trainer do all of the thinking for you. Let him or her plan your workouts, take you from exercise to exercise and count all the reps for you. This allows you to simply focus on the task (exercise) at hand and pushing your body to see improvements. After a while, you should feel more comfortable and may be able to stop working with a trainer or at a minimum cut it back to one time a week so you can do things on your own time.
5. Exercise during “off-hours”
It can be extremely overwhelming walking into a gym during the lunch or after-work rush. People are all over the place and most of the machines are being used. If this causes gym anxiety for you, simply go use the gym during “off-hours.” Depending on your work schedule, mid-morning is a good time, mid-afternoon, or even late at night are great times to hit the gym and beat the crowd.
Going during off-hours will allow you to get in and get out without a ton of people being there, machines being used that you need, and locker rooms that are slammed and where you need to wait your turn to get a shower. You can even ask the gym staff before you sign up when the gym is generally slower so that you can take advantage of things be a little quieter and where you’ll be more free and open to use the equipment without the rush and wait.
Matt Weik, owner of Weik Fitness, LLC, is a well-respected fitness expert/author with a global following. His work has been featured in nearly 100 fitness magazines, 5,000+ websites, as well as having published numerous books and audiobooks. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, personal trainer, and sports nutritionist.