Overcoming Gym Intimidation

weights-652488_1280For some of us walking into a new gym can feel a little intimidating. When you take your first look around the gym, you see members who not only appear to know the facility inside and out but they are also not the least bit self-conscious.

And then there’s you. Walking around with your stuff, trying to find the locker room, or figuring out which machines you should use first so you can blend in. As the new member, you might think everyone is staring at you and judging you for being the “newbie.”

Psssssst…they’re really not!

At one point in our lives, some of us may have experienced “gym intimidation” or the fear of working out at a gym (I know I do) because everything from the complicated contraptions to the seriously ripped bodies is extremely overwhelming.

If you’re struggling to overcome your gym intimidation, you’re not alone. My gym anxiety prevented me from getting fit and improving my health, but this only delayed my progress even more. Therefore, I’d like to share some tips with you (that helped me overcome my gym fear) to help you feel confident at the gym—if it’s your first time or your hundredth time.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to be fit to go to the gym because that’s why you’re going to the gym!

Scope out the gym scene

First things first; when you are considering joining a gym, ask for a tour so you can get to know the lay of the land before your first gym day. Ask your tour guide lots of questions, such as: Where is the locker room? What kind of equipment do they have? Does the gym offer classes or personal training services? Some gyms have a dress code and some don’t. During the tour, you might want to observe the gym’s culture, environment, and check your gym’s policy on shoes and clothing. This does not mean you need to dress and wear the same brands like everyone else at the gym. However, some gyms have a strict dress code about showing off too much skin or wearing shoes while lifting.

Locker room etiquette

There may not be a list of rules posted in the gym but there is an unspoken “etiquette” that is followed. For example, even though the space in the locker room is shared, you should feel comfortable claiming an area for your things on a bench, counter, or locker while you are changing or working out. Just be considerate of others who will be using the space when you are done. No one likes the person who leaves their belongings sprawled out all over the counter. Oh, and about germs—no matter how well-maintained and clean the locker rooms look, wear sandals or slippers when changing and showering.

Let’s be crystal clear: body confidence is important and encouraged. However, unless it’s culturally appropriate (or you see most people hanging around nude), consider limiting the amount of time you are walking around nude in the locker room because it could make others feel uneasy. If you feel uncomfortable about changing in an open locker room, the easiest way to overcome this is by either showing up to the gym in your workout gear or changing in the bathroom stall.

Workout time!

Some gyms have a time limitation for equipment use. Regardless, you should be mindful of the amount of time you spend using the equipment. On the flip-side of this, it’s okay to politely ask someone to make room if you see them “hogging” a space or equipment that you would like to use (especially if you see someone doing an hour worth of bicep curls in the squat rack while you’re hoping to squeeze in a good session of squats).

The polite thing to do is always put back the equipment (i.e. weights back on the rack) in its proper place when you’re done so other members can find and use the gear too.

Cleanliness counts

News flash—people sweat when they work out! Your gym should provide disinfectant wipes or spray. Remember to wipe down any equipment that touches your body, such as equipment handles, monitor screens, and cushions before and after your workout.

Intimidation is an unavoidable part of life. When you walk into the gym, remember that you are there to give your very best and it shouldn’t matter how everyone else looks or what their workout routine is. From experience, I have learned that everyone at the gym is really focused on themselves, not you. Bring this attitude into other aspects of your everyday life. Your Day 1 is not comparable to someone else’s Day 365.