Raise your hand if you get nervous about going to the gym. Especially a new gym. Especially when you don’t feel in shape. If you raised your hand, don’t worry, I’m here to hopefully offer some help. 

Gym fear is real. According to this article on PureGym.com, 50% of people experience anxiety about going to the gym, and it has nothing to do with actually working out. They found that going to the gym is a social experience which places you amongst peers, leading to feelings of comparison and nervousness about interacting with people you don’t know.

In New Mexico, gyms are opening up again after being closed for several months due to COVID. I personally am sick of working out in my living room and have started going back to the gym and maybe it’s time for you to try it too! But, before you go, here are my tips to get over any fears you may have:

Pick the “right” gym

  • Size
  • Atmosphere/vibe
  • Equipment
  • People

What is the right gym for you? I get super anxious at huge gyms with lots of people, crazy machines and let’s be honest, people that look like they’ve never eaten a french fry in their lives. I lucked out that my boyfriend opened his own gym, but it made me realize the type of gym that appeals to me and makes me feel my most comfortable. I prefer smaller gyms with basic, good equipment and friendly faces.

I’ve found that smaller gyms are more closely knit communities. Now, that may be scary to some, but for me, when there is an established community within a gym the atmosphere feels more friendly and welcoming. There’s something about larger gyms that feel more clickish to me. This is just my preference. You may prefer large gyms where you can just blend into a crowd and that’s totally cool. Pick an environment that will make you feel the most comfortable you can. 

Start small

  • Workouts you know
  • Equipment 
  • Frequency

My advice, if you don’t feel comfortable in the gym, is to start with just a couple of pieces of equipment and pick the equipment you know how to use. When you’re nervous and anxious, that is not the time to all of sudden try barbell snatches or conquering the squat rack. Maybe just grab a mat and start with some crunches. Maybe grab some dumbbells and do some curls. Don’t feel like you have to impress anyone there. Do what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. If you think people are watching, they’re not. And if they are, you’re more likely to gain respect if you don’t try something stupid.

In addition, don’t feel like you have to start going to the gym everyday all at once, especially if you’re a newbie to gym-going. Maybe try going twice a week to start. Don’t push yourself. Starting small not only puts less pressure on you, it’s also good so you don’t push your body too hard right away if you’re not used to it.

Ask for help

Kelli lifting in mirror
  • Where things are located
  • How to do something
  • Specific gym etiquette 

I know, I know, that is a big ask, but trust me, if you’ve picked the “right” gym, this is easier. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in a new place my anxiety is already high and it makes me even more awkward. I’ve more than a few times found myself in a new gym, not knowing where anything was and then feeling even more uncomfortable because I looked like a crazy person lost in a gym. Imagine how less of a dork I would have felt if I just asked for help! The right gym, will have the people that make you feel more comfortable asking for help, and then those right people, will give you help, offer advice and maybe even become your gym family if you’re lucky!

Take a friend

  • Someone you feel comfortable with
  • Someone who will lift you up! (Figuratively, and literally if you fall on your face)

Any social experience is much more welcoming when you’re in the company of someone you already feel comfortable with, so why not take a friend to the gym! Don’t worry if it’s your leg day and their cardio day, just having someone you know in the vicinity will ease some anxiousness.

You do you

  • Wear what you feel comfortable in
  • Workouts you know/need

It would be easy for me to tell you to “just face your fear,” but we all know that is easier said than done. Instead, I’m going to tell you to do you. Don’t put the extra pressure on yourself to feel like you have to be someone else at the gym. Do you feel most comfortable working out in a baggy t-shirt? Do you feel better working out when you got your favorite bandana on? Then by all means, do it! I mean, don’t be gross and go stinking up the place, but go feeling comfortable in your own skin. That is the first step. I know it’s hard not to compare yourself to others, but if you do you, that is one less ounce of nerves you have to deal with. The more you feel like yourself, the more you go, the less and less scary the gym will become.