One reason many people cite that prevents them from going to the gym and exercising is that they feel self-conscious or uncomfortable being around unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places. This goes for not just newbies, but even experienced exercisers who may be in a new location. So what can you do to get over the anxiety of working out in a new place? Mason Woodruff shares some tips.
12 Ways to Feel Comfortable at the Gym
Not long ago, I joined a new gym to get a fresh lifting environment. This was a gym that I had previously trained at for years, and even worked in for a short time. Still, it was uncomfortable going back. There were some familiar faces, but for the most part, it was a whole new world full of judgement. Once I was back in the swing of things it subsided, but for a short period I could feel it, the dread. The gym can be an intimidating place, but here are a few strategies to help you conquer the dread:
Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
As a fitness professional, I’m in the gym every single day. Whether I am training a client, teaching a class, or for my own training sessions, I’m somewhere around a gym, and I still experience these feelings. That’s why I would venture to say that almost everyone, regardless of experience or fitness level, feels the same way at one point or another. So, if most people are thinking the same things and feeling the same way as you, do you really think they are that concerned with what you’re doing?
Remember that you are in the majority in the gym, not the minority. The gym is not just for fit people. Sure, they will be in the gym, but everyone started somewhere. Almost every fit person you come across started their fitness journey because they were unhappy with their body at one point or another, myself included.
Strategies for Success
Talk to the gym’s staff. They will be the people at the gym more than anyone else, and are typically very happy and helpful folks. Having just one friend can make the transition that much easier.
Avoid wearing headphones ALL the time. Most people won’t approach someone wearing headphones unless it’s to borrow equipment. Make yourself approachable in the early stages of your gym career to have the opportunity to make friends. Then you can put the headphones in and go to work.
This is the first step for most people, and I think it’s a mistake. If your gym buddy is a friend that you had to drag to the gym in the first place, there’s almost a zero percent chance they will be consistent. You need to first make a real gym friend, and then convert them into a workout buddy. Almost everyone wants some extra accountability and camaraderie.
Have a Plan
Being confident in what you’re doing in the gym can help a TON. If you go in blind you can end up roaming around the gym in search of what to do next. That gives me anxiety just thinking about it. Have a goal for each training session, know how you’ll achieve that goal, and have a backup plan if equipment is unavailable or something goes awry. If you’re unsure of how to put a plan together, read this.
Join a Class
Speaking of accountability and camaraderie, joining a class can be an immediate way to make new friends and get gym buddies simultaneously. If you’re the type that jumps straight in the pool instead of tip toeing on the stairs, this is probably your best bet. It’s going to be hella intimidating going into a group where there is already a cohesive group in place, but in my experience these groups are very receptive and embrace new faces. Always remember, they were in your shoes at some point in the past.
Do Your Research
Going back to confidence – you don’t need to be good at every exercise in existence. Pick 10, 15, maybe 20 as your get more advanced, and get really good at them. Read about technique, watch YouTube videos, and practice, practice, practice. You can practice technique on most movements in your own home. Knowing what you’re doing exudes confidence, and confidence over half the battle.
Take Advantage of Free Training Sessions or Trial PT
Sure, they are going to try and sell to you, but you can always say no if it’s not your thing. Aside from showing you around the gym and giving you confidence in what you’re doing, the trainers are the social savants in the gym. It’s very likely they will introduce you to other members of the gym, making it easier to spark conversation the next time you run into them at the water fountain.
Most gyms have some type of social media presence now. This could be a great way to interact and build rapport with other members that maybe come at different times of the day, aren’t comfortable yet themselves, or those that didn’t read point #1. After some cyber interaction, both of you will be more apt to communicating at the gym, and next thing you know, you’ve got a gym buddy.
Join a Good Gym
You can make it work at any gym, and that’s why this is towards the bottom. But, it shouldn’t be completely ignored. Do your research beforehand on potential gyms. Check out their social media pages, take a tour, and even read reviews. In the age of transparency, it’s pretty easy to get a feel for any business before you even step foot in the door.
Get a Schedule
It’s a lot easier to talk yourself out of going to the gym when you don’t have a specific time and day of the week dedicated to training.
Train at Home
If you just can’t make things work, there’s no shame in training at home, and you can build an effective regimen all the same. I recommend creating some type of plan and schedule so you can remove the guess work, come home, train, and be done for the day.
Do Other Activities
You don’t have to “train” to live a healthy and fit life. Chase your kids around, play a sport, or even better, play a sport with your kids. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are playing baseball with family.
Buck Up and Keep Trying
There comes a point where you have to quit making excuses. It becomes less of a comfortability issue, and more of a motivation/dedication issue. Making physical activity a priority truly is an essential part of life. Eating well is priority one, but if you can’t move well, you’re in for a rude awakening in the long run.
Like Shia says (especially at the :52 second mark)…
I hope this helps you on your fitness journey. If you found anything of value here don’t forget to share with your friends!
This article has been re-published with permission from MasonFit.com.
Mason Woodruff is a strength coach, writer, and sports nutritionist. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and is an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).