Here's How to Feel More Comfortable at the Gym (Because, Yeah, It Can Be Super Intimidating)
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to hit the gym more often, you’re not alone. But while lacing up your sneakers and beelining to a treadmill seems fairly straightforward, it’s often not. Long story short: gyms can be intimidating. Feeling nervous about joining a gym (or returning after a long hiatus) is completely natural. To add to that, in January, gyms see a 12% percent spike in new members, according to a report conducted by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
And working out is extremely personal for many people, so who wants to feel like a fish out of water when they get to the gym? Not us. It’s important to remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere, and mishaps or uncomfortable moments are bound to happen to us all. (Like that time we shamefully sat in the locker room for 30 minutes because the weight room was packed and we were afraid the front desk staff would notice our immediate departure.) So how can you make the gym an enjoyable place where you feel comfortable? We are so glad you asked.
Below, a few tips and tricks to help you feel confident and ready to sweat at any gym.
1. Take advantage of your gym’s perksWhen joining a gym, it’s important to utilize all that’s offered because, hey, you’re paying for it. Take, for example, the introductory tour. If your gym failed to offer this, ask a manager if someone is willing to give you a tour. Familiarizing yourself with the lay of the land will automatically give you a boost of confidence.
Most gyms also offer a free one-on-one personal training session for new members. Don’t turn it down. Trainers will get to know you and your goals before they jump into any physical exercise, so come equipped with all questions and concerns you may have. In our experience, trainers are willing and able to teach you proper technique and form so you can begin to incorporate new exercises into your routine without risking injury.
2. Ask when peak hours are
This may seem obvious, but it’s a must. Work may make your gym schedule tricky to plan out, but it’s always helpful to understand when to expect the early morning or late-night rush hour. If you’re able to work around it, then you may just have a near-empty gym all to yourself. (No more eyeing the bench press area for an empty seat.) And on those days when you find the rush impossible to avoid? At least you’ll come prepared.
3. Go with a friendIs there anything better than the buddy system? Not only is it nice to have someone there to chat with in-between sets or roll your eyes at when someone snatches the squat rack from right in front of you, but a friend will give you that extra motivation you never knew you needed.
Don’t have many gym friends yet? That’s okay. Break the ice by complimenting someone in the locker room or in passing as you’re headed for your next set. She might be wearing those Lululemon leggings you’ve been dying to snag, so why not tell her how much you love them?
4. Wear something you love
You know that saying, “Look good, feel good”? Well, there’s a lot of truth to that when it comes to your gym outfit. Feeling confident in your outfit will give you that extra *pizazz* to help you conquer your workout. Remember that girl wearing those Lululemon leggings you complimented? Why not be her? Show up for yourself in the gym and in the mirror. Who knows, maybe someone will compliment you in the locker room.
5. Watch tutorials
If you’ve ever felt intimidated by the machines or the free weight section, know you’re not alone. Performing certain exercises can be scary and even dangerous (especially when not executed with proper form). Before you embark on a new exercise, look up step-by-step tutorials on YouTube or Instagram. Study the form and get practicing. For an extra bonus: record yourself (only if you’re feeling up to it). Then, compare your video with the tutorial—it will provide a visual so you can see any mistakes you made and fix them for the next time.
6. Attend a classSometimes diving headfirst into the weight room might be too much to handle. Deadlifts…come again? And the treadmill and elliptical, while staple cardio exercises, might get to be a little too monotonous. Try breaking up the week by attending one of the classes that your gym may offer free with memberships. See what works with your schedule and get moving. Attending classes is the perfect opportunity to test out new ways of moving your body. Hot yoga, spin, boxing or Zumba? The possibilities are endless. And who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new gym bestie in class.
7. Write down your workout
There’s nothing more daunting than entering the gym without a schedule in mind. Weight room? Cardio? Studio classes? Err…too many options! Start by focusing on your target area before heading to the gym. Once you decide on a loose outline for the week (e.g., arms and abs on Monday and Thursday, lower body on Friday, etc.), write down a few exercises you wish to complete with the number of reps, targeted weight and desired rest time between sets. After a few weeks or months, you’ll be able to go back to previous weeks and see how far you’ve come. You’ll probably notice that you upped the reps or increased the weight, and there’s nothing that screams “confidence boost” quite like progressing in strength.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When the video tutorials just won’t cut it, sometimes it’s best to ask a trainer or a fellow gym-goer. Trainers are more than willing to help you out and show you the ropes. Before you ask, make sure they are not with a client as to not cut into their paid session. And for those days you don’t see a trainer in site? Ask someone in the gym.
Now this might sound intimidating, but it’s easier than you think. Notice a person completing the same exercise near you, pop out your headphones and try a simple, “Hey, hope I’m not bothering you” before asking for guidance.
9. Know that no one is looking at youAnd if they are, it’s because they’re checking out your fit, right? Duh. In all seriousness…at the end of the day, everyone is at the gym for the same reason: to workout. Most people are focused on staring at their form in the mirror or keeping an eye on the stability of the weights. It may be easy to get into our heads and think everyone saw you struggle while trying to unload that barbell, but they probably didn’t. And if they did, oh well. We’ve all been there before.
10. Give yourself a bit of grace
At the end of the day, don’t sweat the small stuff (pun intended). Tripping over a dumbbell, losing your balance mid-exercise, failing your lift, walking into the wrong class or the countless of other scenarios that may happen…will happen. Don’t look at it as a bad gym day or as a reflection of yourself because these things happen to everyone. All fitness journeys look different, and everyone starts somewhere. Be kind to yourself and know that with every gym session, you’re getting stronger than you were the day before.