We’ve all been there before – you pump yourself up pre-workout, saying that you’re going to give it 110% today. As you make your way across the gym floor, that confident feeling fades fast when you realize that the only open treadmill is wedged between two runners who are going freakishly fast – like cheetahs in a full sprint – and nearly every strength machine is taken by sweaty people you’d rather avoid. Feelings of insecurity are sinking in.
Hello, gym anxiety: that self-conscious, confidence-vanishing feeling one experiences when faced with an intimidating, embarrassing, or potentially awkward situation at the gym. It often involves feelings of fear of being judged based on one’s fitness level and/or uncertainty involving equipment or classes. You're not alone. Gym anxiety is universally experienced by many exercisers. It does not discriminate between gender, size, strength, or how fit you are.
Here are six tips for overcoming gym anxiety and making the most of your workout:
Write your workout down before you do it
Plan ahead of time what you want to accomplish during your workout. This way, you will hold yourself accountable to finish what you wrote you would do; there’s no backing out, even if you’re moving at a snail’s pace compared to those marathon trainers.
Focus on your workout
When you're seriously working hard, you won’t have time to compare yourself to others, or to look around and catch them watching you work your butt off. Concentrate on you, and consistently remind yourself of how great you’re doing. If you are in need of a distraction, plug in those earphones and rock to some motivating music, or catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show.
Talk to the instructor
Trying a new fitness class like Zumba, Yoga, Pilates, or SoulCycle? It can be tempting to slide into the back row and avoid eye contact with others while you awkwardly attempt to mimic the moves and energy of the ‘pros’ in the class. Stick around after the class and introduce yourself to the instructor. They love to answer questions and help you improve your form or master that sequence of moves you couldn't quite get down.
Exercise during off-peak hours, or don’t
Peak hours vary on a per-gym basis, so ask the front desk when the gym is generally busiest. Armed with this knowledge, you can decide when the best time for you to exercise is. Going during less-busy times means avoiding (most of) the hardcore fitness junkies. On the other hand, going when the gym is busier allows you to observe and learn how people use certain equipment that you may be wondering about, and can also make you more comfortable around others.
Bring a friend or fitness mentor
When gym anxiety gets the best of you, invite someone you know and trust to work out with you. When you’re with a friend, you feel more relaxed and are able to have fun. Even if a spell of gym anxiety arises, don’t be afraid to face your insecurity – share a laugh about it with a friend, and learn from your experience.
Believe in yourself! You are your only competition; comparing yourself to others isn’t going to get you anywhere. Even if people are looking at you, convince yourself that it’s because they admire your motivation and dedication toward reaching your goals. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has started out in your shoes at some point or another, so don’t give in to those feelings of insecurity! Keep your goals in mind, and stick with your fitness plans. Go to that exercise class a few more times, and before you know it, you’ll be just as confident as those people in the front row (you may even be joining them up there!).