Gyms can be really freaking scary. Tons of super-strong looking people lifting weights, running at seemingly lightening speed, and sweating all over each other? For someone who doesn't know their way around, the scene can be pretty frightening. And that's not even taking into consideration the whole locker room situation that happens after your workout is over. Yikes. With all of this in mind, it's no surprise that "gymtimidation" is an actual thing that gets in the way of people's ability to exercise with confidence.
What exactly causes "gymtimidation?" The top three reasons are feeling unfit, being worried about what other people think of your workout, and the fear of not knowing what you are doing (and everyone realizing how clueless you are). I personally am a chronic victim of said "gymtimidation." I hate people watching me work out, and have been known to up and leave the gym if I feel like it's too crowded. I avoid trying any new exercises where I run the risk of making a fool of myself because I don't know how to do them perfectly, and I cut my workouts short if there are too many people on the mat or if the ONE machine that I actually know how to use is occupied. Quite frankly, my feelings of intimidation have often really interfered with my ability to get in shape
Because I love the way working out makes me feel (and, ok, also the way it makes me look) I have had to learn how to combat my "gymtimidation" with certain tricks that make me feel more confident, and ultimately lead to a better workout.
1. Pick A Gym That’s Right For You
The most important thing when deciding what gym to join is identifying your needs. What are you looking for from your gym? What types of exercises do you enjoy? What types of people do you want to work out with? If you aren’t interested in body building, maybe don’t pick on a gym that hosts weekly body building competition and mandatory morning Cross Fit classes. For people who feel intimidated working out around members of the opposite sex, certain gyms are single-sex, and many co-ed gyms have “women’s only” workout spaces meant to quell these anxieties. The better a gym fits in with what you are looking for, the more comfortable you will feel working out there.
2. Go In With A Plan
Often times, I find myself going to the gym and wandering around for a half an hour trying to figure out what I want to do because I feel so overwhelmed by all of the machines I don’t know how to use and all of the monstrously built people who are using them. To avoid this, go into the gym knowing exactly what you want to do. Map your workout for the day, or even for the week, so that you can go in and just get started. Knowing that you’re going to get a great workout, so long as you follow your plan, will make you feel more confident and keep you from letting your negative thought distract you from the task at hand.
3. Dress The Part
Dressing for the gym is no different than dressing for every day life: The better you look, the better you’ll feel. For some reason, working out just seems more fun when you know you look cute. Pick an outfit that makes you comfortable and confident, and don’t forget to check yourself out frequently in all of those conveniently placed mirrors.
4. Consider Taking A Class
If you have absolutely no idea what to do in a gym besides listen to Taylor Swift on the elliptical (and I mean that with zero judgment, because that is 100 percent the kind of gym-goer I am), sign up for a class. Most facilities offer free classes with monthly memberships, and it’s a good way to figure out what the heck to do during your recommended 45 minutes per day of exercise time.
5. Have A Trainer Show You Around
If classes aren’t for you and you’re genuinely interested in braving the gym floor, consider signing up for (at least) a single session with a personal trainer. They will evaluate your body and offer tips on what workouts are best for you, which will be incredibly helpful when you’re coming up with your own weekly workout plans. They’ll also show you the correct way to use the machines, which can be very dangerous if used improperly. Some gyms actually offer a complimentary training session when you sign up (because they know once you try it once, you’ll want to do it a million more times) so be sure to ask about it when finalizing your contract.
6. Drown Your Anxiety Out With The Perfect Playlist
If your anxious thoughts are getting in the way of your workout, simply drown them out with one of these great workout playlists. What says “confidence” like doing squats to a Beyoncé song?
7. Avoid Peak Hours
A packed gym can be incredibly intimidating. Having to wait 45 minutes for a treadmill while a marathoner finishes their training? It’s enough to make you want to just give up and go get a burrito. If you can, try to avoid the gym peak hours (which tend to be from 8-11am and 4-7pm). If that’s not possible (because, ya know, jobs), try to look at the busyness as a positive. Watch the other gym goers’ routines and see if there are any moves you can steal, or see if there are any hotties you can flirt with while waiting in line for the elliptical. You are, after all, wearing an ultra-chic gym outfit.
8. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
It can be disheartening to see the woman next to you curling 20-pound weights when you are struggling to lift your 5-pounders, but remember: Everybody, and every body, is different, so your workout is inevitably going to be unique to you. There is no point in comparing yourself to the people around — ESPECIALLY in the locker room, where you will see more shapes, sizes, and hair situations then you could ever even imagine.
9. Remember Why You're There
First of all, congratulate yourself on actually making it to the gym. You have done your mind and body a favor, and deserve a sincere internal "you go, girl." Got that? Good. When you're at the gym, you need to remember that you're there for you — not for anyone else. Forget about what your fellow gym goers think and concentrate on sweating it out for your physical and mental wellbeing. Besides, chances are everyone else is thinking the same way and couldn't care less that the person next to them just fell off the treadmill or dropped a dumbbell on their foot (both of which I consider to be worst case scenarios, and both of which have happened to me).
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