8 Tips to Help Overcome Gym Anxiety
Feeling uncomfortable in a gym makes exercising hard to want to do. Whether you are anxious about walking through the door, what people will see you do, or you simply don't like being around groups of people, the gym can be a pretty hard thing conquer.
As every New Year brings the "new year new me" crowd, many stop going to the gym due to not being able to sustain the lifestyle. Others may stop going due to being uncomfortable in the gym, or something happened and they refuse to come back.
Related - Fighting Anxiety With Exercise
As you walk through the gym doors, you see the chiseled physiques, a massive amount of weights and machines, and and you feel the chaos in your mind.
The effect of gymphobia and having anxiety in the gym has a bad ripple effect — like I mentioned earlier, it can make people workout at half intensity or simply stop coming.
Let's End Gymphobia
There are ways to overcome this discomfort of being around others and being new to fitness. Here are some of the top suggestions I've learned over the years in the fitness industry.
#1 - Try Music
When it comes to drowning out the noise and energy from others, music works well. What gets your heart pumping? Do you listen to heavy metal? Classical music? What about some EDM?
Whatever it is, put your headphones on and find your entrance tune. You know — when you bust through the door, what song do you want playing? It's time to do work, so create a playlist that will deliver.
As you train more, you'll start finding songs you can use for certain periods — breaking 1 rep max personal records, pushing yourself through a HIIT routine, or simply getting yourself to go to the gym. Use those songs and feelings to your advantage.
#2 - Try Audiobooks or Podcasts
If you've been wanting to listen to more audiobooks or you found a podcast you'd like to check out, the gym could be a good time for it.
You don't always need German death metal to have a solid workout.
Find some content you'd like to consume and load up a playlist for the gym. If you prefer doing more cardio and machines, this is a great way to get an hour of listening in. You may even forget how hard you are working out.
#3 - Find Non-Busy Hours
I never told anyone this before, but the reason I used to go to the gym at 4:30 am or 5:00 am was because there were three other people in the gym. The other three were all partners and they left me alone.
Otherwise, I would walk into a cluster of all of your stereotypical meatheads, people who can't lift, and creepers. As the gym expanded and attracted a variety of lifters, I eventually quit. The gym used to be an "I may get tetanus on this squat rack, but there are 100-pound plates everywhere" kind of gym.
There were bodybuilders and strongmen going for their pro card, and I loved it. Two years go by and now the gym is littered with people throwing dumbbells around and breaking machines.
Finding the non-busy hours for your gym is important if you want to train alone at a gym. You're going to have to make some changes to your routine and you're probably going to have to train a lot earlier or later than you want to.
But it's worth it.
#4 - Focus on Your Goals
Instead of worrying about what everyone else in the gym is doing, put the perspective on yourself.
How are the quality of your reps? Are you performing the exercise right? Focus on your progress, your goals, and your strengths.
While we are focusing on ourselves, what do your fitness goals say? Are you trying to hit a certain weight loss amount? Is there a specific weight you want to see on the scale?
Instead of focusing on numbers only, you need to have a bigger picture of your health. Are you feeling better? Do you have more energy? How do your clothes fit? Are you stronger?
Focusing on your goals, you progress, and what you need to do next will help you get over gymphobia. Gym time is the time to be self-centered and care about yourself.
Don't be a jerk, but that idiot over there won't bother you when you are laser-focused.
#5 - Get Some Advice
If you are less self-conscious and more worried about what exercises to do, or how to do them, snagging up a personal trainer is a viable option.
Many gyms offer a free training session, and this is where you can ask questions. If you can afford it, buying a few sessions will give you more time to come up with any questions or concerns you may have.
Instead of winging it on your own, you could sign up for a group workout class. This can help you get into the swing of things and possibly find a workout partner.
Once you square away any questions you have and learn how to use machines and free weights, it's time to put your new knowledge to use.
#6 - No One Really Cares
If you've ever had the feeling that everyone is staring at you when you walk into the gym, you aren't alone.
Or maybe they are looking at you. Remember how I said the gym I went to started having new people? I was sick of them taking over the gym so I decided to deadlift near them.
I had a little bit of sleep and I had a bad day, but I was determined to hit my deadlift goal of 605 pounds that day. What the video doesn't show is the six people just outside of my camera. After my lift, you hear them say "holy crap bro." You can check the video out here if you'd like.
Anyways, the lesson I learned from this is that any apprehension or anxiety I feel is all self-imposed. People really don't care about you or how sweaty you are. Most veterans to lifting will be happy to see you trying to improve your health.
Of course, there could always be the chance you could have undesirables in your gym. The people who mock others or those who make it intolerable to train.
The great thing is they don't matter — put the work in and they will shut up eventually. They did for me, at least.
#7 - Shop Around
When you buy a car, you want to shop around and find the best deal, right? Maybe you would pay more if it had a performance package or it was the color you want. Maybe you would drive further to get the car of your dreams.
The same thing goes for a gym. They are not all created equal.
You have big box gyms, local gyms, health spas, and whatever Planet Fitness place is.
They all have their pros and cons, so be sure to check out multiple gyms. You never know which gym may get your interest.
When shopping around for a gym, you need to take into account when you can go to the gym, how much you can afford to pay, and how convenient it is for you. Do you want a powerlifting gym? Do you want a gym that offers more group classes instead of 100-pound dumbbells?
Shop around and take a 15-minute walk through the gym and see how it stacks up. Is the staff friendly? Is the gym clean enough? Are the machines and equipment taken care of?
Don't be afraid to shop around — it can be the difference between being put off by a gym and finding one you can't quit thinking about.
#8 - Small Steps
Simply walking in the door of the gym is the hardest part about going to the gym — and there are a million reasons why we shouldn't go.
While it may sound stupid to tell you to focus on simply lacing up your shoes and getting your stuff ready, it's a big step toward getting to the gym. Instead of dreading your workout and stressing over the people, focus on getting your shoes on.
Then focus on getting your things together and stepping out of your house. Then drive to the gym. Then walk through the door.
Now that you are through the door of the gym, you are already there so go ahead and exercise.
You aren't supposed to feel like you know everything after the first day at the gym, and that's the great part. Look at this as a learning experience... a journey.
Over time, you'll get better acquainted with people at the facility and you will soon be able to adopt the habit of going.