Photos by @alimichellephotography

Afraid of the Gym? How to Overcome These Common Fitness Fears

Starting a new fitness habit can be an intimidating prospect. Here are a few ways to overcome your nervousness and hit the gym.

Going into a new place that’s filled with people and customs you’re unfamiliar with can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s to learn a skill that everyone else there already knows. But don’t let your fears keep you from bettering your life.

I own and run a gym and see people cope with these every day. So let’s look at some of the most intimidating things about going to a new gym and how to move past them.

Gym Etiquette for Beginners

“I’m too out of shape. People will stare at me.”

Mindset shift: This is like saying that you need to eat something before you go out to dinner. The whole reason you’re going to the gym is because you want to get in shape. That’s exactly what it’s there for.

If the gym you’re at fosters a judgmental environment, then you’re in the wrong place. The best gyms foster a community that raises up and supports every member from the newest to the fittest with the same enthusiasm.

What you can do: Before you sign up, visit the gym so you can check it out and see if it’s friendly to people who are starting their fitness journey.

If you see nothing but monster athletes, there’s a good chance you’ll feel out of place. If you see average Janes and Joes who look like they’re in a similar place mixed in with the gym rats, you’re likely in a place that has programs and resources for fellow gym-goers who are just starting out.

“I’m embarrassed that I don’t know how to strength train.”

Mindset shift: There is an entire industry of people whose job it is to show you what to do. And they are all happy to do it. Any gym you go to will have professionals on hand who can steer you in the right direction.

And if you don’t talk to a live person, there are countless programs available online, on Instagram — heck, I know someone who’s taking her workout programming from Pinterest.

What you can do: When you visit the gym, be honest. Tell them you’re starting out and not sure what to do. Many gyms will have preset workout plans for beginners or will offer a few free personal training sessions to get started.

Programs like CrossFit or Orange Theory Fitness will have a new workout every day for you to do.

Gym workout

“I’m going to get bored and hate every minute.”

Mindset shift: The fact is, getting fit takes work. If it was easy, everyone would do it. If you can adjust your mindset and embrace the struggle as something you’re choosing to do, you may eventually learn to enjoy the journey as well as the results.

What you can do: That said, there are things you can do to make the gym more fun. Generalized fitness programs like CrossFit and Orange Theory Fitness program workouts that vary from day to day to keep things fresh.

Or you can find a place that’s more specific to your interest: gymnastics gyms, martial arts or cycling studios, or even Ninja Warrior training gyms will make your workout seem more like recess than P.E. class.

“I’m worried I’ll get injured.”

Mindset shift: Most injuries tend to come from two things: poor form and going too hard, too fast. The root of both of these is impatience, trying to rush your path to fitness by taking on too much weight (which leads to lifting with lousy form) or pushing yourself hard before you’re ready.

This can lead to injuries, excessive soreness, and mental fatigue. Once you realize good form and consistency are the straightest paths to fitness, the more injury-proof you’ll be.

What you can do: Focus on consistency, not intensity. For the first 4-6 weeks, keep your exertion level during workouts around 75-80% so you can grow accustomed to your new activity. After that, you can start to ramp up the intensity.

“I don’t know what to wear without looking stupid.”

Mindset shift: This is pretty legit, but only if you overthink things. You don’t need to deck yourself out in lululemon to fit in. Keep it simple with a pair of comfortable shorts, a T-shirt, and a comfy pair of sneakers. The better you feel, the better you’ll look.

What you can do: Treat yourself! Nothing motivates you to hit the gym like some shiny new gear. If you don’t have any workout clothes (jorts and a cutoff tee don’t count), head to the store and get a pair of lightweight shorts, a sweat-wicking T-shirt, and a good pair of shoes.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, just get something that makes you comfortable. Then walk through those gym doors in style.