Every single one of us has been there - you walk into a gym and have no idea where to start, it feels like everyone is judging you and you have no idea what you're doing. Even the regular gym goers were newbies once upon a time, so don't let your lack of confidence put you off. The gym can be an intimidating place full of uber fit and strong people which can be off-putting and crush your confidence - a recent survey showed that 1 in 3 of us have skipped a session due to feeling uncomfortable in a gym and this can be for a number of reasons. Some people feel that being overweight and unfit in a gym can make them feel uncomfortable, whilst others are insecure about their body or feel like everyone else knows what they're doing and will judge them if they do something wrong. This doesn't just apply to beginners though, many people of different sizes, fitness levels and genders can feel intimidated by the gym. In fact, the issue is so prevalent that it has been given a name - 'gymtimidation'.
If you manage to make it through the door and start a workout, the 'gymtimidation' doesn't stop there. Even if you go every day, you still might find it frightening to try a new exercise for fear of getting it wrong or looking silly. However, although it may feel like it, I can assure you that no one is judging you. The majority of people in the gym are very supportive and happy to help if needed, however saying that, the harsh truth is that they probably haven't even noticed you! Everyone in the gym is there to better themselves and hit their own individual health and fitness goals, so they are probably focused on themselves and their workout rather than you. This leads me onto my first tip to increase your gym confidence which is - focus on yourself! If you work hard and smash a session, you won't have time to think about who's judging you or what other people are doing. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of your valuable time. Everyone and every body is different so it is pointless comparing yourself to anyone else, what they are lifting or how fast they are running.
All sound a bit familiar? My tips for successfully overcoming gym anxiety and building up the confidence to get in the gym and smash a workout are as follows:
Get a PT. Of course we are biased, but a Personal Trainer can help you to learn exercises, learn gym etiquette and just generally feel more confident. They can answer any questions and show you how to use everything as well as where it all is. Even if it's just a couple of sessions to help you find your feet, it can make all the difference to your confidence.
Choose the right gym - a weightlifting gym might not be for you if you find that area of fitness too intimidating, and for females some gyms have a women only gym. This is something that is available at Lifestyle Fitness in Canterbury which is a great feature for those who don't want to workout in the main gym.
Make the most of the free induction. Every gym that I have come across offers a free induction. This is normally with a Personal Trainer and is essentially a free first PT session! I'd encourage everyone to take advantage of this rather than skipping it as it can make your first time in the gym by yourself so much easier.
Plan a routine or follow a program. This way, you will hold yourself accountable to finish what you wrote you would do, and you can walk in and just get on with it. Spending 15 minutes wandering around aimlessly just gives you more time to worry about everyone else and get overwhelmed by all the equipment that you don't know how to use.
Go with a friend. Everything is more enjoyable with a friend to share the nervousness with!
Get a good playlist to take your mind off what everyone else thinks and get yourself in the zone.
Choose off peak times of day to start with if possible (usually between 9-5pm. This means the gym will be quieter and you'll have more space to workout, and you won't have to wait for equipment or machines to become free. On the flip side, when the gym is busy you'll have more people around to copy on new machines and show you what to do.
Do a class. This will build your confidence in exercising in general and can be great fun until you're ready to take on the gym floor. Many gyms offer free classes included in the membership.
If the weights section seems impossible to venture into, take the weights to a quiet corner of the gym. As long as you return them you are free to take some dumbbells or a barbell elsewhere to perform your workout.
Ask fitness instructors for advice. There are people employed by gyms who aren't Personal Trainers whose job it is to help newbies and provide advice. They are qualified as Level 2 Fitness Instructors, just not in Personal Training.
Fake it til you make it! As long as you're safe and not in danger of hurting yourself or others, go in with confidence (false or not) and pretend you are comfortable there and it will soon become reality.
Dress the part. This is following on from faking it until you make it. Ever heard the saying 'all the gear but no idea'? This may be true, but having a great gym outfit that you feel good and comfortable in can give you an extra confidence boost.
Remember your why. Why are you there? What do you want to achieve? Keep reminding yourself that you are there for you and this is your time in the day to focus on yourself no matter what anyone else thinks. The fact that you are there in the first place is an achievement, and there is no chance you'll regret it once those post workout endorphins hit.
Keep going! Practice makes perfect and the more you push yourself out of your comfort zone by going to the gym, the easier it will be. Eventually you'll become one of the regulars who you previously found intimidating.
We are so lucky to be able to exercise and access a gym, and it's a privilege for many of us, so to not do so due to a lack of confidence is such a shame. If you haven't been brave enough so far to get into the gym, there's no better time than now to get started, and Sterling Fitness always offers free inductions to get you started. If you still aren't sure, get in touch for some Personal Training sessions and see what a difference it can make.
For more information on Lifestyle Fitness in Canterbury and their ladies only gym, head over to their website and book a free induction with me on your first visit: https://www.lifestylefitness.co.uk/canterbury