A fresh fitness journey comes with a lot of obstacles and curveballs to overcome. One of those obstacles may come before you even step into the gym. Gym intimidation comes in a number of forms and is never pretty, but always normal. Whether you’re not sure where to begin or not where you want to be physically just yet, feeling nervous or uncomfortable in a gym setting is common.
If you’re stuck in the mindset that everyone will be watching you, judging your performance and knowledge, you’re not alone. But it definitely doesn’t have to be that way. The gym can actually be home to a supportive community that may be beneficial to your health and fitness.
Whether it’s lack of knowledge or fear of being alone, read on to find out what might be causing your gym intimidation and how to overcome it. Then, check out our helpful infographic with quick tips for beating gym intimidation at the bottom.
I don’t know what to do.
More likely than not, when you joined your gym you got the grand tour of the place. You know the layout and what it has to offer, but get lost when it comes to what exactly you should do. From cardio to strength training, without a plan, the gym can feel like more like a stressor than stress relief.
Use Aaptiv to guide your workouts. With trainer-led classes for every cardio machine and the weight room, the app will help you exercise confidently as if you had a personal trainer by your side. You’re able to try out different workout styles and figure out what type of exercise you like best. Then you can start to better plan your gym visits. Before you step foot in the gym you should have an idea of what you want to do and how long you want to do it (and, of course, factor in a warm-up and cool-down). This way you know what you’re in for ahead of time and won’t get bored.
I don’t know how to use the machines or weights.
This is especially common for beginners. With all the different machines, weights, and areas of the gym, it’s hard to know exactly how everything works at first. First, if you’re already at the gym and find yourself unsure how to use something, ask an employee. They’re there to help you and keep you safe, which means they know the ins and outs of every machine in the place. Different gyms offer different versions of machines as well, so check with them to see how each specific one works.
Insecure about asking for help? Don’t be! Everybody had to start at somewhere. Who knows, you may even learn something someone too afraid to ask doesn’t know and be able to help them out. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Want to go in with a good idea of how things work? We’ve got you covered. We’ve already gone into detail on each cardio machine. Here’s a quick rundown.
- Treadmill: First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with those buttons (starting with quick start and speed). Once that’s covered and you’re ready to get on, place one leg on each side of the belt, on the rubber strips. Press the quick start button, which will start the treadmill at its slowest speed (0.5 or one, in most cases). Step on the belt and begin walking at this speed, slowly increasing until you’re at a moderate pace. Feeling comfortable? Test higher speeds and put on a treadmill routine (like “Run, Recover, Run”).
- Elliptical: Start with a good grip on the handlebars and step in. The pedals may look huge, but that’s OK! The extra room provides comfort. Align your feet and get into proper form (you know the drill). From there, pick a set of handlebars to hold onto (stationary bars for stabilizing or moving bars for upper body work). Keep a light hold and a bend in the elbows, then get pedaling! Remember to bend your knees slightly as well. Start off at a moderate pace—no incline or resistance. Then pick your routine and work with a smooth pedalling motion.
- Stair Climber: Lightly place your fingertips on the front or side bars. You should actually be able to go without touching the bars at all, but using them for balance (especially as a beginner) is perfectly fine. Step on and check your form. Don’t stand completely straight—that’s overcorrecting. Instead, lean forward just a tad. Now begin at a comfortable, moderate pace (seeing a pattern, here?). Slow down if you find yourself clutching the bars to keep up. Avoid hop-like steps and keep your entire foot on each stair as you walk.
- Indoor Bike: Begin with adjusting your seat height and handlebars. You want your leg to be almost (but not quite) straight when reaching for the pedal at the bottom. As for handlebars, you want to each out to them at shoulder level comfortably. Next, strap your feet in. Then check your form. Chest up, shoulders down, and avoid hunching your back. Adjusted and strapped in? Time to get moving. Ride like you would a normal back, not just with your toes.Start with the ball of your foot and push through to your heel as you press down. Pull up using the top of your foot.
As for weights, we suggest you research how to use each type of weight beforehand. Start off light and stick with weights that are challenging, but not too challenging. Then pay close attention to your Aaptiv coach’s directions. Regardless of the weight routine, he or she will guide you on how to use the equipment correctly.
I feel lonely or singled out.
Walking into a gym by yourself can a strange experience. We definitely recommend enlisting a workout buddy to keep you motivated and accountable. But if no one’s free, try a class. In a class setting, almost everyone’s attention is on the instructor, so you don’t have to worry about being singled out. You also don’t have to worry about not knowing what to do. Unless the instructor performs the same class every week, everyone’s bound to be surprised by a few moves.
Classes can also make you feel more involved or a part of your gym. You may even find some like-minded friends in the mix.
I feel self-conscious.
It’s hard not to feel this way when surrounded by gym-goers more experienced than yourself. Remember, though, everyone starts somewhere. Everyone is there for mostly the same reasons: to work out and focus on themselves. So, there’s little room left for judgment. Turn up the volume on your workout and just focus on what your Aaptiv trainers tell you to do. You’ll forget about everyone else before you even know it.
Overcoming gym intimidation will take time, but, as with any new place, the more you go, the more comfortable you’ll become.