9 Ways to Fight Gym-timidation and Feel Confident in The Gym

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Image source: Victoria's Secret

I was 17 years old when I first stepped into a real gym.  I had been to the Y before for kickboxing class, but I mean a real free weights room without instructions.  

I didn't know much about fitness, but it seemed like a step in the right direction. I figured I would learn one way or another, right?

On my very first workout I felt self-conscious and couldn't figure out how the machines worked. I couldn't remember any exercises so I gave up on the weights and ended up in the cardio room. To overcompensate I tried to run way too fast on the treadmill and flew off of it and into the wall behind me. Yes, that happened.

It scared me off for a while, but I went back. My next encounter with the weight room was slightly less uncomfortable, but I still didn't recognize any faces, the equipment was still confusing to me and I couldn't afford to hire a personal trainer. I kept going until I got comfortable enough to start chatting with people, but it wasn't until I befriended a personal trainer who later became my workout buddy (and inspired me to become a personal trainer as well) that I really learned to lift, and train different parts of my body for the look I wanted to have. I learned to be competitive with myself, but for that first I needed to gain confidence that I knew what I was doing.

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered throughout the years that helped me build my confidence in the gym, and kept me motivated, confident, and most importantly, consistent!   

Choose the right time of the day to go

It sounds simple, but it's important. Do you remember that time you tried working out at 6pm and found yourself in Meathead-landia?  Ugh, me too.  I hated it. But there are ways to avoid it and have a little more privacy to figure out the equipment.

Here's the scoop: Typical members try to get their workouts in between 6-10 am and then again between 5-8 pm.  These hours vary from gym to gym, but you can inquired what the heavy traffic hours are and avoid them. The "dead hours" are usually 1-4PM, when people go back to work and trainers take their breaks. If you can , go during those times and you will have a much less stressful experience. 

Practice the exercises at home

This requires a little research, but it's worth it.  Find an informative and reputable site and get some insight as far as targeting specific muscle groups, proper form, and injury prevention.  Personally, not knowing proper body mechanics was the scariest part!

Back in the day I didn't have access to all the resources we currently have available.  I would just look around for someone who appeared to know what they were doing, and copy them. Today it is much easier, and all you have to do is a little googling. 

Have a plan, and a backup plan

Don't just walk in to the weight room expecting to wing it and get a good training session out of it. Write out 4-6 exercises in a rotating system (anchored by 15 mins of warm ups/stretching and 20 minutes of cardio), and follow the plan.

But what happens if today was going to be chest day but you only know a few exercises and the machines you want are taken?  Lacking  proper preparation will trigger insecurity and could potentially send you back home or to the cardio room you've been trying to escape. An alternative plan will increase the likelihood of having a fruitful workout in the event that things don't go the way you planned.  

Make the greatest playlist of all time

This is serious. You need music that makes you want to dance in public, fades the noise, and makes you feel pumped. Listen, we all love Adele, but she just doesn't do it for me at the gym.  Create a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs, and get yourself pumped in the car on the way there. I prefer a jam session to any pre-workout drink.  

Get a great workout outfit you feel cute in

There's something about a cute, new, gym outfit. High-waisted thick leggings are super flattering and a confidence booster. Crop tops can be functional and cute, and a pair of new Adidas will definitely give you a pep in your step. Choose good quality articles (I love Lululemon and ALO because their items last fore-EVER) that make you feel good and that you'll happily wear over and over. Make a special section of your close just for gym clothes, and organize them like a store so you always have something to wear. This seems like too much effort, but I promise: It works like magic! 

Be friendly

If you're already feeling like you don't belong, you probably have resting b*tch just by default (or is that just me?). Make yourself aware of this and do your best to surpass feeling out of place. Remember, everyone there had to go for the first time too, and over time it will start to feel like home to you, too.  You don't need to start up conversations, but start but nodding to someone you see every time you go in. Say hi to the girl always next to you, or compliment someone on their form or their cute shoes. Taking control of the situation will help you feel empowered and less out of place.

Bring a wingman

This one works great, but the key is to make sure whoever you bring along means business and wants to work as hard as you, or it's a waste of time  Having a buddy is awesome when you're just getting started, and going with someone more advances can really help you hit some serious numbers when it comes to personal goals. You may need to try working out with a few different types of people before you find "the one".  

Remember, they aren’t looking at you

While it may feel like everyone knows you're new and is watching your ever move, the reality is.... they don't care! They aren't looking at you. Speaking from experience, they are so focused on their own workout and not noticing much else around them. Unless you are swinging from a bar making animal noises, no one really cares what you're doing. 

Ask for help

If there's one thing you should take from this article, it’s that you shouldn't be afraid to ask for assistance.  Read the directions thoroughly if you're not familiar with the equipment you're about to use!  If you still don't get it, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Bad form and a sense of ego are a bad combo for someone starting out.  

One bad movement could lead to days of stiffness, pain, and in some cases, permanent damage. It’s important to understand how the equipment works, and clarify when it's unclear. Even for seasoned gym-goers, there is always new equipment in the weight room we have to figure out, so don't feel weird asking because people are always happy to help out. 

Being a newbie or starting back up is hard!  Even with proper guidance, the initial period can be frustrating.  Especially when you start comparing your progress to those who have been doing it for years. Being consistent and having a good attitude will go a long way.  Set personal goals, which are reasonably attainable.  Ultimately, your truest motivator should be increasing your quality of life and feeling better about yourself!