This is something several of my clients and friends bring up and one I am sure many people can relate to. It doesn’t matter how long you have been going to the gym, it is like anything, operating outside of your comfort zone or trying new things is sometimes intimidating especially if the ‘gym bros’ are smashing up the weight section…
I have spoken to several people before writing this to get some different insights and perspectives so hopefully it can be as relatable as possible. If anyone has any more thoughts, comments or opinions I would love to hear them as I feel really strongly that the gym should be a comfortable place for people to be, regardless of current situations, challenges and journeys. None of the below is ground breaking but even you take 1 or 2 points away which might help, that is a good thing.
Setting yourself up for success
Feeling confident before you go in
This is a good place to start. A lot of this is about mindset and a little bit of planning can go a long way in how you feel once you are in the gym. Go in with a plan, feeling confident and ready to smash a session. Even if you don’t feel confident, act it, as you might in other situations – this goes a long way.
What you wear
Being comfortable is really important. Everyone is 100% not looking at you but it is easy for it to feel that way and feeling uncomfortable or wearing something that isn’t conducive to just getting in and getting it done doesn’t help this feeling. This is totally individual but don’t wear ‘fashion’ type gym wear if you are planning on a serious sweat sesh as it isn’t built for that and don’t wear a baggy t-shirt if you are doing things like mountain climbers where you are constantly having to pull it down.
Having a routine AND a back up
Having a routine is key – it gives you a plan and a focus to take your mind off everything else. Be clear on what this is before you go in, the equipment you need and where the machines are you want to use. Also have a back up, especially if you are going at a busy time – exercises you can switch up if equipment or machines aren’t available when you need them. This way you won’t find yourself mindlessly walking around, feeling like you are that person who doesn’t know what they are doing and will come up feeling like you have achieved something, raring to go for the next session.
Getting in a corner and cracking on
Depending on what your workout looks like, sometimes this is a good option. Grab everything you need, find a corner and crack on. Sometimes, having your own space makes you feel safer rather than trying out a new exercise right in the middle of the gym floor feeling like everyone is watching.
Things that take your mind off what other people are thinking / looking at leaving you to get on with your own thing are helpful. Have a good playlist at the ready, make sure your headphones are gym appropriate or get a Netflix show on when you are doing cardio so your focus is on something else.
Take a friend
Sometimes it helps to have someone by your side especially if you are trying something new for the first time. Make sure you take time to arrange a trip with your mate.
Searching for the right environment
Whilst these things might help with what you think is happening i.e. feeling conscious because people are looking or wondering why you are doing what you are doing or you are generally feeling out of your depth – some environments just aren’t right for certain people regardless.
The work gym
Whilst the work gym is convenient for lots of people, it is also full of your colleagues. If this doesn’t bother you- great. If however it is stopping you from performing to your maximum or trying out new things – consider a change. Find an alternative nearby or on your way to work instead and see if work will subsidise it.
People you know
If you are not one of those people who enjoys socialising at the gym and just wants to get in and get it done, make sure your gym allows that. Going to one close to home where you bump into people you don’t want to or one where everyone is sat around chatting on the machines may not be right for you.
The time of day
Sometimes our schedule means we get in when we can and thats that. If however, you are trying something new that needs a bit more time or certain machines or equipment that is usually taken when you go, consider switching timings up. If the mornings are full of gym bunnies who hog the weights read and make you feel conscious, try lunch time. Whatever it is, consider if it is helping you reach your goals.
Trendy gyms are great and often offer up some weird and wonderful classes, state of the art machines and luxury changing facilities. That said, some of them come with a type, a clique or an unwelcoming atmosphere – why subject yourself to this if it makes you uncomfortable?
Focus on you
This is much easier said than done, however, gym confidence is all about mindset. Focus on you and you alone. Don’t worry about the person next to you lifting double the weight, you have as much right to be in the same section getting your own work out in. Everyone’s journey is relative and everyone is in the gym to make progress. All the above should help with this.
In summary, ultimately we are all equals and whilst the gym can be an intimidating place, it really shouldn’t be. Make sure you have the right environment for you, focus on you, have a plan and use distractions if needed. You have as much right to be there as anyone else and if someone or something is making you feel otherwise and it can’t be overcome, move gyms. Confidence grows over time and it might just a case of smashing those first few sessions to make any fears you have go away.