5 ways to conquer ‘gymxiety’ (and smash your fitness goals)

Don’t let ‘gymxiety’ derail your fitness goals. If the idea of working out in front of others makes you sweat (and not in a good way), try these tips.

For some, going to the gym is less about getting an endorphin rush and more about navigating feelings of anxiety, aka “gymxiety”.

From the sometimes hard-to-decipher equipment to coping with self-consciousness about your appearance and working your way through an entirely new environment, the gym can be an intimidating place.

If this sounds familiar, here are some strategies that may help transform your relationship with the gym.

5 effective ways to conquer ‘gymxiety’

Go with a friend

As they say, there’s safety in numbers.

If you feel anxious or a little self-conscious about working out on your own, see if you can enlist a friend to be your gym buddy.

“In my experience, finding something to do with your peers has a greater impact on adherence than any other factor,” exercise scientist and Community Moves founder Van Marinos says.

An added bonus of teaming up with a friend? You may find yourself getting more from a workout.

A US study found that exercise can be “socially contagious” and that friends can influence a person’s exercise routine, often inspiring them to not only exercise, but also to train harder when they do.

Opt for quieter times

If the idea of working out in a packed gym in front of other gym-goers makes you nervous, try to go when it’s less busy.

“If your schedule allows it, I’d recommend starting during off-peak hours,” Vitruvian head trainer Wiebke Hensen says.

Often, rush hour at the gym is right before work, at lunchtime or straight after work so if you can, try to go earlier or later in the day to beat the crowds.

Enlist the help of a trainer

Walking into a gym and being faced with endless rows of equipment that you have no idea how to use can be a scary prospect.

It’s made even more so by the fear that if you do give it a go and don’t do it correctly, you may be left feeling a little embarrassed.

So, consider enlisting the help of a trainer or one of the gym staff to get you started.

“A good coach ensures you know how to use the equipment properly and teaches you the correct techniques,” Wiebke says.

“As we all know, knowledge breeds confidence – once you learn how to perform exercises correctly and safely, you’ll likely feel much more comfortable going to the gym on your own.”

Road-test different places

With the plethora of gym options available, it’s totally possible to find a place that makes you feel welcome and at ease.

Whether you are in your 60s, love boxing or would prefer a women-only environment, there are gyms that cater to those needs.

Van suggests taking advantage of trial periods or signing up for a non-contract membership so you can check out a gym before you commit, or have the flexibility to leave if you don’t think it’s the right fit.

He says it’s important to find your tribe.

“We are social creatures, and there are many gyms and exercise services that offer different environments,” Van says.

“If the one you currently attend is filled with people who intimidate you and don’t complement your social needs, try somewhere else – find something that meets your needs physically, mentally and socially.”

Try to focus on you

If you feel a little self-conscious at the gym, Wiebke says it’s crucial to remember you’re at the gym for yourself and to remind yourself of the benefits working out brings.

As far as possible, try to focus on that rather than on what you think others are thinking of you.

“Most people at the gym are focused on their own workouts, often too absorbed in their routines to pay much attention to anyone else,” Wiebke says.

“In my five years of regular gym visits, I recall only one instance where someone approached me to comment on my lifting technique – and it turned out to be a positive and helpful interaction.

“This experience highlights how rare it is for others to critically observe you, reinforcing the idea that your gym time should be about your personal fitness journey, not about the perceptions of those around you.”

Also remember that, at some stage, all of your fellow gym-goers were exactly where you are now: feeling slightly nervous, a little anxious about the unknown but ready to embark on their fitness journey.

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Written by Tania Gomez