7 Ways To Overcome Gym Intimidation… (Number 2 Is My Favourite)
A gym membership can change your life. If you use it. I had to learn to overcome gym intimidation when I started training to be able to get results and make the most of my membership…
Like anything, there are a few tips and tricks to getting the most from your membership. As a woman on the gym floor, a lot of the time we’re a minority. And if you’re a newbie, the fear of looking stupid and being intimated by the atmosphere can make training with free weights a really confronting experience.
But don’t give your fears too much credibility. We all look stupid sometimes and if that’s honestly the worst thing that happens to you, well done. Making a fool of yourself on occasion isn’t fatal or life threatening. And if it happens, your worst fears will be realised and the only way is up.
Remember, you have as much right to take up space as anyone else so don’t feel like you shouldn’t be there. And from my years of instruction on the gym floor, I can guarantee most of the folks working out are so busy checking themselves out in the mirror, they won’t even notice you. If they do notice you, you have an opportunity to show them women enjoy challenging themselves by training with weights too. Every time a woman does this, we get to defy the patronising stereotypes that still exist around women and fitness. Go for it!
These are the 7 lessons I’ve learnt that anyone can replicate!
- Signing up. Always sign up for any membership at the end of the month. Like any sales based company, budgets roll from month beginning to month end. At the end of the month, you have the power to ask for more and the gym is more flexible as everyone is working to make their budget. For example – paying for 12 months upfront? Ask for a bonus three months for free. You may not get them – but you won’t know if you don’t ask. Paying month to month? Again – ask for free months and NEVER pay a joining fee – this is a fee for the sake of having a fee. Refuse. Get up and start walking if they won’t come to the table.
- Make a plan to get to training – make it 2 – 3 times per week so it’s achievable, you succeed at what you have planned and you create a sustainable habit. The psychological payback for a reaching your goal is increased confidence and motivation – it doesn’t matter how big or small that goal is. I’m also going to recommend making one of your gym visit times on the weekend – it’s quieter and far less intimidating. Avoid peak times where possible if you want to be left alone – 24 hour gyms are great for this.
- Don’t let fear of what others think of you stop you from doing what you want to do. Once you get onto the gym floor, after a cursory glance at you, all you’ll notice is the overwhelming majority of folks are simply looking at themselves. You’ll have to do this too – you need to make sure your form is correct, and you can’t do that without a mirror. Fear is a liar – you imagine all sorts of weird and wonderful scenarios that never eventuate. Challenge your fears by doing what scares you.
- Avoiding the gym because you’re worried about what people think of you doesn’t solve anything. Firstly, avoiding a situation only makes it harder – every avoidance gives rise to even more fears. So just go train. Meet someone there if you have to. Or fill your head with your favourite tunes to keep yourself distracted. But go – because the best way to improve your confidence is to have a win! And you win when you do the difficult things or challenge yourself to do what you fear. You absolutely can do this. I recommend tricking yourself into it if you have to. Promise yourself you’ll go and if you don’t feel better within 15 minutes of training, you’ll leave. You’ll stay (I promise the hardest part is sometimes just getting there).
- Follow your training plan – using your workout app – keep yourself busy by tracking what you’re doing. You don’t have to make eye contact or engage with anyone then if you don’t want to. Keep your headphones in and your phone nearby so you have something else to focus on apart from your immediate environment. As you get more and more confident, you won’t need to do this.
- Be aware of how awesome you feel after you complete your session. This is what you focus on when you’re trying to step onto the gym floor. You know you’ll feel great afterwards, and you’ll have an achievement under your belt (a psychological motivator)! Your brain loves it when you accomplish something so it rewards you with lots of feel good rewards like dopamine.
- Remember: Everyone who goes to the gym was once a beginner. I bet when you go, you won’t be the only one there who is just starting. Remind yourself that people don’t go to the gym because they are fit, they go to get fit – same as you. A lot of the fears concerning gym intimidation are really in your head. Training takes concentration and commitment, leaving very little time to spend the whole period there looking around and judging people.
And lastly, think back to a time where you had to overcome something really difficult and challenging. What skills did you use? What was your game plan? How did you overcome your problem and what did you learn about yourself? What skills from that situation can you use to help you get comfortable at your new gym?
Give yourself credit. You are a remarkable, resilient individual who has focused on making a lasting positive change. Remember that!
Do you have any other tips? What do you think the best change you could make would be? Let me know in the comments below.
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Also published on Medium.