So you just Google searched how you’re scared of going to the gym. It’s good that you’ve happened upon this article, as I too have struggled with this quite heavily in the past. Nowadays the gym is my safe space; I could fall asleep on one of the machines if I wanted to. I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you want to wake up to a “gym bro” tapping you on the shoulder.
You probably already know this, but what you’re experiencing is a form of anxiety. The fear of being judged, looking stupid, not knowing what to do, etc. It’s a bit rare to find a person who has never been to the gym before just waltz in there without giving a crap and just wing it. Even the most extroverted public speaking wizard is most likely going to feel a little anxiety during their gym debut. Everyone has the same thoughts as you in the beginning. That doesn’t really help you very much though, so let me dump some gym bro and fellow anxiety-ridden human wisdom upon you.
How to Become Less Scared of Going to the Gym
Let’s break this down into multiple different tactics. We’ll first talk about the psychology behind being scared to go to the gym. Why are you afraid to make the leap? What are the other humans around you actually thinking about other people at the gym? Are you afraid of appearing lost, dazed and confused? Should you even worry about any of these things at all?
Second, we’ll get to the part where I’ll give you a whole lot of specific pointers and tips that you can do to minimize your anxiety on that day you push yourself to go to the gym. Because you probably know the reasons why you’re so scared of going to the gym. You just want to know what you should do. But I do think it’s important to work on your mindset and mentality about this. You might even be under some false impressions that we can clear up pretty quickly as well.
Will People Judge you at the Gym & Should you Care
One of the reasons you’re scared of going to the gym might be because you’re afraid that others will stare at you and judge you as you do your thing. You can’t stop people from having certain thoughts. I know that you already know this, it’s just common sense. Some people are quietly judging you at the gym as they sit there between sets or something about you just catches their eye. If someone tells you that no one judges you at the gym, then they’re just straight up lying to you. I know this for a fact because I’m guilty of silently passing judgement on rare occasions.
I’m guilty of judging people without intending to, my purpose is not to make another person feel bad about themselves. It just happens sometimes. For example, a few days ago I observed another human who was taking exceptionally long breaks in-between his sets. I thought to myself that if he wanted a more effective workout then why the heck was he staring at his phone for five minutes between sets.
You shouldn’t give a rat’s behind about the existence of this unpreventable phenomenon. What you don’t know can’t and shouldn’t hurt you. Focus on yourself and yourself only as best you can at the gym. For me, everyone else at the gym is an NPC and I’m the main character. It wasn’t always like that, it takes a lot of practice. You might have to attend the gym thirty times before you stop caring about what other people are thinking. I’ve been on and off anxiety medication for years because of severe social anxiety disorder. I’m off any medication now for personal reasons, but I’m just trying to tell you that if I can do it then you can definitely become less scared of going to the gym.
Ninety-six percent of people at the gym are not judging you, keep that in the forefront of your mind. Of course, I don’t have any concrete evidence to back that claim up. But I’ve spent countless hours in the gym and I know that the vast majority of people are simply there for the gains and couldn’t care less about anyone else. Will you die if someone were to judge your form, physical appearance, the amount of time you take on a machine, etc. No. Will someone even speak to you about any of these things? Ninety-nine percent of the time no one will ever even approach you with the intention of speaking to you at the gym. I go months at a time without anyone saying a word to me, and when someone does, it’s from the staff telling me to have a good one as I exit the building.
What if you’re objectively fat? Should you be more scared of going to the gym than your less-hefty human counterparts? No, you should be at the gym at the soonest chance you get. Sometimes I do notice a larger person at the gym and I think nothing of it at all except maybe “good for them”, then go about my anime-filled thoughts. And as a big person, you will see results very quickly, and results are an addicting drug without the negative side effects. It’s all 100% positive changes and improvements to not just your physical appearance, but your daily life.
Think of why you’re even thinking about going to the gym in the first place. Maybe your spouse gave you an ultimatum, or you looked in the mirror for the first time in three years and were shocked at what stood before you. And then think of your most revered superhero or main character. Would they be scared of going to the gym? They would never be afraid of something so trivial. Everyone is human and no one is more or less than another.
Lessen your Anxiety Surrounding the Gym
All of that being said, you will still feel anxious when you show up at the gym. If you’re an anxious person, a lot of the time words barely help you. That’s why I’ll give you some real advice you can apply in order to feel less scared of going to the gym on that first time; and subsequent gym attendances.
- Go with a gym partner: This point might not be possible if you have no friends or family who’re willing to hit the gym with you. But if you do have someone like that, it can be a game changer. You will feel a huge burden lifted off of you and suddenly you won’t care as much about the random people around you. Huge bonus if this gym partner is a gym bro/gym gal, or gym veteran. Or if they’re a noob like yourself, it’s reassuring to feel dumb with someone else than to feel dumb alone.
- Research the Exercise Form Beforehand: I know that one of the things I was concerned about back when I was a twig was not knowing how to perform the exercises properly. Therefore, I would stick out like a sore thumb and people would laugh at me. This was all in my head, of course. People don’t really give a crap what you’re doing in your little bubble. In order to less your anxiety about these false realities it will do you good to head over to YouTube and learn the proper form for the exercises that you’ll be doing from your workout plan.
- Have a Workout Plan: I would not recommend that you just show up to the gym and wing it. You should have a workout regimen already planned out ahead of time; especially if you’re scared of going to the gym. For someone who has never spent any time in the gym before, I would recommend doing a full-body workout plan, such as the 5×5. The 5×5 workout is perfect for beginners because it builds that foundation that your body currently does not have. All the exercixes inside of the 5×5 plan are simple and extremely effective. Check it out here.
- Bring Your Phone and Earbuds: If you aren’t able to scrounge up a gym partner to go with, your smartphone is your best friend in the gym. You will want your phone in the gym for many reasons. One of the obvious reasons is for music to give you extra motivation and put you in a better mood. Another reason is in case you have a brain fart and forget how to properly perform an exercise you can quickly pull up a tutorial video. Having a phone to look at can also lessen anxiety in the sense that it is a familiar object and it allows you to be busy. It can be easy to feel lost and confused in the gym during your first few trips.
- Remember the Location of Machines: You should walk around the inside of the gym and remember the locations of the machines as best you can before you begin actually working out. You could do this the same day you lift, or even the day before. The point is that it’ll give you a little more confidence when it comes time to workout. You won’t have to worry as much about where the heck you’re supposed to go next and then wander around while being attacked by anxiety.
- Go During Slower Hours: This is a huge one for a couple of reasons. Less people equals less eyes on you. This helps many anxiety-brained people. Sometimes more people are better for anxiety, but when it comes to the gym it helps when the population is scarce and there’s much less craziness. When there are less people at the gym that means that more machines will be free. If you aren’t worrying as much about whether your machines are free or not you’ll be better off.
- IMPORTANT EXTRAS: Wear clean and stank-free clothing. You’re already stressed about the unexplored sweat-factory that is the gym, the last thing you want to worry about is if people around you are getting their nose hairs burned off because you skipped laundry day. A man came up to me in the gym before and told me “you gotta go man” while holding his nose because I picked some shorts out of my dirty laundry pile. What you might think is “good enough” can be absolutely vile for other people. Or if you want to use that as your tactic, make everyone else scared of going to the gym because it smells too bad, that’s good too. If you are confused about something, take a walk to the water fountain to use the time to think. If someone is on the machine you must use then you can hop on a treadmill facing the machine and walk until they leave.
Take what you’ve read here (if you’ve read up to this point I’ll invite you to Thanksgiving) and head to the gym. If you’re still scared of going to the gym, which you most likely are, that’s fine. Just know that it’s not that serious and that we’re all going to die someday. Don’t let your fears control your fate. Comment down below your thoughts and even some progress pictures.
If you aren’t sure which gym to attend I’d recommend Planet Fitness. If someone came to me telling me they’re scared of going to the gym that’s the direction I’d point em’.