Overcome Your Fear of the Gym in 3 Steps

Gyms can be intimidating. Each one has its own customs, culture, and rules. There’s new and unfamiliar equipment – machines for pushing, pulling, lifting, rotating, stabilizing, de-stabilizing – it goes on forever.

This can be a lot to handle for someone looking to start a fitness plan, and it’s no surprise that a lot of people are scared off. Here are some tips to help you get past three of the most common reasons people are afraid to go to the gym.


Fear of Judgment: You’re On the Same Team

There are two unfortunate images that people associate with the gym: Muscle shirts and sports bras.

Muscle shirts represent huge, hulking men who lift ridiculous amounts of weight while gulping protein-enhanced water from oversized mixer bottles.

Sports bras represent fitness-obsessed, no-nonsense women who do 45 minutes of cardio, 45 minutes of toning, and whose “rest days” involve two hours of yoga in studios heated to the average temperature of the sun.

I’m not going to tell you that you won’t come across these types of people, but it’s rare, and most importantly, I guarantee they’re not judging you because they’re too concerned with themselves.

The truth is most of the people you see at the gym are simply trying to be healthier. They’re trying to be active and eat right, all while still having a life. Gym communities are about kinship, not judgment. Whenever I make eye contact with someone during a workout, I see encouragement and understanding. There’s a sense that we’re both pushing towards the same thing in our own different way. That’s a source of inspiration, not something to fear.

Fear of Disappointment: Focus on Yourself

Fear of disappointment is really fear of judgment turned outward. It’s the deflating feeling you get when you see someone lift more than you can, run faster than you can, or rock a multicolored headband better than you could in a million years. It is what happens when you forget that your time at the gym is about personal improvement, not imagined competition.

Let me be clear: There are no judges watching your workout, there is no final score for your workout, and there will be no trophies awarded at the end of your workout. What you do at the gym is about you and you alone. If you run a ten minute mile, that’s what your body can handle. Stick with it and you’ll see your times decrease. Focus only on your progress, and block out everybody else. Workout disappointment will become a thing of the past.

Fear of Failure: Think About Your Success

This is probably the most common fear of the gym people have, ironically because of the fitness industry itself. Spend some time watching fitness commercials and you’ll see what I mean: It’s nothing but chiseled abs, tight butts, and perfectly toned arms and legs. This makes perfect sense from a business perspective, but it makes you forget that you actually have to put in the work.

Spend enough time looking at someone else’s perfect body, and it’s easy to think that your own workouts have failed you.

What you should be thinking is that your workouts have made you a healthier person. You should be thinking that you’re stronger than you were when you started. You should recognize that you’re sleeping better, and that your mood has improved. And you should definitely be thinking that you look pretty good, and if you stick with the program, you’ll look even better.

The key is to keep your goals in proper perspective. Prioritize progress over results. Long-term goals can serve as motivation, but short-term goals should be your focus. Wanting to look like a fitness model is a long-term result. Working daily to improve endurance, strength, and flexibility is short-term progression.

Focus on the short-term, and one day you’ll look in the mirror and realize you could star in your own fitness commercial. Focus on progression, and you’ll see that there is no failure when you’re always building towards success.

The Takeaway

Gyms can be intimidating, but if you focus on your progress and health, and realize that other members are all working toward the same goal, you’ll be able to get over your fear of the gym in no time.


jose floresJose Flores is a freelance writer from suburban Chicago. His interests include fitness, food, sports, and video games.

Photo by Ericmcgregor

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