Conquering Gym-timidation: 5 Steps to Get Out of Your Own Way

Do you feel a little uneasy walking into the gym? Does it feel unnatural to take ownership over the weights section? Well, guess what?

Me too. And I am a trainer for fox sake!

I call it “gym-timidation.”

As I walk up to the bar to lift, I still usually get little butterflies. It’s equal parts excitement and equal parts adrenaline.

But in the past, it was straight nerves stemming from insecurity. I felt like I had suddenly stepped onstage and it was just me, under a spotlight, and I was sure everyone in the gym was watching me now and I better not mess up or, God forbid, have trouble loading the bar (#worstfear). Because if I do, everyone will point and laugh and think I’m not strong enough or good enough or worthy enough because I’m just a little girl and little girls don’t have any business lifting barbells.

Whew. What an elaborate story I used to create for myself. And also, how exhausting.  Amiright? One day, I realized I’d much rather spend that thought, emotion, and energy on actually lifting instead of worrying what everyone else was thinking.

But how do we get to that point? How do we get out of our own heads?

Here are five things I remind myself of to combat “gym-timidation.”

1. I’M ORGANIZED

I come to the gym with a plan. ALWAYS. I keep a notebook in my gym bag and I write down exercises that I plan on doing, scout out the equipment I need, and then get after it. It makes me feel more confident and allows me to navigate the gym with purpose.

2. I’M NOT ALONE

I take a breath. And I think, wait a minute, I’m not alone in this. If I’m feeling this way, there’s got to be at least one other person experiencing the same fear.

While there are specific fears that I experience when approaching a Globo gym because I’m female, guess what? Gym-timidation doesn’t discriminate. Walking into the gym can be equally daunting for both men and women.

It’s humbling to remember that we all get scared sometimes, men and women, buff or slender, we all experience fear. We all create stories from time to time that hold us back from our fullest potential.

3. I’M NOT BEING JUDGED

I also remind myself that, hello, this is just a workout. At the end of the day, it’s actually not that deep, and no one actually really cares.

Our ego has a tendency to get in the way, but when we quiet that ego we realize, whoa, wait a minute, everyone else is busy worrying about their workouts, not mine!

No one is critiquing me, and if anyone is watching, it’s probably out of intrigue: “How much is she lifting?  Where’d she learn to squat?  What brand are her shorts?”

Your ego can be a tricky little trickster, making you super self-aware. But remember, everyone else is busy with their own workout and also probably busy worrying about what YOU are thinking about THEM.

Or, could just be your spotter…

4. I’M CONFIDENT (EVEN IF I DON’T FEEL THAT WAY)

The more you inhabit your space with confidence, the less scary it will feel. I PROMISE.

Practice being big. Stand tall. Proud chest. It is scientifically proven that the way you hold yourself, the way you take up space in the world will influence how you feel about yourself and how you interact with others.

Stand as if you were a person filled with confidence who knows how to navigate the gym like a boss, and guess what? You will start to feel confident. Scientifically proven.

5. I’M LITERALLY NOT ALONE.

Having a workout buddy is a fantastic way to help assuage fears especially in the beginning of any new program, because #powerinnumbers! I personally feel more confident to try something new if I have someone to accompany me.

And in the event that something hilarious happens (you fall from the pull-up bar, for example, or go flying from the treadmill) you have someone to share in the laughter.

Friends who jog in expensive sunglasses together burn more calories*.

Moral of the story: bring a plan, bring a friend, check your ego, and lift like a confident person would. And pretty soon, you’ll be owning the gym like a boss.

*not backed by scientific research.

A version of this article originally appeared on E. Stace’s fetch UpStrength Fitness blog in October 2016.


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Elizabeth Stacey is a Certified Functional Strength and Conditioning Coach, former Ninja Trainer, and creator of Upstrength Fitness. She trains clients online, one-on-one, and in groups from her home in Orlando, FL. She’s also a StrongFirst Certified Kettlebell Instructor and a marathon finisher. You can find her online, on Instagram, and on Facebook at Upstrength Fitness.

  • LearningToBreathe

    Elizabeth, this is so good! For the most part, I’m pretty secure and know my way around a gym. However, I absolutely suck at skipping in place. SSSUUUCCCKKK!!! I HATE IT. MFF is the only place that brings this into my life. I always feel like an uncoordinated moron. I make a promise here to dive into the suck and win out over the fear and become the best skipper-in-place ever.

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