7 Tips to Deal with Gym Intimidation


When I first began my wellness + weight loss journey, almost 8 years ago, I actually waited almost three months before incorporating a workout routine into my lifestyle change. Why? Because I hated working out, I hated going to a gym filled with really fit people, I hated being super sweaty and “gross” feeling in front of so many strangers, and I ultimately didn’t want to have to shower and do my hair afterward either. But I knew once I hit my first weight loss plateau that I was going to have to begin a workout regime. But I literally didn’t even know where to begin.

I grew up swimming competitively year-round, basically my entire life, from when I was able to swim until my senior year of high school. I would wake up at ungodly hours to practice and I never really enjoyed it but at least I was active. However, when I got to college all thoughts of working out, swimming, weightlifting, or anything of a sweat-inducing nature was out of the question, unless it was dancing the night away at a frat party.

By the time I was ready to lose weight and join a gym, it had been years since I had been in one. I was extremely overweight still, even 3 months into my journey, and I was terrified but I did it anyway and I’m so unbelievably glad I did. And now almost 8 years later, I love going to workout, I even look forward to it! I will say I still have some fear when entering a new to me gym or boutique fitness studio but with the tips I’m sharing below I’ve learned to cope + deal with those feelings and am so grateful every time I push myself out of my comfort zone.

If you’re reading this wondering if you’ll ever be able to feel comfortable in a gym setting and move past the fear and intimidation, I’m here to tell you it’s 100% possible! I’m so excited to share my top 7 tips to deal with gym intimidation to help you move past your fears of the gym and to get in there and do your thing, no matter what!

1. Hire a Personal Trainer : When I joined my very first gym almost eight years ago, I also decided to purchase personal training sessions because I had no clue what to do in the gym. In my swimming days, we had “weightlifting day” and “dry land days” where we would do cross training but it had been so long I had no idea what types of workouts to do or what the machines even did in the gym. Most gyms these days offer a personal training session when you sign up. I highly recommend taking them up on this and even hiring a trainer for a month or two to learn the ropes of the gym and to have them write down some workouts for you. Not only will this help you feel more comfortable working your way around the gym but you will have a guide with you the entire time, helping you to make sure your form is perfect and that you’re comfortable with what you’re doing in the gym.

2. Bring a Gym Buddy

This is a huge game changer. I was so lucky to have one of my best friends in the entire world ask me about a million times to go to the gym with her, even though I would say no almost every single time, one day I decided to say YES and it changed my life. I worked out with her most days of the week and I was also very lucky to have my mom join me in a lot of my workouts! When I moved out to LA and didn’t have many friends I would go to workout events and meet other like-minded women and finally found my workout tribe in LA too. There are tons and tons of women and men looking to work towards the same goals, find those people and hang on tight! Having a buddy helps make things less stressful in the gym and it’s always fun to have someone to talk to or to ask questions without any judgment. So if you have a friend who asks you constantly to join them for spin class or to lift weights at the gym, try saying YES just once and see what might happen! You never know you might just love it and it could change your life.

3. Tune Inward & Tune Everyone Else Out

In all likelihood, people will probably look at you in the gym, but my best advice ever is to purchase some amazing headphones and put them on you before you even walk into the gym. As soon as you sign in, hit play on your favorite playlist and begin to tune everyone else out and focus on why you showed up in the first place! One of my favorite pairs of wireless headphones is the Plantronics Backbeat Fit 300 series, which is what I’m wearing below! They are wireless and have amazing sound quality and stay in my ears without slipping out, even when the sweat starts pouring off me!

4. Get Used to the Fact that People Will Look at You, But It’s Not Always a Bad Thing :  I have this really specific memory of working out with my first trainer, I had finally built up some strength and I was seeing the pounds fly off again, and he tied me up to a bunch of resistance bands and had me bear crawling out in the very center of the gym and I just remember being so focused all I could see was the point I was suppose to be reaching out towards each time and nothing else. I wasn’t aware of anyone else even in the gym. When I was done with my session, a guy came up to me and told me that he had been watching me the last couple of weeks and had noticed a change in me. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe a stranger would admit he was watching me at the gym but then I realized when you’re on those cardio machines what else is there to look at and I ended up taking it as a compliment. People LOVE to people watch so just get used to the fact that it might happen and come to terms with it! Keep your goals in mind and focus on what you came into the gym to do and you won’t even notice them starring!

5. Remember it was Once Everyone’s First Day at the Gym at Some Point : Yep, that’s right everyone already in the gym had to also have their first time joining a gym and walking in feeling probably exactly how you feel. No one is born knowing how to do the gym correctly. You live and you learn and you also fake it until you make it just a little bit. That’s how life goes. You have to go into space with a positive mindset and be willing and ready to learn and to accept you’re new in this space and that you won’t know everything immediately! It takes time to feel confident going to a gym but with time it will come!

6. Sign Up for a Workout Class : I LOVE group fitness classes at the gym or boutique fitness classes because all you had to do is show up and there are other women (mostly) surrounding you all doing the same things and you don’t have to guess what exercises to do because a well trained professional is guiding you through the entire workout. If it’s your first time trying the class grab a spot in the back and watch the others and learn something new! Class environments are amazing because of the energy in the room and most of the time classes are super welcoming and the instructors are usually amazing at welcoming new students to get them comfortable! So try out a class at your gym to see how you like it and to help acclimate you to your new gym.

7. Remember Your Why : If all else fails, and you still are feeling major gym intimidation all you need to do is think about your WHY. Why did you want to join the gym in the first place? Why do you want to workout or to sweat? Your WHY will get you so far on this journey. It’s something I always have in the back of my mind fueling my inner fire to always continue to be the best version of myself I can be!

I would love to hear your thoughts on gym intimidation and how you cope + deal with it below and as always let me know if you found these tips helpful! Ultimately you just have to push yourself out of your comfort zone a bit and lean into your fears to grow and be able to accomplish your goals!

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Article and images by Britney Vest. You can view more content by Britney on her blog fittybritttty.com and on her Instagram here.

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  1. This article is SO SO good!!! And exactly what I needed. I hit up a new gym every 3 months or so due to my husband’s job keeping us on the move… and I hate it 😂😂😂 mostly because every time we move I have to go through the process once again of getting to know new machines, new people, new workout spaces. But slowly and surely I’m figuring out there are always people around who you can ask questions, get help, and most importantly you can get in a good sweat sesh in basically anywhere!!!