I’ve worked out a lot throughout my life. I’ve also worked out at a lot of different places. Like a “manly” style gym, pilates, yoga, and cardio style group classes. If you can name it, I’ve tried it. Just like dieting ? I’ve also spent the money on a personal trainer a few times in my life.
I’ve felt more comfortable and confident in some settings. And I’ve definitely felt more anxious in other settings. Like people were judging my form. Or my clothes. Thinking things like, “Why is she here?!” You know…classic gym anxiety.
From other women I’ve talked to, this is actually super common.
This blog is a little off topic from what I normally write about. But, because I do help women lose weight, I get asked A LOT about the gym. Specifically, how to feel more confident in the gym.
So, this week’s topic is all about that! But, because this is not an area I specialize in, I tapped the shoulder of my friend and fellow nutritionist, Sarah Petty, MS, CNS. She’s the head nutritionist at Sage Advice Wellness and she’s NASM certified.
Lack of Confidence
One of the biggest reasons women have gym anxiety is because of lack of confidence. This can come from lack of confidence in themselves. But mostly, it comes from not really knowing what to do.
Having a plan is the most important fix for gym anxiety. Sarah says to “choose 3 moves to focus on” or “spend time on your upper or lower body.” She gives an example of focusing on full body moves like a squat, shoulder press, and back extension. Just doing those 3 moves will hit most of the muscles in your body.
A great idea she offers is to list the moves you want to do in the notes section of your phone. Or, if you’re old school like me, you can jot them down on a piece of paper. I use my Apple Watch for tunes in the gym. Or stuff my iPod in my sports bra ? The phone is too distracting for me.
Sarah encourages you to review the moves before you head into the gym. So, you know exactly what you’ll be doing. If you don’t have to think about it, you don’t have time to fret over it.
Unsure Where to Start
I know what you’re thinking…”But I don’t know what moves to do!” Most don’t. It’s okay! Sarah encourages you to start where you’re comfortable. Why not jump on the elliptical, bike or treadmill? You’re getting your feet wet by being inside the gym. Over time, you can branch out to something else.
If you see a new machine, or someone trying something, make a mental note. When you get home, check it out on YouTube. There are great videos that go over form and function. This way, you can get an idea of what a move should look like before giving it a go.
This will also help with feeling like someone is going to come correct your form. Because I’ve had that happen before…and I wanted to die! Sarah encourages you to practice telling them “no, thank you” in your mirror at home.
She offers these individuals likely have their own confidence issues in the gym. Instead of focusing on themselves and feeling insecure, they spend their time assessing others. They feel confident when they can point out incorrect form in someone else. Don’t be rude, but you also don’t owe them anything.
I Want to Crawl into a Cave
Look, not everyone feels comfortable in the gym. And it takes everyone a different amount of time to feel comfortable. I wanted to crawl into a cave the first time I walked into a traditional style “men’s” gym.
If you don’t think you can branch out and try some dumbbells or a new machine, stick with cardio. Sarah says you can get an effective workout by adding intervals to your cardio workout. She offers you can do this by changing your stance on the machine or adding an incline to the treadmill.
Sarah gives the example of starting with a steep incline walking at a slow pace. You do this for a set period of time. Then you drop the incline to 0 and run for 1 minute. Keep repeating this. You’ll get your cardio in AND target some lower body muscle groups.
If you’re on the elliptical, go forward for 5 minutes and then backward for 5. Keep repeating J Sarah says to “go slow and be willing to stop when you’ve reached your limit.” When you’re there, go back to something you’re comfortable with.
Building a Plan
Sarah offers a great resource. She said the Body Positive Fitness Alliance has a digital resource titled, “What Do I Do at the Gym?” It helps you create your own plan so you feel more comfortable when you start working out.
Another option is to start a Pinterest board. You can find workouts or exercises you’d like to try. YouTube them for form and then write them down. Next time you’re at the gym…give it a go.
She says to look for pins using the following search terms:
Functional fitness moves
Full body workouts
She discourages searching for pins like “flat abs now” or “arm blaster 3000.” They tend to overwork a small muscle group and promote injury.
And if you’re motivated to make fitness a part of your total wellness journey, why not get a personal trainer? Like I said, I’ve employed a few in the past and had great experiences with both! If you live in the Fort Worth, TX area, Sarah is a personal trainer at Mindful Mule. A personal trainer can get you on the right path and keep you motivated.
Just remember that everyone moves at a different pace. You could also try going to the gym during “off” hours. Whatever works best for you!
In the comments, let me know on way you gained confidence in the gym.