How to never feel intimidated at the gym again

4 in 10 Canadians are intimidated by going to the gym. I am one of them. I do have a GoodLife Fitness gym membership and I do go regularly because I’ve been able to overcome many of my gym fears.

But to be completely honest, the intimidation is sometimes still there. If I skip even one workout or two, the old fears start creeping back into my mind and I have to squash them again.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with gym intimidation, so I think it’s helpful to outline the strategies I’ve used to keep it in check. Here are the best ones I’ve come up with so far: 

1. I constantly remind myself that people aren’t watching

This is one of the biggest reasons people are intimidated by the gym. The thought of being judged by a group of super-fit gym regulars is dreadful. It makes you want to stay home.

But what I’ve discovered is that most people are there to work out and go home. They don’t care about what you’re doing or what you look like. No one has time to watch you elliptical or inspect how much weight you’re lifting.

If anything, the judgement being made is a positive one. “Look! There’s one more person changing their life for the better.” There’s no shame in getting started. It’s something to be proud of.

2. I constantly remind myself that people at the gym are overwhelmingly nice

On the rare occasions that someone has noticed and spoken to me at the gym, my interactions have always been incredibly positive.

While doing push-ups one morning, an older gentleman gleefully showed me an interesting variation that I had never seen before. One evening a younger guy showed me how to better engage my core while doing hanging leg lifts.

Far from being unhelpful or judgemental, most anyone I’ve talked to has actually been quite friendly and eager to help.

3. I constantly remind myself that I don’t need to be in good shape to go to the gym

Many people feel that they’re too overweight or out-of-shape to go to the gym. I used to feel like that all the time. Some days I still do.

But contrary to popular belief, the gym has nothing to do with losing weight or getting into shape. Sure, that might be a happy by-product, but the real benefits of going to the gym are so much more important than that.

Going to the gym is about getting your body the physical activity it needs. Your heart, your brain, your muscles and bones–your entire body benefits. You relieve stress and frustration, while improving your energy levels and mood.

Going to the gym is about your health, not your appearance.

4. I constantly remind myself that people like me go to the gym

Part of the gym intimidation comes from the idea that people like you don’t go to the gym. I’m not a huge bodybuilder. I’m not an incredible athlete. So I understand the feeling.

Before I started going to the gym regularly, I often thought that I would feel out of place and stick out like a sore thumb. But after six months I’ve realized that it’s just not true.

Sure, there are some people who are clearly in way better shape than I am, who are supremely dedicated and have been for years. But there are just as many people just like me. People who are starting out, just trying to get a little stronger and fit in their daily activity.

5. I constantly remind myself to make a plan

My final tip is to be prepared. Going to the gym with no plan and no clear idea of what you’re going to do makes the intimidation factor so much worse.

So before I go I always make sure I have a plan of what exercises I’m going to do. I’ve gotten a few personal training sessions along the way, so I try to stick to exercises that I’ve been shown how to do and that know I can do with proper form.

BONUS TIP!

If these five strategies don’t work, you should try finding a gym buddy. Over half of Canadians agree that working out with someone you know is a great way to feel less intimidated.

I have so far been unsuccessful in my quest to find a reliable gym buddy, so I’ve tried to think of ways to tackle the problem on my own. But if you are successful at finding one, or already have one in mind, it’s a fantastic way to banish the intimidation for good.