Tackling gym anxiety

Hi all,

I’m trying to face my gym fears! I am obese & unfit at a university gym that has lots of fit people and athletes. I feel like an idiot, and I have trouble convincing myself to a) show up and b) ask questions and explore new machines/areas.

I find I’m also terrified of losing time at the gym and being late, of getting sweaty, showering, being in people’s way, and carrying all of the items I need during the day and looking awkward (towel, change of clothes, etc).

How did you tackle gym fears? Do you have any strategies that worked for you to manage some of these things?


  • torih941
    torih941 Posts: 183 Member

    I am also at university and I sometimes struggle with that fear as well, especially because a lot of the people are regulars. To help myself, I come in with my headphones on, dressed in my gym clothes, and head straight to a machine. I have started to notice that, really, no one is paying attention. People are there to get in and out and focus on their workout. I don't know if this is an option for you, but my university offers sessions with personal trainers at a WAAAY reduced cost since I'm a student. That might be something to look into? That way you can conquer that fear of the machines.

    Also to help myself, I have started going right after work/class since I am already on campus and there is no reason for me not to go.
  • 88olds
    88olds Posts: 4,144 Member
    Losing time? Do you mean like it will be a waste of time? It won’t be. Move on to another issue.

    How many of your concerns can you avoid? Can you start put just going in and walking on the treadmill? Just to get used to being there. Can you go in like that and skip the locker room? After you’ve grown accustomed to going in and doing something, and have had a chance to observe, you’ll have something to build on.

    There’s gym anxiety and then there’s locker room anxiety. They aren’t the same. I’ve been in a lot of gyms and there are a large percentage (most?) of people using the gym who never go near the showers.
  • teeenabeana
    teeenabeana Posts: 94 Member
    I had gym anxiety as well! I started to go really early in the morning, I felt more comfortable figuring out the machines on my own with less people there! You'll notice that everyone is there to focus on their own workout, and are not there to judge you. You got this!
  • LyndaBSS
    LyndaBSS Posts: 6,971 Member
    It’s difficult to get to the point that you understand that none of the gym members give a rat’s behind about what you look like. In our minds, we’ve decided that they’re checking us out.

    You should feel great about going to the gym. That’s fantastic! 👍
  • Shortgirlrunning
    Shortgirlrunning Posts: 1,023 Member
    The truth is that people at the gym are totally focused on themselves. That’s their time for their workout. They don’t care what you or anyone else is doing. They aren’t judging you, they are in their own headspace and focused on themselves.

    As for being hesitant to ask questions - ask for a gym tour. The staff is there to help you. If you feel really out of your element see if there are classes you can take or even an individual personal training session just to learn the basics. I’m not saying that will be easy but pushing yourself outside of your comfort level is how you get better.
  • ElizabethKalmbach
    ElizabethKalmbach Posts: 1,416 Member
    edited November 2019
    The student trainers are generally inexpensive and eager to impress you with what they know. Maybe take some PTO and make an appointment with one to learn the ropes with both the machines and the locker room and the other keen amenities.

    The students working out are fit and young and also slightly terrified that I might be one of their future instructors, despite my hot pink hair. They're generally painfully polite regardless of where I come across them. I doubt anyone will say boo to you.

    You'll be fine. Make time so you don't have to feel rushed, go have a tour and a training appointment, find out about the locker rentals and towel service, and enjoy it. One of our gyms has hot tubs, even, so it can be like a spa if I'm sore and slow. Everyone there is trying to improve themselves, just like you, and every one of them had to start somewhere. <3
  • o0kody0o
    o0kody0o Posts: 642 Member
    I haven’t been to the gym in a while but I remember how it felt signing up for the first time. I had so many stupid thoughts running through my head from “Other people will be staring at me” to “I’m going to look silly because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing”. However, I forced myself to go because I wanted to become fit and healthy. When I got there, I realised some things;

    1. Nobody looked at me. I could’ve been invisible, and that was a relief.

    2. Everyone appeared to be in their own “zone”. I went about my business and everyone else went about theirs.

    3. Once I was finished my first gym session, my legs felt like jelly but I felt so proud of myself and I walked out of there with my head held high.

    It seems as though your anxieties have spiralled out of control. You mention you’re worried about a few things;

    ”Getting sweaty”: I worked up a sweat when I went to the gym, I’m sure everyone does. Make sure you use paper towels to wipe down any equipment after using it. Sweating is absolutely normal, no matter what size you are.

    ”Showering”: I just used to take a shower when I got home. If you feel uncomfortable about using the showers in the gym, do you have a private one you can use?

    ”Being in peoples way” You won’t be. There will be plenty of space between each piece of equipment/machine. Be kinder to yourself.

    “Carrying items/looking awkward” Don’t take this the wrong way but the majority of people don’t care. What are they going to say? “Oh look, there’s someone with a gym bag, you know, going to the gym to work out and be healthy and fit”...Personally, I probably wouldn’t notice but if I did, I’d think “Good for them!”

    I think you just need to relax and go for it. I realised I was making excuses to avoid the gym which in hindsight, was ridiculous. You are wanting to better yourself, and that can only be a good thing. Push all those thoughts to the back of your mind and do it. You will thank yourself 🙂

    All the best!
  • frksfrau
    frksfrau Posts: 108 Member
    edited November 2019
    When I started this journey in January 2017, I needed to lose 70 pounds and was in really poor shape. I was also at a University, where I joined their gym. I know myself and I took the classes they offered, as I am a social person and know if I work out by myself, I will quit going after a couple of days. I started with afternoon classes. I set up my equipment in the back of the room and didn't pay attention to all of the young students. I started with light weights and did all of the alternative moves. Over the months, I used heavier weights and did the regular moves. No one bothered me or giggled or were rude. I truly appreciated it. I later moved to early morning classes as it fit my schedule better (think 6am) I prefer this time, as I could shower and dress at the gym and just walk to the next building for work. I didn't have to worry about exercising in the evening when I was tired and ready to go home. There are a lot less students at the gym that early, so you may want to try that alternative. The ones that go that early are just as focused on their own workout and getting out of there as I am.

    Good Luck!
  • Katmary71
    Katmary71 Posts: 5,049 Member
    I came back to reply to this as I felt a lot like you in the beginning. I'd been in great shape many years ago and went all the time (few decades ago). I associated the gym with having to be in shape despite using a different one during physical therapy after surgeries. I let my anxiety at not being in good enough shape to go to the gym stop me. I started working out at home in January and got to a point where I needed higher weights and was stagnating. I worked up the guts to go, telling myself even staying 5 minutes would be a win, just walk through the door! I was super self-conscious and wouldn't look at anyone. I did the machines I knew and gave up right away on those that I didn't figure out right away. Before I left I worked up the nerve to ask if they had someone who could show me around. I made an appointment and that helped answer some questions. I was embarrassed to get sweaty or even wear leggings in public!

    People really aren't paying any attention to you, especially in this day of ear buds and phones. They're more into their own routines. If I'm acknowledged it's a hi, smile, or head nod. I went from looking down and feeling uncomfortable to walking with my head high, shirt totally sweaty (I do bring a towel to towel off stuff), and rocking out in between sets. I'm really glad I pushed past my anxiety, the improvement in my mobility and body have been amazing. And I'll even stop at the store all sweaty in leggings too! Good luck!