An Anxious Girl's Guide To Working Out For The First Time
Want to start a new fitness regime but get a little antsy when you’re about to go and set up a new gym membership? Ready to invite more exercise into your life but nervous that you’re not going to get your form right and hurt yourself? Scared of joining a workout class because you’re worried people will judge you? Well, I’m here for you and your gym anxiety.
Gym anxiety is a real thing and it can definitely be hard to start working towards your fitness goals (whatever they may be) when it’s holding you back. But, no need to panic: this is your anxious girl's guide to working out for the first time and you’ll be stepping into your trainers and waltzing to the leg press in no time - I got you!
What Is Gym Anxiety?
Firstly, it’s important to say that obviously, you don’t have to go to a gym to workout: you can workout in whatever way suits you and wherever suits you, finding joy in movement outside of a gym.
Although anxiety can definitely still kick in when you’re working out in the privacy of your own home or out and about on a running track or in nature, most people find that their anxiety levels surrounding fitness tend to skyrocket when they actually want to step foot into a gym, hence why gym anxiety is a real thing and we’ve labelled it!
The underlying definition of gym anxiety is exactly as it sounds: it’s anxiety about being in the gym. This anxiety can come from various sources: from being embarrassed about physically working out and feeling intimated by others to feeling awkward about using equipment and nervous that you won’t know where things are.
The thing about gym anxiety is that most of us feel it - if you don’t, then go you, but you’re certainly the anomaly. Although this doesn’t make it any better, it does mean that there are some well-known things you can do to reduce your gym anxiety and move forward more confidently in your fitness journey.
So, let’s take a look at exactly how you can handle gym anxiety before even stepping foot into the gym and then what you can do during your first session in your new workout space!
How To Handle Gym Anxiety Before Even Stepping Foot Into The Gym
Whilst you might feel confident enough in yourself to “push through” your anxiety and get straight into the gym, there are things you can do to work through and handle your anxiety before you even get your gym member card. So, let’s take a look at them.
Don’t Start In The Gym, Start At Home
One of the best things you can do, especially if you’re nervous about your physical ability before heading to the gym, is to get used to exercising whilst you’re in the comfort of your own home or area.
Whether you do a guided pilates session a few times a week, start walking instead of driving or taking public transport, or simply get a few body weight movements in every evening, starting to move more can help you become more connected and more comfortable with your body and physical ability.
Look For A Gym That Aligns With Your Needs
When it comes to signing up for a gym, depending on where you live, there are typically a lot of different options out there. Some gyms might focus on bodybuilding, some might be more commercial and have a bigger variety, and others may have a wider focus on holistic health and wellness.
Finding the right gym can definitely help reduce your gym anxiety: being in a physical space that suits your needs and makes you feel comfortable will do wonders at reducing your nerves. So, shop around for a bit!
Plan To Workout With A Friend or Get A Personal Trainer
Gym anxiety can often be greatly reduced when you’re working out with someone by your side, whether that’s a friend or a personal trainer. Whilst working out with a friend can bring lots of joy and help you stick to a schedule, working with a personal trainer can help you build confidence in the gym and help you feel more at ease doing specific exercises when working out since you have a trained professional by your side to coach you.
So, pick what’s best for you and try working out with someone by your side, even if it’s just for your first few sessions.
Create A Workout Plan and Brush Up On The Exercises You Want To Do
If you’re working out alone (or even if you’re working out with others), it’s incredibly important to create a workout plan. Whether you take a notepad and pen or make a plan in the notes app on your phone, do some research into exercises, brush up on your fitness knowledge, and write down a workout plan that fits with your goals.
This plan can change over time, but having a set plan that you can do in the gym will instantly make you feel less nervous and more able to get on with your workout!
Set Achievable Goals
Now we’ve mentioned goals, it’s probably best to go further into this: you should definitely set goals but you need to make sure they’re achievable. For some, their first goal might be simply buying some workout clothes and signing up to a gym whereas for others this might be attending the gym three times a week and working on a specific fitness goal.
Whatever your goals, write them down and get started on them, just make sure you’re going to be able to achieve them and they’re not unrealistic!
Use An App To Support You At The Gym
There are a tonne of apps out there to support you at the gym and they can reduce your anxiety by helping you with your goals, teaching you exercises, and giving you the support of a community.
Have a search around and join an app such as NOBS or EvolveYou to give you that extra bit of support and confidence you need heading into your workout.
First Time At The Gym: What To Wear, What To Do, What To Avoid
So, the time has come: you’re ready to walk through those doors and get down to your exercise plan! How can you handle your first time at the gym in the most effective and nerve-reducing way possible? Here are some pointers to help you out!
What To Wear To The Gym
Wear whatever makes you feel the most comfortable at the gym. If you want to wear booty shorts and a sports bra, get it! If you want to wear a baggy t-shirt and joggers, go for it!
Just make sure you’re wearing clothes that make you feel comfortable, that you can actually workout in effectively, and that are suitable for the exercises you will be doing. Make sure you also have some great trainers (if you’re going to be doing weights you may want to go for trainers with a flatter sole to ensure you’re completely steady when training weights).
What To Take To The Gym With You
You want to be as fully prepared as possible when you head to the gym! You should definitely take a sufficient amount of water, fully charged headphones, a fully-charged phone, a sweat towel (your gym may provide them), and a post-gym snack!
If you want to take it a step further and feel your very best at the gym, treat yourself to taking things that make you feel really good such as Bala Bangles or Fable’s Yoga Mat!
What To Do
Breathe and hold your head high: you’ve made it to the gym and that’s a huge thing in the first place. So, be proud of yourself for being there, breathe through any nerves you have, and hold your head high - you’ve got this.
Take your time exploring your gym: It’s OK to take your time to walk around the gym and explore which equipment you need to complete your workout - don’t worry, no one will find this odd because no one is looking at you! You can even set yourself up on a bike or treadmill to survey the equipment available if you’re too nervous about walking around.
Set a time limit: plan how long you want to be in the gym before you start your first exercise and stick to it. You don’t have to be in the gym for hours: just think about how long you want to be in there and try to stick to it. Knowing you are going to be there for 30 minutes or 1 hour (or whatever you choose), can help you settle in and get on with your schedule whilst holding out if the going gets tough.
What To Avoid Doing
Compare yourself to others: even though it’s easy to look around and get sucked in by comparison, there’s no benefit in comparing yourself to other people in the gym. Everyone is on their own journey and everyone is at a different fitness stage - you are there for yourself, so keep your eyes on yourself and your plan, not other people.
Ego lift: ego lifting is when you lift too much weight than you can handle safely or properly. You may feel compelled to show off to others or hide the fact that you’re where you are on your strength journey, but lifting weights that are too heavy is never, ever the answer and it can be incredibly risky too, so don’t do it!
Push yourself too far too fast: don’t spend hours in the gym the first time you step in there and don’t divert from the basic plan that you’ve created for yourself. In fact, if you’re feeling overly exerted, take a break and do more low-intensity exercise for the rest of your session. Pushing yourself too far too fast will only put you off from going to the gym again and can even be harmful.
The Most Important Thing To Know: This Is Your Journey, No One Else’s
You are stepping into the gym for you, no one else. So, make sure you focus on yourself. No one is looking at you, no one is judging you, and no one is bothered by what you’re doing: they’re all in the same situation, focusing on themselves and their exercise.
So, take a deep breath, follow these tips, and get that workout gear on: you got this girl!