“Those excuses are bullshit, man, what are you afraid of?” This was incredulously asked of me by my former personal trainer after I had moved to another city. He said he was texting to say what's up. But I think he was checking up on me to see if I was staying true to my word—that I'd keep up with what we had started at the Equinox where I first worked out under the watchful eye of a personal trainer.
With his help and motivation, I'd pushed myself harder in the gym than I ever had before and saw great results. But now, months later in a new city and a new gym, I couldn't quite muster the same fire. I'd show up, and surrounded by hardcore fitness junkies in the midsts of serious reps, I'd start feeling self-conscious. Like, if I'm not lifting as much as this guy over here, I'm wasting people's time utilizing this bench. Or I'd doubt my abilities ... "Am I doing this right?" I'd think, or "Are people staring at me, because my form is crap?"
So when my trainer asked about my fitness, I should've lied. But I said, I'd been busy. Work's been crazy, and I had out-of-town guests and I was kinda sick for a little bit. That's when he called "bullshit." And he was right. I was afraid of judgement, or maybe failure. And while these excuses protected me from stepping out of my comfort zone, they were also keeping me from realistically achieving my goals. I put a stop to it right then. It's been two years since that fateful exchange with my former trainer and I'm now in the best shape of my life. What's more, I actually love working out now that I've squashed my gym anxiety. So for anyone sheepishly approaching the weight rack or nervously staring into the local CrossFit gym, these are the tactics that have worked for me.
When you're first starting out as a newbie, you'll probably feel most comfortable in a gym that's as empty as possible. So learn when your gym is packed with the hardcore fitness junkies and avoid that time. With less people there, you'll be free to try out new machines, get into a routine and practice your form without fear of looking stupid.
Write out a workout
When you're intimidated, it's easy to cut your exercises short and call it a day. "That's probably enough," you'll tell yourself. But the key to any successful fitness plan is consistency. To make sure your workout is purposeful and that you stick with what you planned to do, write out your workout before you leave the house. That way, in the gym, you can refer to your phone for guidance and reminders to tackle one thing at a time. I found that when it was in my hand, in black and white, it was easier to hold myself accountable to finish what I said I'd do.
Taking a class?Talk to the instructor.
The first time you walk into a SoulCycle class, boxing gym or CrossFit box, it can be tempting to try and slink to the back, avoid eye contact and go unnoticed. But that doesn't help. You end up trying to duplicate the moves of seasoned regulars and don't come away learning much. Or you freak those people out because they think you're staring at them. At the beginning or end of class, talk with the instructor and ask any and all questions you may have. They love hearing from new people eager to learn and can provide plenty of great tips and instruction on how to improve.
Make a friend
It's definitely more comfortable to workout with a buddy. But even if you're all alone, don't get too self-conscious. In all honestly, most people aren't paying attention to you at the gym. They're likely critiquing their own bodies in the mirrors. But that doesn't mean you can't smile at someone or say "good morning." After passing the same dude for weeks and exchanging casual greetings, I asked if I could bother him with a dumb question. He said sure and I asked, "That move you were just doing, is that for your shoulders?" He told me it was and I mentioned how I had been trying to work on my own. He showed me how to master the move and even shared other ways he sculpted the shoulders I couldn't help but notice.