How to get over your fear of the gym

Self-conscious at the gym? That’s only natural, but believe me, you don’t need to be. With a little bit of planning and faking it ’til you make it, you can raise your self-esteem and become a gym bunny in no time. Remember these tips and you’ll be reaching your gym goals before you can say delayed-onset muscle soreness.

How to get over your fear of the gym


Everyone’s a critic

Let’s be honest, everyone is too concerned about what they’re doing to care about what you’re doing, even if it feels like everyone is watching you. People just want to get in a good workout. If people did care about others at the gym, they’d rack the bloody weights when they were done with them. 

People do criticise, of course, but – and this is important to remember – they’re not criticising you. People think they’re experts and most people are keen to share their experiences through leaving reviews on Google, Facebook and other platforms. So use this to your advantage if you’re worried about going to the gym. To put your mind at ease, it might be an idea to do some homework and read some of the reviews. Does the gym have a rep for being cliquey or is it a fantastic community? Make sure it’s the right place for you before you walk through the door.

Find a gym that’s right for you

Find the class or layout that’s right for you and that will take a lot of the fear out of going. If you want a TV while you cycle or a swimming pool included in your membership, pick a nice leisure centre. If bodyweight is your thing, find a Crossfit box. If you want a no-frills membership at a decent price, check out gym chains like PureGym, The Gym Group and EasyGym if there’s one near you. You can try out gyms and pay as you go with PayAsUGym, so you can dip in and out of sessions and don’t have to immediately tie yourself in with a contract if you’re unsure what you want from a gym.

How to get over fear of the gym

You all share a goal

Whether that’s to get a ‘beach body’ (don’t get me started on that phrase), to lose weight for health reasons or to work away the day’s stress, everyone in that building is there to improve themselves or their life in some form or another. Use this thought to inspire you – yes, there will be ‘ripped’ guys in the freeweights section, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point. And they weren’t born that way – everyone was a beginner at some point, and unless they’re total idiots, they’ll recognise this and will only think positively towards you, no matter how amateurish you might be. 

Be comfortable

What really helps me feel like I ‘belong’ in the gym is dressing in the best (yet most comfortable) clothing I can. We’re not looking for high fashion by any means but if you look good, you feel it, right? Don’t shy away and awkwardly try and hide in ill-fitting clothing, I promise you, that will get you far more attention. Hit up Sports Direct and buy yourself some new gymwear – if nothing else, you’ll have to bite the bullet and start going to get the most out of your new threads.

How to get over fear of the gym

Fake it til you make it

I don’t mean risking injury pretending you know how the new cardio machines work or attempting to bench press your body weight without prior training. I’m talking about standing up straight, head up, looking confident and ready to smash your goals, even if you don’t really feel that way. Shying away and slouching in the corner of the gym will just bring more attention. If you look like you’re happy(-ish) in your current environment and you look relatively natural; you’re gonna blend right in. 

Learn the lingo

It’s not nice to feel baffled and gyms can be confusing. Pec decks and planks? HIIT? Thankfully for you (and me) the Greatist have posted the ultimate guide to gym talk, so swot up and learn the lingo so at least you sound as if you know what you’re talking about. 

Above all, enjoy it

Find out what your gym offers because after all, you’re paying for it and you really should make the most of your membership. Check out classes if they’re included, chat to the staff, read any pinboards and follow your gym on social media. A lot of gyms offer trial sessions with personal trainers and some, like PureGym, have their own workout routines for you to follow if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Find something that you love to do at the gym and those insecurities will burn away along with those calories.

Are you a gym regular or beginner? Let us know what you think and tell us your top tips on socials with #manvfat

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From the forum

  1. Good tips! I want 2 say 2 ppl whats nervose, iv been gan 2 the gym regular over 3 years n iv always been obese short not muscly etc. I can only think of 3 times when ne1 has been rude to me. Not bad odds
    Also i dunno if ppls gona agree with this but i say do what u enjoy!!! Like i kno its not suppose 2b easy but that dont mean it has 2b boring. For example am not over keen on the rowing machine but i LOVE the cross trainer. So i dinnit do much rowing lots of cross training. Cos my biggest aim 2 begin with was just 2 stick with it n i dont think i woud of if i done things i dont like so thats my tip :+1:

  2. I go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week for spin classes. No fear there cos I enjoy it however I wanted to do rower last week but chickened out. Seemed to be busy enough and my intention was to do spin then some rowing but I suddenly got the fear as I was walking towards it and just left. No one would care that’s the thing and would maybe encourage me but I just wasn’t there yet. I was quite disappointed in myself to be honest

  3. Avatar for bbats bbats says:

    The gym can be scary but the critical voice I attribute to everyone else is the one in my own head. I have to remember that I’m not the focus of attention for everyone else there!
    I recently started swimming regularly and being in public in just a swim suit was not and is not easy. To make it a bit harder the wall of windows opens up to the front lobby so I can really feel like i’m on display. What pushes me to do it is that 1. I doubt anyone really cares that I’m huge
    2. I’m not going to let my brain keep me from better health
    3. I absolutely love swimming now and I’m getting better and stronger
    4. I might inspire someone like me to say “he’s fat and swims, maybe I can too”

    It’s scary to be in a room or pool with folks who look more fit and but it’s my own voice, not theirs, that is trying to send me back to the safety of home.

  4. Weeew thats so true, thats wisdom 2 remember!!

    I agree with both of u, ppl probably arent hardly even notice u let alone think anything of it.

    One of the only times some1 ever said owt 2 me was some bloke said i was wasting my time n every1s time cos i wasnt liftin really heavy weights… telt him ppl hav different goals. I thought he was pathetic that he wantd 2 make himself feel big that way. But u get the odd idiot everywhere

  5. Avatar for bbats bbats says:

    There’s always a know-it-all who may be trying to help but misses the mark completely! Lift on, buddy! It’s your body, not his :muscle:t3:

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  • Jon
    Posted at 00:39h, 29 November

    Getting back to the gym can be really intimidating. Especially jumping back in after 40. I definitely understand that. It is going to be uncomfortable at first but that is the only way to grow and improve.

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