This is a pretty timely post for me. On the one hand, I am now roughly six months into my gym membership and loving it. I’ve been consistently (barring heavy travel weeks) going to the gym at least three times a week, but mostly four and sometimes even five. While I’m far from a “gym rat,” I have become so much more comfortable in the gym and look forward to my hour-long workouts.
On the other hand, my favorite trainer (I took her class three times a week!) just left to get her master’s degree in Texas. I am so excited for her– she truly is amazing and I know she’s going to crush it. But… it did bring up some new fear in me. That panic that I had worked so hard to overcome started to creep back in.
What would the new trainer be like? Would it be the same or different? What if I hated the class? What class would I take instead?! …. WHAT IF I FALL OFF THE WAGON? I had so many questions.
If you had seen me entering the gym on his first day, you would have thought that I had never set foot in the gym before, and I was going to be getting dental work in there, and then I would be delivering a speech to a thousand people.
My knees were shaking, I felt a little sick, and everything in my body was telling me to walk right back out to the parking lot. But I found the class and got started, and everything turned out just fine. ONE // Ask Around
I think one of the biggest parts of overcoming gym anxiety is finding a gym with the right “vibe.” There are gyms on every corner nowadays, whether they’re full-service gyms or workout-specific gyms (like SoulCycle). In my experience, every gym has a different vibe going on. Some are super laid back, some are structured, some are crazy intense, and some are an every man for himself kind of deal.
Asking friends and neighbors is the best way to know how a gym really is. Beyond the glossy brochures and flashy advertisements, someone who has been a member will have the real scoop. I found the yoga studio that I loved in NYC by asking friends. I knew instantly it was the right place for me.
I found my gym here in Connecticut in a similar way… a few of my friends had taken tours and recommended that I look too. I’ve since been paying it forward by telling everyone who wants to know how great and supportive Chelsea Piers is.
TWO // Take a Tour
Once you sign up for the gym or the class, inquire if there is a manager on site who can give you a tour. Chelsea Piers is a particularly giant space, so the tour was pretty much necessary. But I’d still do it for a small gym. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land with a guide, and it’s the perfect opportunity to ask questions as you have them.
If you’re able to pinpoint any specific fears you have, this is also the time to try to address them. I’m not sure why, but I tend to get hung up on the locker room situation. (Can you take any locker? How does the combination work? Where do dirty towels go? Again… all the questions.) I specifically asked for the locker room to be a part of my tour. While it didn’t erase my fear completely, it did alleviate a lot of it for my first time on my own.
THREE // Ask a Lot of Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!!! I know this is easier said than done and that may, in fact, contribute to some of your nerves. Even after the tour, and really at any point in your gym experience, ask away. I think it’s better to ask a question than to fret over all the different possibilities.
I must have asked twenty questions over the course of the first week. I don’t really like figuring things out on my own when I’m feeling nervous, so just getting the answer right away helped a lot, regardless of whether they’re big or small.
(Also in line with this, I think it helps to let class instructors know that you’re new. They’re always willing to help a new student!)
FOUR // Get There Early or Go on Off Times
So if you’re like me, the more people around the heightened your anxiety is. If you can swing it, try to avoid going to the gym at busy times. Of course, when you get more comfortable or even get that first visit out the way, you can join in on that post-work yoga class. But I find that starting off with a quieter time is a lot more relaxing. Every gym is probably different, but I find that between the morning and lunch breaks are the quietest!
The easiest way to find the quietest time? Google the gym. Google now shows a bar graph with popular times per day so you can plan according to that. (It even shows you how long people are at the gym for. Freaky– they own us.)
FIVE // Take a Class vs. Going Alone
If you can, don’t go alone. Bring a friend, join coworkers, sign up for a small package of personal training sessions, or even a class. It’s so much easier to have a partner in crime than to try to figure things out on your own. My tendency is to want to go by myself, so I don’t feel embarrassed about being nervous, but then I just end up scared and sometimes even frozen in place when I’m alone.
Photos by Courtney Ann Photography
SIX // Go in With a Game Plan & Prep with Youtube
You can prep for your first day (or any day if you’re nervous about trying something new). There are so many resources online nowadays that you can have a great workout on your own. Try finding regimens on Pinterest or learning how to use a new machine on Youtube. If my trainer isn’t there to assist, I’ve been known to watch a few videos on my phone to see how a certain move is done.
Anyone else get nervous going into a new gym or taking a new class? What tips do you have?