Gymtimidation Is Real: Here Are 8 Ways to Overcome It


Was it your imagination, or did all the gym bros just turn to stare at you when you walked into the weights room? Why do you suddenly feel like a helpless animal that's wandered into a caveman's lair?

Gymtimidation is real. We know this from the fact that someone had to invent a portmanteau for it. Oh yeah — and also because we've all experienced it at least once in our gym-going lives.

There are numerous reasons the gym can feel intimidating. All that crazy equipment and complex machinery. All that testosterone clouding the air. The fear that you're doing things wrong and people will notice. The feeling of inadequacy because the person next to you is lifting five times more than you or has a perfectly ripped body.

Gymtimidation isn't limited to women — though being ogled by sweaty grunting men does create its own particular set of problems. If you find the gym a challenging environment to be in, here are a few tips to help you through.

Gymtimidation Is Real: Here Are 8 Ways to Overcome It

1. Know that you're not alone.

Look around you when you're at the gym and know that so many other people there — regardless of how confident they may look — are also feeling intimidated and insecure. Even the most seasoned gym veterans have their shaky days, and even the people who look incredible to you have private insecurities about their bodies or their fitness levels. This is normal. You are normal.

2. See the scary people differently.

Remember this: Everyone started somewhere. All those beautiful, intimidating people with washboard abs went through their own struggles and learning processes to get there. They weren't born knowing how to deadlift with perfect form, and they know you weren't either. More often than not they'll be more than willing to help you out if you ask them a question. See them as inspiration and as a wealth of knowledge rather than as scary, daunting superhumans.

3. Be mindful of gym etiquette.

If you're worried that someone might bully you or complain about you being in their space, simply don't give them any reason to. Go about your workout confidently and like you belong there — remembering that basic consideration and etiquette are part of that. For example, don't hog a bench by sitting there and scrolling through Instagram between sets. Put weights away after you use them and if you're not sure if someone is using something simply ask them. Be kind to others and they'll be kind back.

4. Get help from a trainer.

If you're self-conscious about your form, consider investing in a personal trainer. Even if you just do a couple of sessions to get you started, they can help you develop a workout plan and get you familiar with how to correctly carry out the movements. Many gyms also have training staff who you can ask questions to. They'll usually be more than happy to explain how to use a particular machine (especially when your safety is concerned) or to give you a few quick pointers on getting your form right.

5. Shift focus back to your goals.

It's easier said than done, but when you're hit by a bout of gymtimidation, try pausing for a moment, centering yourself, and shifting your focus back to your goals rather than on what's around you. Remind yourself that you're here to get fit, not to impress other people. Block out everyone else and concentrate solely on the task at hand and you'll find your gym experience much more enjoyable.

Gymtimidation Is Real: Here Are 8 Ways to Overcome It

6. Make a pumping playlist.

When it comes to shutting out the world, nothing works quite as well as headphones. Make yourself a killer playlist that gets you pumped as an added way to stay focused.

7. Dress to feel good.

Wear clothing that you feel most comfortable in. For women this is a very personal thing: Some like to go to the gym in skin-tight lycra and full makeup and happily attract the attention of the male pack. Others find that attention distracting and intimidating, so are better off in something that makes them feel confident and yet says, I'm just here to work out.

8. Lead by example.

You yourself are part of the gym environment. That means that you have a role to play in making the environment a good one. Reserve judgement on others. If you see someone who looks like they're struggling or might also be intimidated, smile at them. Befriend them. Encourage them. Focus on making others feel good, and you'll find yourself feeling good in the process.