Anytime we do something new, there’s an element of fear and vulnerability. When it comes to going to the gym, it’s no different — if anything, it’s amplified.
“I use word ‘gymtimidation,’” says Mike Nicholson, master trainer at Chelsea Piers Fitness in New York City. “When you first join a gym, it’s pretty overwhelming because there are a million different things you can do. It’s a valid fear that first-time gym-goers or people getting back into it really have. They don’t want look stupid, do things wrong or get injured.”
Don’t let these fears stop you from reaching your fitness and health goals and living the life you want. Below, trainers address the most common fears people have about the gym. Use their advice and get after it!
Arrive to class about 10 minutes early and talk to the instructor, says Mauro Maietta, district fitness manager for Crunch Fitness. “Let them know your fitness level or experience with group classes. They will gladly work to modify the class movements or let you know good times to ‘rest and observe’ to catch your breath,” he says. Instructors want you to have the best experience possible, so never be shy.
Most machines have pictures on them showing how to use them. For more help, you can ask the person who used the machine before you or even a trainer on the gym floor. “Maybe you will make a friend and workout buddy,” Maietta says. Again, most gyms have floor trainers instructed to help members — find one and ask them, Nicholson says. As a last resort, Google to the rescue. Type in the name of the machine (most are on them) and search for a video tutorial.
“Germs happen,” Maietta says. “If you leave your bubble every day to go to work, school or the grocery store, the germs will find you.” Most gyms offer antibacterial wipes throughout the facility. Wipe down the equipment before and after you use it, and put a towel down on any benches, mats and other places you sit or lie. Lastly, consider bringing hand sanitizer and, above all, wash your hands after your workout.
Here’s the secret: Most gym-goers are in their own heads and not paying attention to you. So do the same: Focus on you and your goals. Of course, be friendly to other members — you may be surprised at who becomes your new gym buddy. If that fails, work out with a friend or gaggle of friends for strength in numbers, Maietta suggests.
“Don’t overcomplicate getting in shape,” Nicholson recommends. “Think about how you got out of shape. It was probably by not going to the gym whatsoever. So just showing up is a win.” Focus on consistency and then progression, instead of jumping in and overdoing it. “That will snowball more long-term than anything complicated or biting off more than you can chew,” Nicholson says.
Although mornings, midday and after work are often high-traffic times at any gym, each location varies. Go at a few different times, and if you find that the gym is too crowded for your liking, try another time, if your schedule allows, or try another gym.
Nicholson sees two types of gym-goers: People who like to wear athleisure and care about style in the gym and people whose only concern is wearing something they’re OK with getting sweaty. Whichever type you are, you want clothing you are comfortable moving around in that won’t get in the way while you’re exercising. “I recommend picking function over fashion because you’re going to the gym to move around,” Nicholson says. “Then, once you are into the gym swing of things, you can see which style is more ideal for you.”
If you cannot afford a trainer, don’t fret. Maietta suggests self-study. “Check out the web for some starter programs or download an app,” he says. “Most of the top commercial chains have smartphone apps with workout plans for their members.” Also, check out the group fitness schedule and join a class.