9 Ways to Feel Less Judged at the Gym

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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9 Ways to Feel Less Judged at the Gym

Heading into a gym full of guys with muscular arms the size of your thighs can feel intimidating to anyone with newly minted gym registrations. It’s not only the supersized men, but muscular women with fit-looking bodies who often also turn women off — and these women never return.   

According to a new study by Fitrated, 65% of women do not attend a gym because they fear judgment.

Whether you’re male or female, these certified personal trainers provide advice on how to combat the common reasons for eschewing the gym.

“Bring a partner the first few times: Social support is a huge element when it comes to starting and maintaining a health and fitness routine, but it could also be the key to feeling more confident when you first start going to the gym. Having a friend or family member there provides helpful companionship and takes some of the pressure off.”

Cassy Velez, NASM-certified personal trainer,  ACE certified group fitness instructor

“Worry less about the machines and various contraptions in the gym and start with your bodyweight or a pair of 5-pound dumbbells or heavier and ignore everything else.”

Cassie Lambert, certified personal trainer

“The right gym can make a huge difference. If your area offers several options, visit all of the gyms close to you and see where you feel the most comfortable. The top three criteria women should look for when choosing a gym are: overall positive vibe, location or proximity to your life and being adequately equipped.”

Julie Lohre, IFBB fitness pro, certified personal trainer, certified nutrition specialist, “American Ninja Warrior” contestant

“Invest in a really fun workout outfit. Sometimes we feel insecure about our fitness attire when we go to the gym in sweats. Make yourself feel amazing by investing in a quality pair of shoes, a flattering set of wick-away pants, tank and a supportive sports bra. You’ll feel like a million bucks.”

Kylene Terhune, certified personal trainer

“Work with a certified personal trainer to ensure your movements are spot on — injury prevention should be every trainer’s number 1 priority.”

— Sammy Previte, co-founder of Dietitians of Palm Valley, RD and certified personal trainer

“Ultimately, having a full workout routine outlined and practiced empowers women to feel tasked and focused when they walk through the door, which saves time and reduces hesitance so they can find value and yield progress from their efforts.”

Mike Clancy, certified strength and conditioning specialist and owner of MikeClancyTraining

“Greet and get to know the staff at your club, including front desk, group exercise instructors, trainers and the housekeeping staff. Feeling like you are in a familiar, friendly environment can help put you at ease.”

Pilar Lorca, certified personal trainer and president/owner of Fitness4EveryBody


“If possible, work with a trainer. A trainer can demonstrate how to use the machines and create the appropriate routine according to [your] fitness level and goals using the free weights, TRX, BOSU, bands, etc. If someone has a high comfort level with her trainer, she is more likely to feel more comfortable at the gym.”

Carol Michaels, IDEA Fitness Trainer of the Year

“Many large gyms have separate rooms where they hold group classes, but, when classes are not in session, these rooms are usually open for use. Try training here. Many of these rooms are flooded with mirrors on all sides, so it can be a great way to practice form.”

Mike Turner, NASM certified personal trainer and  founder of UnityFitness

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.


10 responses to “9 Ways to Feel Less Judged at the Gym”

  1. Maui62 says:

    I have a better, less wordy solution: Come to the realization that you are not on anyone’s to do list. You are not that important. Nobody cares. Just get it done and leave this excuse for 12 yr. olds.

    • tracy says:

      Was going to say this. If you ‘feel’ judged at the gym, that is an internal problem. ‘Feelings’ aren’t facts. Nobody is thinking about you at the gym, they are focusing on their workouts, they are thinking about their jobs, they are worried about someone they love. When they barely glance at you, and do not smile in warm accepting friendship, IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. So stop projecting your internal problems on others. It is just as easy to ‘feel’ good about yourself but oh dear, that would require a change in YOUR mindset. Excuse for 12 yr olds, indeed! EMPOWERED women know that we are responsible for our OWN feelings. LACK of empowerment comes ONLY from within ourselves.

    • John Boy says:

      This! Yes, every gym has its share of those people. The gym is only a microcosm of the general population. If you let those people intimidate you because you are out of shape then you probably feel insecure and judged outside the gym too. Imagine how much better you will feel about yourself after a year of work on your body in the gym and on your mind outside the gym!

      Plug in your earbuds, listen to your favorite music, do your thing and forget about everything else in the gym besides what you are trying to accomplish.

  2. Lil'missgamer4life says:

    Not everyone can afford to have a personal trainer. I had one for a short time last year but his business went bust so I’m now £300 out of pocket. I’d feel more confident and comfortable with someone helping me with my workouts, but for now I’m on my own. I hate looking in the mirror period so when I see myself I feel disgusted and disappointed. I’m also intimidated by the people in the gym. I’ve done well so far but I wish I could magically have the body and fitness level I want instantly #where’smymagicwand?!

    • Gharper2 says:

      I hear you! But I am convinced that 90% of the battle is recognizing that there is no magic wand and commiting to regular workouts. Every day, I find that the hardest part of my workout is getting out of bed and to the gym. But I decided I needed to do it, so I keep going.

      When I started – just 2 months ago – I was convinced I was the fattest, oldest, and worst person at the gym. But I went and kept going. And then I noticed that I was getting random encouragement from the “fit” people there. Despite my fear, no one was judging. They loved being at the gym and were thrilled to see me there too. And as I kept going, I started to notice that there were lots of others just like me; not everyone was super fit. And then I started giving encouragement to the new people as well.

      I’m down almost 20 pounds in the past two months. And I am convinced it is all because I finally stopped being afraid of the gym.

      • Justice League says:


      • Lil'missgamer4life says:

        Having the confidance and motivation to start with is difficult and you have that, well done. Don’t give up and keep trying your best that’s all you can do. I’ve lost 40 pounds in 16 months, but I’m not quite at my goal yet. I’m going to push as hard as I can or as far as my body will let me, which ever comes first. Good luck with your journey.

    • John Boy says:

      Realize too that you can spend 100 hours a week in the gym and make no progress if you aren’t doing the right things and equally important eating clean. I’m nursing an injury and haven’t been able to workout in weeks and I’ve still lost 9 lbs this month, while my wife who is already thin has lost 5.

      Good luck and keep in mind that everyone starts somewhere. No one in that gym was born athletic.

      • Lil'missgamer4life says:

        I know. 100 hours doesn’t sound possible, but I do average 2 to 3 hours each visit, but some of that is not spent on any piece of equipment. I’ve possibly torn a tendon in my arm from lifting too much. I will keep goin to the gym though it won’t stop me [not having a car to get there though will]. I’ve been eating better, but still having what I want. I try not to go over my daily calorie allowance too many times a week. Thanks, you too. Keep up the good work.

  3. Justice League says:

    That’s why I like Planet Fitness. My location has a great mix of young, old, in between, super buff to obese. Everyone just does their own thing. I am not paid by Planet Fitness, just a satisfied member.

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