How to overcome gym phobia
Are you scared of the weights room? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Many women feel intimidated by weights room - unsure how to use the equipment and afraid of embarrassing themselves.
While getting professional help is always the safest option, hiring a PT can be expensive and inflexible. So if you’re itching to get fit on a budget but don’t know where to start, here are eight tips for overcoming gym phobia from someone who used to be terrified of the weights room (me!).
Tip 1: Join a fitness program
When I started lifting weights I knew I would need some guidance, so I decided to sign up for an online fitness program. The first program I did was the Kayla Itsines’ BBG Stronger program on the SWEAT App and I am so glad I did!
Following a fitness program gave me the confidence to walk into the weights room with a plan set out for me. I didn’t have to think - I just had to show up and follow the app. Most fitness apps also come with instructions on how to do each exercise with proper form and usually provide a little video of someone performing the exercise to show you how it’s done - very helpful.
Tip 2: Start slow
Instead of jumping right into a program that was 100 per cent weights-based, I did programs like BBG Stronger and Kelsey Wells’ PWR program - both of which combine HIIT with weights in each workout.
This meant I could stick somewhat in my comfort zone with floor exercises and cardio, while incorporating around three weights-based exercises into my training, making my introduction to lifting weights gradual and stress-free.
Tip 3: Research exercises that scare you
In my early gym days, I spent a lot of time on Google and YouTube deep diving into how to do exercises that scared me. There is nothing worse than rocking up to a barbell or a machine and having no clue how to use it! So I would typically look at my program for the next day and research any exercise that I felt unsure about.
I also found myself doing this while at the gym. There were often days when I’d try an exercise, realise it didn’t feel right, and watch a video or read a quick post between sets to figure out how to improve. That’s the best part about weight training - you can take long breaks between sets and no one bats an eyelash!
Tip 4: Observe others
One of the most nerve-racking parts about going to the gym as a beginner isn’t the workout itself, but rather the gym floor etiquette and politics that feel overwhelmingly difficult to figure out.
In the months leading up to my decision to start lifting weights, I would go to the gym and set up my floor exercises by the weights room instead of near the stretching area. I would quietly observe (in a very non-creepy way I promise!) how people in the weights room interacted with equipment and each other so I didn’t end up making a big faux-pas - like not unloading my weight from the machine when done with an exercise or forgetting to put safeties on my barbells.
Tip 5: Don’t lift if you’re not feeling it
Now I know you might be thinking that you’re ‘never’ feeling going to the gym. But once you start working out, you’ll recognise the difference between feeling unmotivated (but still being able to work out) and feeling sluggish, low energy, sore or too exhausted to safely lift weights.
This was a learning curve for me, as I could always push through a HIIT and cardio workout without issues. But weights are a different ballgame and you need a lot of energy and focus to exercise safely. So if I’m not feeling it, I won’t lift. I might do a circuit, jog on the treadmill, or even just go for a walk outside, but I never lift if I’m not 100 per cent in it.
Tip 6: Make it your sole focus
They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. And while I would consider myself far from a fitness expert, I did make a conscious effort to dedicate myself completely to learning the sport of lifting weights. And it paid off.
I knew when I first started lifting that I wouldn’t see results unless I completely threw myself into fitness and made it my top priority above everything else. For about six months, I immersed myself in this world, learning all I could about fitness, nutrition, and lifting weights. I never skipped a gym session (unless I wasn’t feeling well!) and turned down nights out with friends, work events and the like, to spend time at the gym. It was all worth it because now I'm so much more in tune with my body. I’ve learned so much that I’m able to stick to a much more flexible routine and still maintain results.
Tip 7: Remember - no one actually cares!
Finally, my last tip and possibly my biggest tip of all, is just remember that no one at the gym is actually watching you. No one cares how ‘silly’ you look because despite how you may feel, you don’t look silly at all! We all go to the gym for the same reasons - to feel healthier and happier. No one is judging you and no one is watching you. You have to start somewhere, and you might as well start now!
Are you intimidated by the weights room? Do you have any tips for others?