It’s now 7:30pm and somehow you’re nervous about going to the gym. At 7:50pm you decide that you’ll wait till tomorrow.
We’ve all been there at some point. Everyone has a first time in the gym. It sucks. The feeling that you’re going to embarrass yourself, that people will laugh at you, that you’re getting in people’s way. It’s fucking terrible and I know that for every person in the gym, there’s another person who is filled with gym shyness, enough so that they convince themselves that not going is better.
Let’s talk about how to overcome this shyness and get the first gym sessions out of the way.
1. Go with a friend
Strength in numbers. Ideally, find a friend who goes to the gym consistently and who can teach you what to do along with basic gym etiquette. The alternative is to find a friend who is also interested in starting to go. Ask to go with them for your first week.
2. Plan out your workout
Gym anxiety is mostly feeling vulnerable. You’re in a new place doing something you’ve never done before. It’s completely natural to feel vulnerable. Compare this to walking around in your house. You don’t feel vulnerable there because you know where things are and how things work.
To mitigate this as much as possible, have some idea of what you’re planning to do and what equipment you need as soon as you get in there. If you’re looking for places to start, I recommend StrongLifts.
More than likely, it doesn’t quite matter what exact workout you choose as long as it focuses on basic lifts (deadlift, squat, bench press, shoulder press). Your main goal is to get your form down anyways; there’s no “best” workout to teach you form. You just have to do it.
Figure out how many sets and reps you plan to do of each exercise. Look up how to find appropriate starting weights. It’s usually just starting from the bar and increasing slowly.
3. Watch YouTube videos for form
I would suggest watching a few YouTube videos for exercise form before you go, just so you have a feeling of what things are supposed to look like. My first few times in the gym, I was constantly unsure of my form. I didn’t know if what I was doing was correct. The only real ways to check were to watch other people or to watch videos. I had to do the second because I was too shy for the first.
4. Give help, get help
One part of gym etiquette is that you are required to help people. If you see someone stuck on their last bench press rep or if they need a spotter, you have to step up and help them. You’re all there to improve yourselves, so help each other get there.
For that reason, look to give help whenever you can. I don’t necessarily mean form correction and watching other people like a hawk, but if people need a couple weights or a spot, step up and give it to them.
Giving help also makes it nearly automatic to get help. Usually people will proactively offer to spot your bench once you spot theirs. If they don’t, they’re obligated by gym etiquette to do so anyways if you ask. The gym is a helpful community, and the easiest way to join is to uphold one of its core practices.
Going to the gym is great experience that everyone deserves to have. It is probably one of the most consistently helpful environments I’ve ever seen. The best way to get over your gym anxiety is to:
- Understand that people are expected to help
- Do some preliminary research so you at least have some sense of what’s happening