It’s normal to feel nervous
We’ve set (and snoozed) our alarms, we’re up, dressed and on our way to the gym – which is half the battle, right. But what about when we walk through the doors? Where do we go from there? The weights room is full of of muscles and we’re not overly confident using the machines, but we’re determined to get a workout in! So, what do we do?
There’s no need to call it a day after using the treadmill! Feeling anxious in the gym is totally normally, and fitness guru, Melissa Collins-Gut of EVOLVE by Melissa and Habitual, is assuring us of that! Read on for her tips on dealing with gym intimidation, inspiring confidence and effectively structuring workouts so you can own it at the gym every single time.
“Gym anxiety is universally experienced by everyone,” assures Melissa. “It does not discriminate between gender, size, strength, or how fit you are. I have spent my life in fitness, and I still get butterflies when I visit a new gym or try a new class, it’s perfectly normal and everyone has felt that way at some point. Most of us by nature become less confident in new or unknown environments, which is why preparation and a few physiological tricks are key to kicking those nerves to the curb…”
Define your ‘why’
Whether you’re feeling sluggish after all the holiday indulgence or amping yourself up to smash your health and fitness goals this year, “the first step to feeling more confident is to find and define your motivation behind going to the gym,” says Melissa. “Creating small, obtainable, personal and precise goals will help keep you motivated and help you to create a plan for each gym visit. You’ll be more motivated to do something when there’s a compelling reason for doing it.”
Wandering aimlessly around the gym in search of a free elliptical is standard during peak hours, but “nothing is worse than having someone come up to you mid-set yelling at you because you are doing bicep curls in the squat rack!” laughs Melissa. If you’re feeling nervous, familiarising yourself with the space and equipment will go a long way. “Call and ask when the busy hours are,” she suggests. “If you prefer a quiet time where you don’t have to wait for a piece of equipment, try to schedule your gym time around these hours.” Alternatively, why not schedule a tour of the gym before you start? “A lot of gyms will give you a free tutorial on how to use gym equipment that might be unfamiliar to you. Most people fear the ambiguity of the gym, so make sure you don’t leave anything about the gym unclear to you.”
Plan! Plan! Plan!
I am all too guilty of winging it. I won’t lie, on the rare occasion that I do make it to the gym, I have no battle plan and end up running on the treadmill for a few minutes, before walking over to the weight racks which are crowded with muscled men, to only bottle it and head home.
“Write down your workout before arriving,” urges Melissa.”Know what you want to accomplish during that session, and write it down so you can hold yourself accountable. If you are unsure of how to plan a workout to reach your goals, invest in help.” Melissa also suggests, (if money isn’t an issue) hiring a personal trainer to get you started, taking a group class (you may even meet some new people!) or downloading an app to take the guesswork out of planning a workout.
“If you are just looking for something to do, there are several apps that provide various workouts to try. If you are looking for something a bit more personalised, you can try online fitness coaching such as Habitual,” she suggests. “Each session has video links for every exercise with instructions on how to perform the exercise and cues to think about to make sure you are doing it correctly.” Essentially, if the gym is already an environment that gives you anxiety, don’t make it worse by coming unprepared. “Aimlessly moving from machine to machine wont do anything to help boost your confidence and might not be the best plan to help you reach your goals. So make sure you know exactly what you want to do before arriving.”
Focus… or distract yourself
“If you are focussing on working hard with high-intensity and making sure your form is correct, you won’t have as much time to think about what anyone else is thinking,” says Melissa. Go in with your plan and don’t let your surroundings distract you from kicking butt, “at the end of the day, most people are too busy looking at themselves anyways to pay much attention to anyone else. If all else fails, crank up your music or get lost in an episode of your favorite podcast,” she continues.
Strength in numbers
If all else ‘fails’, bribe your girls to join you, with the promise of pizza post-workout. “Comradery goes a long way,” echos Melissa. “If you have followed these steps and still are feeling a bit of anxiety about going into the gym, grab a friend! When you’re with a friend, you feel more relaxed and are able to have fun,” she continues. “Even if a spell of gym anxiety arises, don’t be afraid to face your insecurity – share a laugh about it with a friend, and learn from your experience. Having a gym buddy can also help keep you both accountable to follow through with those New Year’s Resolutions.”
And most importantly…
Believe in yourself! “You are your only competition; comparing yourself to others isn’t going to get you anywhere,” Melissa stresses. “Even if people are looking at you, convince yourself that it’s because they admire your motivation and dedication toward reaching your goals. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has started out in your shoes at some point or another, so don’t give in to those feelings of insecurity! Keep your goals in mind, and stick with your fitness plans.” You’ve got this!
Melissa’s tips for structuring your workouts…
- Whatever your goal may be, make sure your workouts are reflecting that goal. Know how much time you want to spend in the gym and how many days a week you want to be there.
- You can structure your workouts by either focussing on one specific body part with 5-8 exercises for each session, or do a whole body workout with 1-2 exercises for each upper body, lower body and core focussed exercises.
- Make sure to start with a good warm-up to elevate your body’s core temperature and activate any of the muscle groups you may be using during that session.
- Save the static stretching for the end of the session, and instead start with a dynamic warm up. I like to program any compound lifts or major muscle group exercises at the beginning of my session when I am the most fresh and save any accessory/smaller muscle group exercises for the end.
- Make sure to schedule in some rest/recovery sessions into your week. Recovery from a workout is just as important as the workout itself.