If the thought of going to the gym feels uncomfortable, you’re not the only one.
Though Instagram might have you believe that you’re in the minority, new studies have shown many of us lack confidence in the gym.
The Gym Group found that two in five of us have never been to the gym, and one in five feel too ‘awkward’ about going, or are too embarrassed by personal fitness levels.
Gen Z in particular feel this, with the stats rising to three in five in this age group, while one in five are paying for a membership they don’t use due to worries about going.
A study by PureGym found that more than a third of gym goers have considered quitting for similar reasons.
There’s been a surge in interest in joining gyms since restrictions lifted earlier this summer, with Google searches for ‘gym memberships’ having risen by 56% since freedom day.
But a lack of confidence is coming in the way of new members actually making the most of their gyms.
60% of people surveyed by PureGym were found to not feel knowledgeable when it comes to gym equipment, 54% worry about how they look, and 56% compare their fitness levels to others, believing they don’t stack up.
Working with a group of participants, they monitored the heart rates of people who struggle with intimidation at the thought of the gym.
Stress levels were found to spike just when entering the gym alone, and they were lower when going in company.
Going to the gym with a workout plan and instructions on how to use equipment saw any spikes in heart rate go down by 20%.
The most common moments people feel award about in the gym, according to The Gym Group
- The moment you feel people are looking at you (27%)
- Doing an exercise incorrectly (24%)
- Walking into a gym for the first time and feeling lost (23%)
- Having an accident or falling over (21%)
- Not being able to keep up with those around you (21%)
Personal trainer Kat Crisp says there are simple things you can do to make the gym experience better, whether you’re new or are returning from a break.
Tour the gym before you start
Don’t underestimate how much feeling ‘lost’ will effect how you approach the gym.
Kat says: ‘Whether you’re new, or are confident in your training but have moved gyms, it can feel intimidating not knowing where any of the kit is as every gym is set out differently and uses different equipment.
‘Taking a tour of the gym before you start, either through an induction or simply walking around, can help alleviate nerves.‘
Wear the right clothes
The key thing is to make sure you’re comfortable and can freely move.
‘Social media can make us believe that everyone is training in just a sports bra and the tightest, shortest shorts,’ Kat says.
‘If the idea of donning this kind of gear makes you feel uncomfortable, you are not alone.
‘You do not need to be wearing a certain brand of clothing to fit in at the gym; if wearing something baggy makes you feel confident then wear that.’
Don’t get stressed about sweating
If how you look concerns you when working out, remember the idea is to work up a sweat – not look Insta-ready.
‘Sweat patches and red faces are a part of the gym environment,’ Kat notes. ‘Few people look nice at the gym, so don’t feel the need to apologise for sweating or going red. It’s just your body’s response to help you keep working out.
‘If you are worried, take a towel with you, so you can wipe down you and the kit as needed.’
The typically quieter times to go the gym, according to PureGym
If working out at quieter times will help boost your confidence, here’s the intel on when to go and when to avoid.
- The busiest day to visit the gym: Mondays
- The quietest day(s) to visit the gym: Weekends (especially Sundays)
- The busiest hours to visit the gym: 5pm-7pm
- The quietest hours to visit the gym: 7am-8am and 9pm-11pm
- The quietest day of the year to visit the gym (outside of Christmas): the final Sunday in August before bank holiday Monday
Go with a goal
Knowing your ‘why’ can be enough motivation to push past any fear.
Kat says: ‘Think about your reason for going. This should be more than I want to lose weight or get a bit fitter or build some muscle.
‘Get specific. Knowing your reason for going to the gym in the first place can help you get to the gym and stick to going.
‘Motivation comes and goes so having a crystal-clear reason for going is important to keep you on track and pushing past any first nerves.‘
Avoid peak hours
Going at quieter times is one the easiest ways people find their confidence at the gym improves – nearly two thirds resonated with this.
‘Every gym has peak and quieter times: going outside of these hours when the gym is quieter can feel less intimidating.
‘PTs and gym managers will be able to let you know the most popular times,’ Kat says.
Follow a plan
Going with a plan also helps people feel more confident.
Kat says a back-up plan is a good idea too.
‘Following a plan is helpful as it means, rather than walking around looking for machines that are free, you have several exercises to choose from if certain equipment is already being used.’
Go at your own pace
Everyone was a beginner at some stage.
Kat says remember that ‘training is a skill that needs to be learnt’ so avoid comparing your journey to someone else’s who may well have been training for years.