Skip Nav

How to Overcome Social Anxiety at the Gym

The Gym Made Me Feel Anxious and Insecure, but These Strategies Have Helped

For as long as I can remember, I have hated working out. It took me years to realize how much exercising helped clear my head, and how much stronger it made me feel and look. When I learned in my psychology classes that regular exercise can also help manage depression and anxiety, I knew it was time to buckle down. Unfortunately, I also realized that the best way I could work out regularly was by going to the gym — something I had always dreaded.

The gym is especially challenging for someone who often feels anxious in social settings. I'm always worried that people are staring at me or judging me. Am I doing this right? You're waiting for me, aren't you? Ugh, I'm in your way. I knew I needed to move past these issues if I was going to take better care of myself. After abandoning my workout routine more than once, these tips have helped me find the courage to keep going.

1. Take Notes

There are plenty of workout plans and videos that can help you plot your workouts in advance, but after you've done your research, jot down some notes about each exercise in your phone. This way, you won't be left feeling awkward while you try to remember the instructions you watched the night before.

ADVERTISEMENT

2. Make a Playlist

This one probably seems obvious, but a good playlist can help boost your confidence — and wearing headphones is a surefire way to avoid having to talk to people.

3. Avoid Peak Hours

When the gym is packed, and the machines I need aren't available, I always end up just stretching in the corner for an unusually long time to avoid the awkwardly staring down strangers, waiting for them to wrap things up. I've learned that if I go around lunchtime, it's not nearly as bad. Ask someone at the front desk what hours are best, or just drop by at different times of the day until you find the sweet spot.

4. Bring a Friend

I've gone to the gym with friends who had no idea what they were doing either, which helped me feel less alone. If you can find someone who goes to the gym regularly, though, you can have them show you the ropes and adopt their routine. This is how I find most of my workouts!

5. Dress the Part

I've stocked up on cute workout clothes since heading back to the gym, and while doing so has helped keep me motivated (I don't want that money to go to waste!), it has also helped build my confidence. I figure I'll at least look like I know what I'm doing, even if I don't. And sometimes you really do have to fake it until you make it.

Image Source: Getty / Westend61
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds