Beating gym anxiety


By Alexandra Torrie

The first time I walked into the gym at my university, my heart was Doing exercisepumping, my palms were sweaty, and I had the urge to run, however none of this was due to exercise. Instead, I was feeling anxious in a new environment, new machines, and a lot of fit people! I didn’t want to stand out and most of all I didn’t want people to judge me.

Joining a gym is a great first step to a healthy lifestyle, however if you’re walking in there with insecurities like I did, it can be one of the hardest parts of the whole process. I never liked the idea of working out with others around me; I felt people would look at me and immediately see how out of place I felt.

Walking into the gym for the first time, here’s what I found most intimidating:

  • Fit people. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing and they looked great. I was self-conscious and immediately did a mental comparison.
  • The machines. I had never used some of the machines and I had no clue where to start.
  • The number of people. I missed the privacy of working out at home and having so many people around me was a big change.
  • The opposite sex. If you have insecurities with your body, this can be enough to make you want to turn around and run the other way!
  • Myself. My own perceptions of myself and my body made things feel scarier and more intimidating than they actually were.


Even though we may feel that the people around us are looking at us and judging us, the truth is that most people are much more focused on what they’re doing at the gym than what you’re doing.

After avoiding the gym for a while, I realized that if I wanted to reach my goals I had to figure out how to beat my anxiety about the gym.

Here’s how to beat gym anxiety:

  • Plan your workout before you go. That way when you arrive, you know what you’re going to do and you don’t have to waste any time. It gives you a purpose and a goal.
  • Go with a friend. Having someone you know and are comfortable with by your side can reduce your anxiety.
  • Join a class. Group fitness classes are a great way to meet people and be social.
  • Talk to a gym employee or trainer. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. If you don’t understand how a machine works, or you’re not sure if you’re doing an exercise right, ask someone with experience.
  • Avoid ‘peak’ hours. If you’re like me and prefer less people, off-hours work out great – pun intended!
  • Be kind to yourself. Creating a positive image of yourself can make you feel more confident going into the gym. Care for your body with balanced nutrition and adequate hydration to contribute to a positive workout.
  • Focus on your goals and understand why you want to exercise. Identify your goal clearly and make sure it’s something you genuinely want to achieve. Owning this and being certain about your goal will help you walk into the gym with more confidence in yourself.

Once you get over this anxiety, you’ll feel great about yourself every time you walk through the gym door!

Your Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) can help you manage anxiety. Visit or call 1.866.833.7690 for more information and support anytime, anywhere.

About the author
Alex is currently a student at McGill University in the Faculty of Sciences, majoring in Psychology. Alex has been a part of field hockey, swimming and tennis teams in the past and currently uses her school’s gym to stay active in between studying. Alex is a summer student working with the Fitness Coach Connects team at Morneau Shepell.

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