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Gaining Confidence at the Gym

gym workouts

Truth: No one is really paying attention to your workouts at the gym. Credit: justthismoment

I’ve always been self-conscious at the gym. I know, logically, that everyone is doing his or her own thing and no one is really paying attention to me, but I have a hard time getting over that nagging feeling that someone, somewhere is watching me, critiquing my form and thinking I should be using heavier weights. Or laughing to themselves at me fumbling with a weight machine. And maybe there is one person who doesn’t have enough to worry about who is, but why do I let it get in the way of my workouts?

As part of my new gym membership, I scored a few personal training sessions. My trainer is awesome, but what she’s really done for me is boost my confidence in my fitness knowledge and skills. I mean, I’m not an idiot when it comes to working out. I’ve taken a zillion classes. I’ve done a trillion workout DVDs. I’ve even had a personal trainer for several months. I know the basics; I just don’t give myself credit.

As Susan puts me through circuits of lunges, squats, deadlifts and push-ups, she has let me know that my form is impeccable. That I clearly know what I’m doing. So it’s gone a long way in helping me trust myself when I’m on my own playing with dumbbells, BOSUs and weight machines. But I feel like I still have a ways to go in the confidence department. I still sometimes go blank on what I should do next and feel silly doing lunges all by my lonesome in a corner. But my sweat and sore muscles assure me that I don’t necessarily need a trainer to get a great workout.

Anyone else feel awkward at the gym? How have you gotten over it? I’m going to continue my journey by following these tips. —Erin

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8 Comments
  1. I always feel awkward at the gym if I missed a few days – usually from illness of injury. The first day back I just try to stay in the back of the gym on a cardio machine – trying to readjust myself to the environment. Once I feel comfortable, I do my weight workouts or attend a class. I just smile at everyone and am very polite, this way people act the same way towards me (usually), and it makes me feel like I’m around a bunch of friends working out. It’s a great feeling that makes me want to come back to my gym!

  2. Cathi says:

    I found that the gunhoe approach is the best. When I used to use the gym (have one at home now) I used to feel intimidated by the group of lads round the free weights. At first my head had pictures of the whole gym stopping and looking at the freak in the corner, that strange little woman using free weights and doing . . body weight training!!! I used to do hindu squats and pushups followed by vertical lifts for 15 minutes. Towel the sweat of myself and go. The boost came when a few weeks later the trainer came over after I had finished and asked how the hell I kept for so long. I then spent half an hour instructing the instructor on body weight training. IT FELT ACE! It then dawned on me that the only person really watching are the people that are there to help. Everyone else is consumed in thinking .” . the whole gym is stopping and looking at me as if I am a freak!” Instead of the circle of life, its like the circle of gym.

  3. Kelli says:

    I’m with you on this! But have also learned to just go for it – smile, be polite and friendly, and I also have learned to ask tons of questions (only of people who know what they’re doing!!). BUT on the opposite side of smiling, I’ve also learned to just go into my “zone” and block out others when I need to get the work done!

  4. Lauren K says:

    I’ve always been incredibly self conscious working out, whether I’m at the gym or on the road. What’s kept me motivated is remembering that I’m doing this for me– nobody else matters. I occasionally look to the athletes around me for motivation and inspiration, but I tell myself there’s no need to beat myself up if I’m not at their level. As long as I’m trying, I’m winning (duh!).
    Oh, and a really cute gym outfit helps me to be confident too!

  5. Tangie says:

    OMG! I thought I was the only person that felt this EXACT same way!!! I hated that feeling of thinking someone, somewhere in the gym is watchingme because I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. It made me dread going to the gym. Now I put my headphones on and tune everyone out! I don’t care if anyone is watching – I still get a workout in!

  6. Boaz Abel says:

    Thanks Erin, it is always great to hear from inspirational people. I think if we can just get up and walk from time to time it helps us out. Having a personal trainer or someone who pushes you is always a plus as well. Not caring about what others think is key. Because deep down inside we should not be going to the gym for them but for us.

    Thanks a lot

  7. Cindy says:

    You have to go to a gym like mine (YMCA) if you are self-conscious. We have every size and shape and skill level of people and a number of colorful characters. Nobody is looking at you because if they are looking at anybody it is the guy in the red ski hat or the tattooed man or the contortionist woman or the one we lovingly call Marge Simpson. Even though these people may get a second look there is no judgement as far as I can tell. I forgot my workout clothes once and exercised in my bathing suit. There are a lot of mirrors and I was checking every one of them. Nobody looked at me.

  8. Michelle says:

    I have always felt awkward lifting weights in front of guys at the gym. One thing that helps is going in with a plan of what you’re going to do, that way you have some confidence and you’re not walking around trying to figure out. Also, the more you do it the more confident and less awkward it becomes! Maybe smile and say hi to people, act like you own the damn place 🙂