5 Ways to Overcome Gymtimidation (Because You’re Already Awesome)

You walk into a new class. It’s packed with super fit girls wearing the latest Lululemon workout gear. The girl next to you starts stretching in front of the mirror, contorting in ways you didn’t even know were possible. And to top it all off, you’ve never taken the class before.

Hey, we’ve been there.

Whether you’re taking yoga, Pilates, barre or cycling, walking into a new gym or studio can feel intimidating, even anxiety-producing. It’s called gymtimidation, and it’s real. If you’ve ever experienced a pre-workout confidence crash or felt self-conscious walking into a new fitness facility, you know what we’re talking about. And you’re not alone!

Most of us have felt gymtimidation at some point in our lives. In fact, a recent study reveals that women are two times as self-conscious about exercising as men. So what causes gymtimidation? Women reported feeling unfit, others judging them and not knowing what the heck to do as the primary reasons for their discomfort.

You feel badly about yourself, so you don’t work out. You don’t work out, so you end up feeling badly about yourself. It’s a vicious cycle, and it ends now! Don’t let insecurity and fear mess with your fitness goals and self esteem.

Follow these five steps to shake it off:

Realize that we all have to start somewhere

You don’t need to be in the best shape ever to go work out. That’s part of the reason why you’re going! Everyone, even your amazing barre instructor was new once. We all have to start somewhere. And as with anything, the key to growing comfort and confidence in class is to be consistent and go regularly. The more you do something, the more natural it becomes.

Remind yourself of why you’re there

Exercise is awesome! It boosts endorphins, improves strength and helps build a positive body image. What motivates each of us is different. Whether your goal is to sweat it out at cycling, work your core at Pilates or boost flexibility at yoga, remind yourself why you picked this particular class and what you hope to achieve. Your path is personal, and we think that’s pretty awesome.

Try your best not to compare

Focus on yourself. During a high-impact kickboxing class or a sweaty yoga session, everyone is paying attention to themselves, and probably checking themselves—not you—out in the mirror. We promise. Don’t get distracted watching or comparing yourself to other class goers. You don’t know where someone else is on his or her fitness journey.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Stepping into a class can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re not sure what to do. Talk to your instructor before class and let him/her know you’re new. Ask is there’s a particular spot that’s best for new students. If not, find a spot in the middle of the room. This way you won’t feel like you’re on display in the front row and can see and hear the instructor demo throughout class. And there’s no shame in explaining that you’re nervous. Your teacher is your best resource. He or she is to here to help, encourage and motivate you to do your best.

Get inspired by instructors

With the help of some of our fave body-positive instructors, we’re sharing awesome advice to help you overcome gymtimidation (because it seriously shouldn’t be a thing)!

“I think the most important thing with any practice is to be content with yourself, where your body is at this moment. Accept that it always changes. Some days you’ll feel like a rock star and others you’ll need a little bit of extra encouragement. I also just like to wear sparklies! It’s part of the reason why I started my apparel line. I feel like sparkles give me special powers at times when I need a bit of extra juju in my step.” – Kat Schamens, teacher, OM Factory and Yoga Vida

“Silence the inner critic we all have. Be in the moment and open to the instruction. Go into any class knowing that it’s a process for the body and mind to adopt new habits. Be patient with yourself, have a sense of humor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Routine and practice are the keys to having a healthy relationship with working out.” – Michelle Fama, co-founder and faculty, Core Pilates NYC

“Who first told you that you were imperfect? For better or worse, whatever we believe to be true makes it so. If a negative belief about yourself does not serve you (and obviously it does not), you are allowed to let it go whenever you’re ready. None of us are here to perform or to accomplish, but we all come to our mats to feel something. My recommendation is to find a studio/teacher who is available to love you until you learn to love yourself.” – Lauren Bianca Solomon, teacher, Harlem Yoga Studio

“We’re all here for the same reason: to be healthy, strong and happy. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, your age, whatever. If you take on the challenge and push your own limits, you are a badass. And when you leave a class sweaty and smiling, you’re a beautiful badass!” – Jessica Lari, instructor, Jumplife
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Lindsay Cohn is a matcha-obsessed writer with a passion for clean eating and healthy living. In her free time, you can find her feeling the burn at barre and traveling every chance she gets. Read more of Lindsay's work over at the S-Life Mag and YogaToday.