Overcoming Social Anxiety at the Gym

Getting regular exercise is an important component of staying healthy. However, when you have social anxiety, the thought of putting on workout clothes and heading to the gym can be enough to make you decide not to bother with going out to exercise at all.

If you have concerns that people at the gym may be looking at you and judging you as you are doing your routine, you are definitely not alone. Many people feel overwhelmed when entering a gym – especially if it appears to be full of members who look as though they don’t really need to be working out – people who are obviously in great physical shape.

Maybe entering a gym is intimidating because you don’t know how to use the equipment efficiently. With these types of thoughts rolling around in your mind, the thought of actually speaking to someone you encounter at the gym is even more off-putting. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help you overcome social anxiety at the gym. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Keep your Focus on Improving Your Health

When you step into the gym, try not to think about the other members. Your focus should be squarely on you and your health and fitness goals. You’ve made a choice to improve your health, improve your muscle tone, relieve stress, lower your blood pressure or lose weight (if that is part of your plan).

Increasing your level of physical activity will also help you to feel less anxious over time, which is an additional bonus on top of the other health benefits you’ll get from making trips to the gym part of your regular routine.

Schedule a Session with a Personal Trainer

As a new member, you’ll want to get some instruction about the best type of workout to help you achieve your fitness goals. The gym may give you a preferred rate on one or more sessions with a personal trainer.

You can use this time to map out a workout routine and get to know how to use the equipment properly. When the time comes to work out on your own, you’ll feel more confident about stepping up to the machines on your own.

If you can’t afford a session with a personal trainer, ask whether an employee can take you around and give you the rundown about how each piece of equipment works. The management wants you to be happy as a new member and you’ll get the added benefit of getting to know a staff member you can greet by name the next time you go in for a workout.

Sign up for an Exercise Class

The good thing about an exercise class is that you’re working out with a group and that everyone is learning something new together.

You won’t be expected to be an expert and the instructor will be happy to help you if you get stuck. Once the class starts, the participants will be too busy focusing on following what’s going on to be thinking about what anyone else is doing, so there’ll be no reason to worry about how you’re doing.

Do Smile at Staff and Fellow Members

Even if you find it challenging to speak in social situations, you can try smiling at the gym staff and fellow members when you’re at the gym. In most instances, the gym staff will be quite friendly and may even say, “Hello” or ask you how your day or workout is going.

Most of the staff will be aware that you’re a new member, so one or more will probably make an effort to ask whether you’re enjoying everything at the gym or if you have any questions. You may find it easier to communicate if someone else initiates the conversation. The first few times you speak to someone at the gym, you may decide to keep these encounters short.

Once you start to feel more comfortable in the surroundings, you can start to make conversations longer by asking questions, such as asking a staff member about other classes you could take or how to determine when to increase the number of repetitions (reps) of a certain exercise. If you’re talking to a fellow member, you could ask what they think of a particular piece of equipment or whether they have been a member for a long time — adding that you’re trying to get a feel for the place.

Most people are happy to give new members both encouragement and helpful opinions and suggestions without much prompting, so this can be a good way to start a conversation without having to do “all the work.”


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