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How to Cope with Gym Anxiety If You Haven’t Been in a While

Going to the gym can be a great way to improve your physical and mental health, but it can also be a source of anxiety for many people. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned gym-goer, you may feel intimidated, self-conscious, or overwhelmed by the gym environment, especially if you haven’t been in a while.

Gym anxiety, also known as gymtimidation, is not uncommon and can affect anyone. According to the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders and affect almost 30% of adults at some point. These feelings, which the APA defines as “anticipation of a future concern,” can manifest as muscle tension, avoidance, rapid breathing, sweating, nausea, or self-doubt.

If you’re experiencing gym anxiety, you may be tempted to skip your workouts or give up on your fitness goals altogether. However, there are some strategies that can help you overcome your fears and make your gym experience more enjoyable and rewarding. In this blog post, we’ll share some tips on how to cope with gym anxiety if you haven’t been in a while, as well as some alternatives to working out at the gym.

What Causes Gym Anxiety?

There are many reasons why going to the gym might trigger anxiety. Some of the common ones are:

  • You’re a beginner. If you’ve never worked out at a gym before, or it has been a long time, you may feel intimidated by the unfamiliar environment, the equipment, the rules, or the people. You may worry about what others will think of your appearance or abilities, or how to start your workout routine.
  • You’ve changed gyms. Maybe you have been working out at one gym for a while but recently switched locations. Navigating the new layout, finding the locker room and restroom, locating the equipment you want to use, and getting into a new routine can provoke anxiety.
  • You’re having trouble using the equipment. Maybe you really want to use a certain machine, but you can’t figure out how to adjust it, or it’s always occupied. You may feel frustrated, embarrassed, or discouraged.
  • You have to change in front of others. If you come to the gym from work or plan to go somewhere else afterward, you may have to change clothes before or after your workout. Doing this in a public locker room can make you uncomfortable, especially if you’re not confident about your body.
  • You’re comparing yourself to others. The gym can be a place where you see people of different shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels. You may feel insecure or inadequate if you compare yourself to others who seem more fit, more skilled, or more attractive than you.

These are just some of the possible scenarios that can cause gym anxiety. You may have your own unique triggers or challenges that make you feel anxious at the gym. The important thing is to recognize them and address them, rather than letting them stop you from working out.

How to Overcome Gym Anxiety

Gym anxiety can be a barrier to your fitness and wellness goals, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips on how to cope with gym anxiety if you haven’t been in a while:

  • Do your research and get acquainted. The root of some anxiety is fear of the unknown, so gaining as much information as possible can help you feel more prepared and confident. Before you go to the gym, check out their website, social media, or reviews to get a sense of what they offer, what their policies are, what their peak hours are, and what their vibe is. You can also call or visit the gym in advance and ask for a tour or a trial session. This way, you can familiarize yourself with the facilities, the staff, and the equipment, and reduce the chances of surprises or confusion.
  • Start slowly and gradually. Don’t feel like you have to go all in during your first visit to the gym, or after a long break. Pick a small and realistic goal that you’re comfortable with, such as going for 15 minutes, doing one exercise, or trying one machine. Then, gradually increase the duration, intensity, or variety of your workouts as you gain more confidence and experience. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or injured, and allow you to enjoy the process and the progress.
  • Hire a trainer or join a class. Working with a professional can be a great way to overcome gym anxiety, as they can provide you with guidance, support, and feedback. A trainer can help you design a personalized workout plan, teach you how to use the equipment properly and safely, and motivate you to reach your goals. A class instructor can help you learn new skills, have fun, and feel part of a community. You can also ask a friend or a family member to join you at the gym, as having a workout buddy can make you feel more comfortable and accountable.
  • Frame working out as an act of self-love. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of going to the gym, such as the fear, the pain, or the judgment, try to focus on the positive aspects, such as the benefits, the pleasure, or the gratitude. Remind yourself that working out is a way of taking care of yourself, improving your health, and enhancing your well-being. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and reward yourself with something that makes you happy, such as a healthy snack, a relaxing bath, or a compliment. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, and avoid harsh or unrealistic expectations.
  • Use self-comparison to your advantage. Comparing yourself to others can be a source of anxiety, but it can also be a source of inspiration. Instead of feeling inferior or jealous of others who are more fit, more skilled, or more attractive than you, try to admire them and learn from them. Ask them for tips, advice, or feedback, and use their success as a motivation to improve yourself. You can also compare yourself to your past self, and appreciate how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, and how much you’ve grown.


Here are some frequently asked questions about gym anxiety and how to cope with it:

  • Q: Is gym anxiety normal?
  • A: Yes, gym anxiety is normal and common, and it can affect anyone, regardless of their fitness level, age, gender, or background. It is a form of social anxiety, which is characterized by a fear of being watched, judged, or rejected by others in public situations1According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, social anxiety disorder affects about 15 million American adults, or 7% of the population2.
  • Q: How can I deal with gym anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • A: The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of anxiety to going to the gym, as you may be concerned about the risk of infection, the safety measures, or the changes in the gym operations. To cope with this, you can follow these steps:
    • Check the local and national guidelines on the COVID-19 situation and the gym regulations, and make sure you comply with them.
    • Choose a gym that has strict hygiene and sanitation protocols, such as requiring masks, limiting capacity, spacing out equipment, and providing disinfectants.
    • Avoid going to the gym during peak hours, and opt for less crowded areas or machines.
    • Bring your own water bottle, towel, mat, and headphones, and avoid sharing or touching other people’s belongings.
    • Wash your hands frequently, sanitize the equipment before and after use, and keep a safe distance from others.
    • If you feel sick, have symptoms, or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, stay home and isolate yourself until you get tested and cleared.
  • Q: What are some alternatives to working out at the gym?
  • A: If you’re not comfortable or ready to go to the gym, or you simply prefer other ways of exercising, there are many alternatives that you can try, such as:
    • Running, walking, cycling, or hiking outdoors, in a park, a trail, or a neighborhood.
    • Doing home workouts, using online videos, apps, or books, and using your own body weight, household items, or simple equipment, such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or a jump rope.
    • Joining group classes or clubs outside of the gym, such as yoga, pilates, dance, martial arts, or sports.
    • Playing games or activities that involve physical movement, such as frisbee, tag, or hide and seek, with your friends, family, or pets.


Gym anxiety is a common and normal phenomenon that can affect anyone who wants to work out at the gym, especially if they haven’t been in a while. However, it doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your fitness and wellness goals. By following the tips and strategies we shared in this blog post, you can cope with gym anxiety and make your gym experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

Remember, working out is a way of showing yourself love, respect, and gratitude, and you deserve to feel good about yourself and your body. So, don’t let gym anxiety hold you back, and go for it!

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