Intimidated by going to the gym? You don’t have to be

Have you ever said, “I need to get in shape before I go to the gym?”  Why do we say that, and doesn’t it seem completely counter to the point of the gym? dumbell graphic

Nonetheless, it is a true and valid feeling for many.  Gyms can be a scary place, a place where many of us think others are looking at or judging us, and a place where we can feel easily embarrassed and uncomfortable.  Who would want to go somewhere that makes them feel that way?  Gyms do not have to be intimidating. Here are three ways to help you feel more confident about joining and/or getting to the gym.

1. Create a plan before your go

Having a plan is the best way to prevent feeling lost when you arrive at the gym.  Start out with a 20-30-minute plan and be very structured.  Use credible sources to put together a plan to do 20 minutes of cardio and a 15-minute core routine. Follow it up with five minutes of stretching.  Then leave, you are all done!  Going in with an idea of what you want to do will help keep you occupied and less worried about what others are thinking (which is probably about their own workout!).

2. Find the right place for you

There are many types of gyms– Traditional box gyms, small boutique gyms that specialize in one exercise like cycling, CrossFit gyms, boxing gyms, gyms just for women, and so much more. Location and convenience are a key piece to making it easy to get the gym regularly but liking the gym you go to will actually make you go more.  Many gyms have a coffee shop, smoothie bar, or even an alcoholic bar attached to create a social atmosphere.  Gyms and fitness facilities know you have more of a life than just your workout and they go to great lengths to try and keep people comfortable and happy.  Most gyms offer a trial period or tour, so check the gyms out and see what works for you.  Each gym will feel different to you, and you will know when you have found the right one for you.

3. Find a trainer or group classes

If you are unsure of anything, ask! That is what the staff is there for. I promise they’ll be more peeved watching you do an exercise incorrectly than if you ask for help!  Do not feel intimidated by walking around or asking where specific equipment is.  Pairing up with a trainer for a few sessions can make you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable going to workouts on your own in the future.  It is also a great way to help ensure you do not hurt yourself.

If personal training isn’t your thing, you can also try group fitness classes.  Classes can be intimidating to many when it feels like everyone already knows what is going on but you.  The truth is, any personal trainer or instructor fully trained and qualified should put the work in to make you feel comfortable.  Instructors should be offering modifications and motivation so that you’ll get the most out of the class if it’s your first time or 50th.  Most instructors are more than willing to chat with you before or after classes to address any special concerns you may have, and this can be helpful if you need to make adjustments for yourself the next time you come.  If you want to feel more comfortable at the gym, the best resource is the people who are paid to be there.

Take the time

Gyms do not have to be an intimidating place, and a gym that is, is not the gym for you.  Take the time to try out different gyms before signing up for anything long term.  You can always start with little tips like avoiding peak hours or putting in your headphones and listening to a killer playlist, but in the long run if you are not comfortable you won’t go.

So, take the time to get comfortable, which may mean doing a few things that are uncomfortable, like asking for help.

Kimberly Burke is the director of the Adult Fitness Program at Colorado State University, an outreach program through the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Adult Fitness offers exercise opportunities for employees of CSU as well as community members, while providing hands-on learning experiences for health promotion students. To learn more see

For more health tips, visit the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.