How I Overcame My Gym-Phobia

Gyms can seem like pretty terrifying places. But with a couple key strategies, you can go from a gym NOer to a gym GOer!

For years I told myself that I was NOT a gym person. I would rather do anything than step inside a huge torture chamber with machines that take computer science degrees to use and perky college students who look like they popped out of Victoria Secrets catalogues. But in my quest to be “fit and fabulous,” rather than “fat and fabulous,” I eventually realized it was time to conquer my gym-phobia.

Thinking about going to the gym made me break out into a cold sweat. If being overweight and out of shape wasn’t humiliating enough, I was also having flashbacks to years ago when, after many failed attempts, I couldn’t figure out how to work a single cardio machine, then pulled a muscle trying to lift a pair of 10-lb dumbbells. .

Facing my initial fears of not knowing what to do, looking out of place, and getting hurt was scary, but I was able to do it. Here’s how:

If all eyes were going to be on me, I knew I had to retire my old sweats. So I hit the nearest Walmart and bought some comfy but cute workout clothes that covered up my “imperfections.” I also treated myself to stylish athletic shoes and socks. It may sound minor, but wearing something that makes you feel great will boost your confidence sky-high.

Next, I grabbed—okay, bribed—a friend to go with me. There’s safety in numbers, right? Plus, scheduling regular workout dates with a buddy you won’t want to let down will keep you going back.

We went to the gym in the middle of the day, and it was practically empty—if you’re intimidated by crowds, I’d definitely recommend going during off-peak hours. You’ll have the gym almost to yourself!

Since we looked a bit lost, one of the nice attendants offered to give us a tour and gave us a flyer of the different workout classes being held each week. Since I confessed my “gym-phobia,” she pointed out the beginners’ classes and said everyone has to start somewhere—the most important thing is to just show up.

Sensing that we were eager to get started, she called over a personal trainer who demonstrated how to use some of the cardio machines. He told us to just focus on one or two in the beginning, until we got the hang of it. His advice really hit home: Taking things slow at first will allow you to build up your endurance, and prevent possible injury.

I was so glad I’d accepted their help, and would advise anyone to do the same. Getting assistance from the helpful gym staff will definitely help you feel comfortable. If your finances allow for it, I’d also recommend hiring a trainer to show you how to use the equipment and do specific exercises. You’ll feel like a pro in no time.

We noticed that nearly everyone was wearing headphones hooked up to MP3 players. Rocking out to your favorite tunes, we were told, makes workouts whiz by. Plus, wearing headphones when you’re alone at the gym makes you feel less awkward, not to mention empowered.  

Since I had a 14-day guest pass, I began dropping in at different times to get a better feel for things. Each day got easier than the last, and I actually started to look forward to going to the gym!

It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. So above all, remember to be patient with yourself and take things slowly. Eventually, your gym-phobia will begin to melt away—along with your extra pounds.

Make it WayBetter

Take a page out of Gail’s book and see if you can get a free guest pass to a few local gyms. Get a feel for each place, then decide what’s best for you.