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7 Things You Fear About Going to the Gym (and How to Get Over Them)

By Stephanie Booth
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD

Want to hit the gym, but feel weighed down by worries? Here are solutions for all your workout angst.

1. “I’m too heavy for the gym.”

If you’re afraid that people will judge your appearance, “remember that everyone is there to improve how they look and feel,” says Anika Christ, a program manager with Life Time Fitness. To make yourself feel more comfortable, bring a friend with you.

Also: Know that it’s OK to play the background. Go for the machine that’s away from the action (and, perhaps, far from a mirror), or nab a spot in the rear corner of a fitness class. Do whatever makes you feel at ease. You’ll feel more confident after your workout: “One session at the gym can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours,” Christ says.

2. “I don’t know how to use the equipment.”

If you’re not sure what a kettlebell is or you don’t know how to operate a rowing machine, you can prep yourself ahead of time, says Aaron Maibach, certified personal trainer in San Francisco.

“A quick online search will give you dozens of pictures, videos, and articles explaining the proper ways to use a piece of equipment or perform an exercise.” If you still feel unsure once you start your workout, ask an employee or someone else who’s around for help. “Feeling lost in the gym happens to everyone,” Maibach says.

3. “I get so bored!”

Putting your head down, blasting your iPod, and focusing only on the exercise at hand is motivating for some people. For others, it’s not enough to beat boredom, says Patricia A. Farrell, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist.

If that's the case, step away from the StairMaster and take advantage of the group fitness classes -- from tai chi to Zumba -- most gyms offer. "Working out with other people gives you camaraderie and pumps up your enthusiasm," Farrell says. "You get a sense of 'We're all in this together,' which eliminates the feeling of 'I have to do this alone.'" 

And try to smile while you're getting your sweat on: According to a University of California, Irvine study, smiling releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, and lowers stress.

4. “I don’t have anything to wear.”

Choose an outfit that fits your shape now, not what you hope you’ll look like after you’ve been hitting the gym for 6 months, Christ says. Pants and a loose shirt are a good choice, and dark, solid colors will help you blend in. “Buy something comfortable that makes you feel confident,” Christ says. No need to make a huge investment; if you keep up with your workouts, you’ll need to buy a smaller-sized outfit soon.

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