Dread the Gym? 7 Ways to Get Past That

From the WebMD Archives

Want to hit the gym, but can't quite seem to make it there? Your schedule might not be the only reason.

If you're feeling bored or self-conscious, afraid of injury, or just plain uncomfortable, there are solutions for all your workout angst.

1. “I’m too heavy for the gym.”

Maybe you think that people who go to the gym are already in shape. Not so!

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.

Try these ideas:

  1. Buddy up. To make yourself feel more comfortable, bring a friend with you.
  2. Pick your spot. Go for a machine that’s away from the action (and, perhaps, far from a mirror, if you don't want to see yourself while you're exercising), or nab a spot in the rear corner of a fitness class. Do whatever makes you feel at ease. You are in control.

Working out regularly can make you feel more confident. It's also a mood-booster. “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.”

Never seen a kettlebell? Stumped by the settings on that rowing machine? That can feel intimidating.

Try this: Prep yourself ahead of time so you know what to expect.

“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," says Aaron Maibach, a certified personal trainer in San Francisco.

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 psychologist Patricia A. Farrell, PhD.


Try this: Shake up your routine. Try a 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.'"

Try to smile while you're getting your sweat on: Smiling releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals, and lowers stress, according to a study from the University of California at Irvine.

4. “I don’t have anything to wear.”

Workout clothes can be super-tight, trendy, and expensive. But they don't have to be.

Try this: 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. 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're working on weight loss, you may need to buy a smaller-sized outfit soon.

5. “I’m worried I’ll get hurt.”

Forget the old saying “no pain, no gain.” “Exercise shouldn’t be horrible and difficult,” says Erin McGill, director of training and design at the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

If your last trip to the gym was torturous, you likely overshot your abilities, or your body alignment was off.

Try this: Sign up with a personal trainer who can show you the correct way to move and ease you into a program that’s right for your fitness level. Some gyms offer a complimentary session to new members.

If you’re working out on your own, remember: Less is more. “Quality of movement is far more important than doing X number of reps or spending X amount of time on the treadmill,” McGill says.


6. “Why should I even start? I’ll never stick with it.”

Thinking like this defeats you before you even step into the locker room.

“Many people assume they need to put in excessive hours at the gym and overcommit right from the get-go,” Christ says. “When you do too much too soon, you won’t be able to stick to it.” So take baby steps.

Try this: Exercise one time this week for no more than 30 minutes (and make it as fun as possible). Add another workout the following week, and slowly build in more sessions from there.

Weight loss isn’t about going as hard and fast as you can, Christ says. “It’s about behavior change and building [good] habits.”

7. “I really hate the gym.”

You absolutely -- hands down, no doubt about it -- can’t bear the thought of going to the gym. So don't go. “You can accomplish plenty of goals outside the gym,” McGill says.

Try this: You still need to exercise, but you can pick where you do it.

“Tennis, hiking, walking, and golf can all burn calories and help you get in shape," McGill says. "Think about what activity you like to do; then do it more."

Whatever you choose, don’t push yourself too hard. Overdoing exercise will just make you more likely to loathe your workout.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 21, 2014



Anika Christ, RD, program manager, Life Time Fitness, Chanhassen, MN.

Patricia A. Farrell, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist, New York.

Aaron Maibach, certified personal trainer, San Francisco.

Erin McGill, director of training and design, National Academy of Sports Medicine, Phoenix.

News release, American College of Sports Medicine.

News release, Association for Psychological Science.

© 2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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