How to go to the gym & not be afraid of scary gym people

A few tips on overcoming your gym fears

Josh prepares for his first visit to the ARC.
Josh prepares for his first visit to the ARC.

One of my goals when I came to Queen’s was to get in better shape. I knew, going into it, that this was going be difficult to achieve, but what I didn’t know was that the most difficult part of my journey would simply be making it to the gym.

On my first trip to the ARC, I found myself surrounded by gigantic and massively ripped peers who may as well have been the face — or should I say body — of intense, constant gym activity. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement — I was terrified. 

Luckily, after a full year of making up excuses and avoiding the squat rack at all costs, I have picked up a couple tricks on how to avoid feeling overpowered by the muscle that constantly inhabits the ARC.

1. Plan your workout beforehand

The best way to combat the feeling of being unqualified is to prepare. Do a bit of planning before to know exactly what exercises you will be doing when you get there.  You will be more confident in your actions if 

you know what you’re doing, or at least look like you know — fake it til’ you make it, am I right? You can find plenty of workouts online, or by asking friends, or consulting a trainer.

2. Get a good playlist to tune out the haters

Nothing can take your mind off the pressures of the gym like good music. 

Find yourself a solid pump-up playlist from the multitude of streaming services and sites online and allow music’s transformative powers to distract you from the surrounding Sports Illustrated photo-shoot vibe.

3. Find or join a squad of fellow gym newbies

A fun fact that may often escape you at the gym is that not every one there is some sort of Hercules Crossfit champion. A large 

percentage of gym-goers are in the exact same predicament as you. If you’re feeling uncomfortable around those who go a lot, try linking up with people you do feel comfortable with so you can get back to focusing on the workout.

4. Ask a professional for help

This group of people didn’t get to their large stature on their own. Proper use of equipment and form are essential to getting in better shape, and they are full of workout tips that can aid your workout experience. Usually they are more than willing to help anyone who asks, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out, there even if they are more fit than you.

5. Read up on the “imaginary audience”

The most important (and debateably the only) concept I learned in my PSYC100 course this year was the imaginary audience. The imaginary audience refers to how one will believe that many people are intensely watching and listening to them in public, when the other people are actually just minding their own business or thinking the same thing about you. If you begin to get overwhelmed, try to reassure yourself that most of the judgment you feel is in your head.

6. Carve out your own space

Sometimes, the best way to avoid feelings of intimidation is to literally avoid the source of those feelings. If you begin to find said feelings unbearable, hop on over to a less-populated area of the gym. My personal favourites are the very back of the stretching room on level 1 or the stretching room at the back of Cardio Zone 1 (level 2 side with the bikes).

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