Personal trainer Emily Cole shares 10 ways to boost your confidence and own your workout at the gym
There’s no denying that the gym can be a daunting place sometimes, with 80% of us dropping out within the first eight weeks of signing up due to feeling uncomfortable or suffering from ‘gymtimidation’. Sport England’s recent survey discovered the main source of gym fear was the feeling of being judged, with one in five men saying their biggest fear was not knowing what they were doing and avoiding free weights or machines for fear of looking foolish.
So, whether you’ve just started at the gym, want to up your game in the weights room or simply need a workout confidence boost, personal trainer Emily Cole has these tips to help you banish the fear and get amazing results.
1. Preparation is key
It may sound obvious, but before you hit the gym make sure you’re armed with the essentials. Call ahead and find out if your gym supplies towels and whether you need a padlock for the lockers, take a bottle of water and wear gym attire that you feel comfortable and can move freely in. Once you have the basics sorted, you can focus solely on your session.
2. Book a gym tour and induction
For newbies, gymtimidation can stem from the fear of the unknown – I know I felt like that when I first started. Don’t be afraid to ask a member of staff to show you around the gym floor and changing rooms to help you familiarise yourself with the layout. A gym induction will help you quash any worries you may have about using the equipment and getting started. You can find out how to use machines that are new to you, tell the fitness coach about your goals and ask for advice on how to train. Aim to come away with a basic programme that you can easily follow on your own, that pushes you to try new things rather than sticking to the security of the treadmill and cross trainer.
3. Time it right
The thought of a packed-out gym or changing room can be intimidating. One way to work around it is to plan your workout at a quieter time of the day – I love an early morning session. You could also take a slightly later lunch break or schedule your workout after the evening rush hour.
4. Get your head in the game
Setting out with a game plan will not only make your workout more productive, it will also give you confidence when you walk out on to the gym floor. Write down your workout exercises including how many sets and reps you’ll do, and familiarise yourself with the exercises (there are lots of tutorials on YouTube if you’re ever stuck).
5. Try an exercise class
Feel like you’re lacking the confidence to go it alone? Try a group exercise class. Working out with people is great motivation (especially if you’re more competitive) and if you’re unsure of technique on certain movements, you can ask the instructor to watch your form.
6. Focus on you
Try not to pay too much attention to other people. What works for them may not work for you. Remember that no one is judging you; everyone is focusing on themselves and their own session! Whenever I have a dip in confidence, I try to stride into the gym with purpose and repeat a positive mantra to myself, something like: “I am strong, I can smash this session.” Have confidence in your workout and your ability, but always ask questions when you’re unsure – ultimately we all want to help each other.
7. Plug in
Listening to music while you train has been proven to boost your workout. It motivates you to work harder, gets you in ‘the zone’ and, most importantly, acts as a distraction from the exercise itself – winning!
8. Make gym buddies
Often, you’ll get free gym passes, which you can use to take friends along to the gym with you. But making friends at the gym is easier than you think. You often find that members like to go to the same classes every week, so it’s easy to get talking on a regular basis. It can be slightly harder to make friends on the gym floor but there are ways! If you want to use a piece of equipment, don’t shy away. Instead ask to jump in during the other person’s rest periods – it might just spark a conversation.
9. Book a taster PT session
A personal trainer can give your workout an edge, setting you a more specific programme, focusing solely on you and your technique and giving you the confidence to train on your own. You might just need a taster session where they can introduce you to different types of training such as weight training (which has endless benefits, but can be the most daunting area of the gym) and push you out of your comfort zone.
10. Use trial and error with weights
If you’re unsure which weights to choose, begin with light ones and build up. You want to find a weight that feels very difficult by the final 2-3 reps but isn’t too heavy that you lose your form.
Watch my sculpting weights session video for inspiration or try the following weights for these basic movements:
3 sets of 12 walking lunges: 5kg dumbbells
3 sets of 12 goblet squats: 8kg dumbbells or kettle bells
3 sets of 12 shoulder press: 5kg dumbbells
3 sets of 12 bent over rows: 6-8kg dumbbells
Looking for some extra exercise inspiration for the gym floor? Try our 7-minute HIIT workout for a stronger core.