6 tips to build your confidence in the gym

Many of the women I teach and train confess to being more than a tad uncomfortable in the gym. Particularly when working out by themselves.

Some common responses to my query as to what, in particular, makes them feel uncomfortable?

  • I don’t know how the equipment works
  • I’m not sure which exercises I should do
  • The free weights section is in the middle of the room; everybody will be watching me
  • I’ll do something wrong and look stupid
  • I’m self-conscious about my body
  • I just don’t feel like I belong in there with all those fit, young people


Recruiting a friend to be your ‘exercise buddy’ is a great solution (check out these tips for creating the perfect fitness partnership).

However, there will be days when your training partner isn’t available and you’ll be faced with the decision to either ‘go it alone’ or cancel your workout entirely. Choose the latter too often and you’ll be hard-pressed to see the results of your sporadic efforts…

Looking to feel more at home in the weight room? Try the following suggestions to build your confidence in the gym
  • Make a plan. Know exactly what you’ll be doing before you get to the gym. You can find free workouts in books, magazines and websites (here’s a whole page of free workouts I’ve created just for readers like you). Choose one, print it out and pack it in your gym bag to reference at the gym.
  • Choose a quiet time to train. Call or visit the gym in advance to find the least busy time of day to train. At most gyms, early mornings, late afternoons and evenings are when equipment is most in demand. If your schedule allows it, plan for a late morning or early afternoon workout. You’re likely to have the place to yourself (or at the very least, not be surrounded by 20-year old males flexing and grunting and taking selfies 😉 ).
  • Adopt a ‘gradual entry’ approach. Start by tagging 10 minutes in the gym onto your regular group fitness class. Ask your instructor (or the weight room attendant in the gym) for three gym exercises you can do either right before class or immediately after. Once you get comfortable with those exercises (and with the gym itself), add another three exercises to your routine.
  • Carve out a corner. Keep your eye out for less-congested areas of the gym. Collect all the equipment you’ll need for your workout and claim your space. Corners are a great place for people who are concerned about others watching them. Plus, having all of your equipment in one place means a quicker workout.
  • Practice new moves at home. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are with strength training, the first few times you perform a new exercise you’ll always feel awkward and conspicuous (Turkish getups anyone?). Before you debut them at the gym, practice new moves at home and ideally, in front of a mirror. Not only will you improve your form, you’ll also realize that you don’t look nearly as silly as you thought you might.
  • Find a back-up fitness buddy. If you tend to always go to the gym at the same time of day, you’ve likely noticed others that share your preferred workout time. You may even have started to smile or say ‘hello’ to them in greeting. Chances are that at least one of them is feeling exactly the same as you and would appreciate having an occasional workout partner for accountability and motivation.

You’ll never know if you don’t ask. At the very least, you can exercise next to them and pretend that you’re working out together 😉

Have you ever suffered from a crisis of confidence in the weight room?

How did you build your confidence in the gym?



  1. Good morning! I loved today’s post, since almost every woman I’ve spoken to about the gym usually asks one of those issues that you listed. I’m such a huge advocate for weight lifting for women that I initially found it difficult to understand. However, I feel that the same issues are even bigger problems for men, and just as many men avoid the gym because of them. Do you feel that the same advice holds true, or would you recommend other tips? Thanks!

    • Liz, I agree with you. Many of the issues this post raises can apply equally to men and women. My perspective is biased, perhaps, because I work primarily with women and they’re probably more likely to open up to me about it. Certainly though, men who have no experience with the gym might feel self-confident about working out there too. I think that education and understanding are key!

      Thanks for your insightful comments 🙂

  2. Great post! I felt very intimidated when I was losing weight and just starting to work out. I wrote a post about it awhile back myself. http://skinnyfitalicious.com/how-to-conquer-gym-intimidation-losing-weight/
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…15 Healthy Cinco De Mayo RecipesMy Profile

    • Just hopped over and read it. Lots of great tips in your post, particularly the cute clothing idea! (Alas, there really is nothing new under the sun to write about, is there 😉 )

  3. This is great, but these always are! True story.

    One perspective I also like to take is suggesting that people put on show — remember (even for fitness newbies) that it’s their gym too! Often new fitness enthusiasts do things better than the old school hardcore knuckle draggers — especially when they have Tamara to help guide them through doing it properly. Put on a show!!!

  4. Im all about the fake it till you make it.
    we’re talking about the gym and ALL OF LIFE–yes?? 🙂
    CARLA recently posted…How many hours a day do you workout?My Profile

  5. I always have my phone with me (my music is on it anways) with easy access to some of your great workouts for quick reference.
    Mommy Outside recently posted…French Onion Barley RisottoMy Profile


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