Getting Over Gym Anxiety

This is a pretty timely post for me. On the one hand, I am now roughly six months into my gym membership and loving it. I’ve been consistently (barring heavy travel weeks) going to the gym at least three times a week, but mostly four and sometimes even five. While I’m far from a “gym rat,” I have become so much more comfortable in the gym and look forward to my hour-long workouts.

On the other hand, my favorite trainer (I took her class three times a week!) just left to get her master’s degree in Texas. I am so excited for her– she truly is amazing and I know she’s going to crush it. But… it did bring up some new fear in me. That panic that I had worked so hard to overcome started to creep back in.

What would the new trainer be like? Would it be the same or different? What if I hated the class? What class would I take instead?! …. WHAT IF I FALL OFF THE WAGON? I had so many questions.

Fear at the gym

If you had seen me entering the gym on his first day, you would have thought that I had never set foot in the gym before, and I was going to be getting dental work in there, and then I would be delivering a speech to a thousand people.

My knees were shaking, I felt a little sick, and everything in my body was telling me to walk right back out to the parking lot. But I found the class and got started, and everything turned out just fine. Gym Anxiety ONE // Ask Around

I think one of the biggest parts of overcoming gym anxiety is finding a gym with the right “vibe.” There are gyms on every corner nowadays, whether they’re full-service gyms or workout-specific gyms (like SoulCycle). In my experience, every gym has a different vibe going on. Some are super laid back, some are structured, some are crazy intense, and some are an every man for himself kind of deal.

Asking friends and neighbors is the best way to know how a gym really is. Beyond the glossy brochures and flashy advertisements, someone who has been a member will have the real scoop. I found the yoga studio that I loved in NYC by asking friends. I knew instantly it was the right place for me.

I found my gym here in Connecticut in a similar way… a few of my friends had taken tours and recommended that I look too. I’ve since been paying it forward by telling everyone who wants to know how great and supportive Chelsea Piers is.

TWO // Take a Tour

Once you sign up for the gym or the class, inquire if there is a manager on site who can give you a tour. Chelsea Piers is a particularly giant space, so the tour was pretty much necessary. But I’d still do it for a small gym. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land with a guide, and it’s the perfect opportunity to ask questions as you have them.

If you’re able to pinpoint any specific fears you have, this is also the time to try to address them. I’m not sure why, but I tend to get hung up on the locker room situation. (Can you take any locker? How does the combination work? Where do dirty towels go? Again… all the questions.) I specifically asked for the locker room to be a part of my tour. While it didn’t erase my fear completely, it did alleviate a lot of it for my first time on my own.

Overcoming fear at the gym

THREE // Ask a Lot of Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!!! I know this is easier said than done and that may, in fact, contribute to some of your nerves. Even after the tour, and really at any point in your gym experience, ask away. I think it’s better to ask a question than to fret over all the different possibilities.

I must have asked twenty questions over the course of the first week. I don’t really like figuring things out on my own when I’m feeling nervous, so just getting the answer right away helped a lot, regardless of whether they’re big or small.

(Also in line with this, I think it helps to let class instructors know that you’re new. They’re always willing to help a new student!)

Overcoming Anxiety at the Gym

FOUR // Get There Early or Go on Off Times

So if you’re like me, the more people around the heightened your anxiety is. If you can swing it, try to avoid going to the gym at busy times. Of course, when you get more comfortable or even get that first visit out the way, you can join in on that post-work yoga class. But I find that starting off with a quieter time is a lot more relaxing. Every gym is probably different, but I find that between the morning and lunch breaks are the quietest!

The easiest way to find the quietest time? Google the gym. Google now shows a bar graph with popular times per day so you can plan according to that. (It even shows you how long people are at the gym for. Freaky– they own us.)

FIVE // Take a Class vs. Going Alone

If you can, don’t go alone. Bring a friend, join coworkers, sign up for a small package of personal training sessions, or even a class. It’s so much easier to have a partner in crime than to try to figure things out on your own. My tendency is to want to go by myself, so I don’t feel embarrassed about being nervous, but then I just end up scared and sometimes even frozen in place when I’m alone.

Overcoming Gym Anxiety

Photos by Courtney Ann Photography

SIX // Go in With a Game Plan & Prep with Youtube

You can prep for your first day (or any day if you’re nervous about trying something new). There are so many resources online nowadays that you can have a great workout on your own. Try finding regimens on Pinterest or learning how to use a new machine on Youtube. If my trainer isn’t there to assist, I’ve been known to watch a few videos on my phone to see how a certain move is done.

Anyone else get nervous going into a new gym or taking a new class? What tips do you have?

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Pants are Vineyard Vines– I can’t find them online but they may be in stores still.

Top is from Athleta’s Finish Fast collection!


Thank you so much for this post, Carly! I find that I avoid going to the gym because of these fears that you exactly described. It’s great to see that you were able to overcome them and that I’m not alone in my fears. I really appreciate you sharing this with us and I think I’m going to do my research and *hopefully* join!


Thank you so much or sharing this! This is so helpful and I am glad to know that I’m not the only one who struggles and feels this way. My anxiety is definitely heightened when it comes to the gym. I think this is what I needed to get back on track.

Taylor |

Hannah @ AndThenWeTried

I had joined gyms in the past and my anxiety about the whole thing was so bad that I wouldn’t even go. It ended up just being a waste of money. I joined a new gym in January though, and I’ve been loving it! I joined with a friend, we worked with a trainer to get the lay of the land, and now I’m not even intimidated to be in the weight lifting area! I totally agree that finding somewhere with the right vibe is key; it can make all the difference!


Joining with a friend is such a good idea! I found out that three of my friends belonged to the gym and it makes it so much more fun to go to the gym together!

Avenlea Bixby

Great tips, Carly!
I definitely agree with going during the off times. I love having the equipment to myself, and I don’t feel embarrassed because no one is watching me 🙂


YES! And the bonus is that you never have to wait for someone to leave… or feel rushed if someone’s waiting for your machine!


Loved this! In a similar situation myself- trying out OrangeTheory for the month and I panic if I can’t get my ‘favorite’ trainer!!


I’ve been dying to take an OrangeTheory class, but there isn’t one close enough to my apartment!

Stephanie D.

I currently only belong to Orange Theory, because I couldn’t find a gym I “vibed” with near me. At OTF, they show you all the equipment on your first day, and every move in the weight room is demoed each class – plus they have an animated screen showing the moves in case you forget. I am LOVING it, and have lost 15 lbs (plus gained some great muscle) since I started going in December. The hardest part was getting the courage to walk in the door 🙂


I used to as well… but I toured a few of them and eventually found one that didn’t make me feel intimidated! It’s worth it!


I love the post! Gym anxiety is something not many people talk about. Despite being an athlete in high school and college, I get anxiety when I go to the gym as an adult. It can be especially overwhelming when there are a lot of men outnumbering the women. I’ve learned to go on off times or use my guest pass to bring someone with me. Not only does it help with the anxiety, but it also serves as an accountability mechanism. Its always easier to do something when you know others are counting on you.


YESSSS! I used to go to Georgetown’s gym all the time… but with my team. It’s totally different to go in by yourself!


I’m so glad you posted this. As a YMCA manager this helps me help new members SO much! I’ve been attending gyms for so long I’ve forgotten what its like to be new, so this will help me with members who might possibly be anxious. Thank you!


I was so afraid of the gym for the longest time. I finally found a gym that has an amazing sense of community. I am completely obsessed with Equinox. It is on the pricier side of gyms, but totally worth it. Great post!

Devon Hembury

I just joined a new gym and totally got a bit of gym anxiety during my first few days there! I totally understand where you’re coming from. Not really knowing the lay of the land of a new gym is so stressful!! xo Devon Seventeen Dresses

Heidi Krusenklaus

Do you like the VV workout pants? The reviews on the VV website said that they stretch out easily.


I was the exact same way when I first started. It’s amazing how much a gym can bring out self-image issues…I definitely had them. I started going at off-times when it wasn’t so crowded and it made a big difference. I admire your determination to keep going to the gym!


Thank you for this post! This is exactly how I feel about starting at a gym (or other new things) and it totally prevents me from doing things i need to. It’s so helpful to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way! I don’t even want to work out at home because I’m self conscious of how I look or if I’m doing it right….anxiety is so frustrating.


I tried to read this post in my feed this morning before I had put my glasses on and I thought it said “Getting Over GYN Anxiety”!! I thought, well Carly is indeed getting personal! 😂 Excellent post though–have totally felt gym nervousness.


I’m loving this post! I am currently in that faze of my training that I want to try something new but feel very uncomfortable trying new things, specially in the gym.

I will give these a try thou. 🙂