Skip to main content

Gym intimidation

Workout barriers and how to beat them.

This article was last updated on Oct. 28, 2019.

If you want to get in shape, but you're intimidated by the idea of joining a gym, it's time to tackle those fears.

How to beat your common gym fears

"I'm out of shape. It's embarrassing to work out next to skinny athletes."

How to beat it

"Many people feel insecure and worry that others are judging them at the gym. You're not alone," says Dana Lemberg, R.D., L.D., CHES, benefits and wellness analyst for Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

"In reality, most individuals are too absorbed in their own workouts to pay attention to people around them," she says.

"I've tried gym memberships before, but just can't seem to stick with them."

How to beat it

Tour several fitness centers before joining one. Ask questions and notice the people working out.

"Every gym has a different culture," says Lemberg. "You'll be more likely to stick with it by choosing one that suits your lifestyle."

Before joining a fitness center, list what you don't like about gyms, what keeps you from going, and other factors that might hold you back. Then, consider how to address each:

  • If child care is an issue, look for a place with babysitting services or kids' classes.
  • If running into co-workers at the gym makes you uncomfortable, join a center closer to home.
  • If it's hard to stay motivated, get a friend or spouse to join with you and hold each other accountable.

"By the time I leave work, I'm exhausted. Won't the gym make it worse?"

How to beat it

"Studies show that movement, even in short bursts like a five minute walk, can actually give you an energy boost." says Lemberg. "It can also help improve your mood and many other physical and emotional benefits."

If end-of-the-day exercise still seems like too much, consider morning or lunchtime trips to the gym. Start with short workouts, and increase until you get used to the new schedule.

To save time, experiment with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.

"A workout doesn't need to take hours. The more intense your activity, the more calories you'll burn," says Lemberg.

"All those machines and equipment... it seems so confusing."

How to beat it

The easiest way to get comfortable in a new gym is to work with a personal trainer who can guide you through techniques and equipment. If cost is an issue, ask about free introductory sessions for new members or find a gym employee who can answer questions. While each gym has a different atmosphere, basic social etiquette applies:

  • Clean up after yourself

    Wipe down machines and restack weights when you're finished.

  • Take turns

    If people are waiting for the treadmill, limit your workout to 30 minutes and move to another machine.

  • Respect each other's personal space.

    Avoid blaring music, talking loudly on your cell phone and grunting noisily while working out.

"I don't have the money for a gym membership."

How to beat it

"Ask about pricing structures and discounts. Some places, such as the YMCA, offer financial assistance," says Lemberg. Also check out community and college fitness centers, which sometimes offer discounts for local residents.

If you're a Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield member, you have access to Blue365® External Site. With Blue365, you can save money on health and fitness products, like gym memberships, activity trackers, plus much more. All you need is your Wellmark ID card to access the deals.

To Minimize Your Own Insecurity

  • Watch a few home exercise videos to familiarize yourself with techniques before hitting the gym.
  • Ask fitness center employees to explain unfamiliar equipment.
  • If you can afford it, hire a personal trainer – even for just a few sessions. He or she can answer questions, demonstrate machines and provide a tailored workout plan.
  • If you're still intimidated, try scheduling workouts during a gym's quiet, emptier hours.

Blue365® is a discount program available to members who have medical coverage with Wellmark. This is NOT insurance.

Blue365® is a registered mark of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.