Beginner At The Gym? 12 Hacks To Feel More Comfortable

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April 12, 2022 - Updated January 5, 2024

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Perhaps you’ve at the beginning of your fitness journey and have signed up at your local gym to get started. Maybe you’ve been working out at home for a while, but want to try training in the gym to mix things up and level up your training. Or are you a regular gym-goer who is switching to a new facility or changing the time of your workout schedule

Whatever stage you’re at, all you know is that you can’t shake the feeling of gym-timidation. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. 

Gym nerves are perfectly normal. After all, you’re going into a brand-new environment, with new people, and depending on your fitness level, working out or using equipment might be a new experience too. 

Rest assured, it's not as scary as you think and it will get easier, but here are our top 12 tips to help you feel more comfortable when you're just getting started. 

Know that how you feel is normal

It's easy to look around a gym and think that everyone knows what they are doing, but remember, how you feel is just a natural part of being a beginner.

Everyone around you has had their own day one and felt the same way you do. Chances are, there are a few beginners around you too!

Sweat’s lifting trainer Laura Roberts knows that feeling all too well, and kickstarted her health and fitness journey at a women’s only gym.

“I was way too nervous to go anywhere else,” she says, remembering how it felt to be a beginner and explaining why supporting women at every stage of their journey is so important to her.

Be kind to yourself and have patience as you adjust to the new environment or learn how to use the equipment. Soon you’ll be walking into the gym without a second thought.

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Focus on you

While you’re figuring out how the elliptical works, deciding which dumbbells are the right weight or learning to squat with good form, it’s common to feel self-conscious.

Although it might take time to build your confidence, know that everyone is focused on themselves and their own workout. No one is judging you and you’re doing great, so go at your own pace and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing!

With clothing, think comfort

Sure, treating yourself to some brand-new activewear can provide a great boost of motivation, but going to the gym definitely doesn’t mean you need a brand-new outfit or to wear what everyone else is wearing.

You want to be able to do your workout without any outfit hassles, so pick something that feels comfortable and won’t need constant adjusting (fixing your tights after every squat is NOT a fun time). Whether that’s leggings, shorts or sweatpants, a singlet, baggy tee or crop top, makeup or bare face - you do you.

Ask an expert

The gym staff are there to help and support you, so if it would make you feel more comfortable, don’t hesitate to speak to a staff member and ask for a tour of the facilities or for some help using the equipment you’re unfamiliar with.

If your gym is busy, it can pay to contact them beforehand to organise a tour. There’s absolutely no shame in being new and they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction or answer any questions you have.

Work out with a friend

There are so many benefits to training with a workout buddy: they can help keep you motivated and accountable, will add plenty of fun and a bit of friendly competition to your sessions, and can check your form with each exercise. Whether your training partner has been going to the gym for a while now or if you’re both kickstarting your health and fitness journey, there’s nothing like sweating together.

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Have a game plan

Once you know where everything is and how to use each piece of equipment, a great way to ease any nerves is to have a plan of what you will do when you get there.

Do you need to visit a bathroom or locker room first to get changed or store your belongings? Do you have a program or workout to follow? Will you be warming up on a treadmill, stationary bike, or perhaps a rowing machine? What equipment do you need for your workout? Do you need to bring anything from home, such as a yoga mat or sweat towel? Where in the gym will you do your training session? If the equipment, machines or area you want to use are occupied, do you have a plan B?

When you’re heading into a new environment, feelings of uncertainty are very natural. Knowing where you’re going and what you’re going to do can help give you a sense of control, certainty and confidence.

When in doubt, start light

In any gym environment, there are going to be people who can lift heavy weights. Try not to compare yourself - your day one might be their day 500! If you’re not sure which weight is right for you, it’s always a safe bet to start with something that feels light - you can always increase the weight if it’s easy. Whether we’re talking about free weights or gym machines, going light to start will help you nail your form, feel more comfortable and avoid injury too.

If it’s your first time using a barbell, you can even use the bar on its own without any extra weight plates. All Sweat programs give weight guides for each exercise too if you’re not sure where to start.

Expect to fumble

When starting anything new, no one would expect you to be a pro within a day, so you shouldn’t put that pressure on yourself either! It takes trial and error to find your sweet spot with weight selection, knowing how to use equipment with ease and feeling confident performing new exercises. Have a beginner’s mindset, remind yourself that you’re still learning and be ok with slipping up. Aim for 1% better every time!

Ease in and master your form

Before you tackle complex movements, fancy equipment or heavy weights, nail the basics so you’ve got a strong foundation. Easing in will also make it easier to build momentum, rather than being trapped on the couch with excruciatingly sore muscles for days.

One of our favourite Sweat app features? You’ll find a video and step-by-step instructions with every single exercise to help you perform movements and use equipment with the correct form. You can also use the helpful diagrams in the Sweat app to understand which muscle groups each exercise works so you’ll see exactly where you should be feeling the burn and better understand if your form is correct.

Prepare an awesome playlist

Music can work wonders when it comes to shifting your mood and tuning out any distractions. Carve out some time to put together a playlist that will make you feel energised and confident.

Ask about women-only areas

Many gyms now have designated areas for women, which can provide a lot of comfort and be an enjoyable place to exercise if you’re feeling a bit nervous or intimidated. Simply look online or ask a staff member.

Set yourself a goal

A simple way to give yourself a stronger sense of purpose when walking into a gym as a newbie is to set yourself a goal (or a few!) for your first week or month. In a week, you could aim to get a tour and do at least two workouts. By the end of a month, you could aim to complete 10 workouts or try 5 new pieces of equipment.

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Find your new program on the Sweat app

From BUILD and Lift with Laura to Kelsey Wells’ PWR Strength, there are so many amazing gym-based programs to choose from in the Sweat app. Take a look through our complete guide to Sweat programs (there are over 50 to choose from!) or pick a workout from the On Demand section to get started.

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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