Facing Major Fear of Gyms

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Confronting a major fear, such as the fear of exercise, can be an utterly terrifying experience. When faced with the object of our deepest anxieties, our bodies and minds can react with intense panic and dread. The mere thought of engaging in the feared activity can trigger a cascade of physiological responses, including a racing heart, shortness of breath, and overwhelming feelings of impending doom. For those stepping into a gym for the first time, this sense of dread and anxiety can be exponentially heightened.


Imagine being a newcomer, entering the unfamiliar territory of a gym filled with machines, weights, and seemingly fit individuals engaging in complex exercises. The sounds, views, and smells can be overwhelming, triggering a fight-or-flight response in even the most resilient individuals. The fear of being judged, feeling out of place, or worse, injuring oneself can manifest as a crippling sense of panic that threatens to derail any intentions of beginning an exercise regimen. But don’t worry. Here are some tips, as I remember myself being anxious about going to the gym once.

Develop a Routine to Ease Anxiety

Pick Motivating Music Music has an incredible power to shift our mindset and energize our bodies. When facing the fear of exercise, create a playlist of songs that get you pumped up and feeling unstoppable. Let the driving beats and empowering lyrics be the soundtrack to your courage. As you listen, visualize yourself as a warrior marching into battle against your anxiety. The right music can be transformative, giving you the mental fortitude to confront your fears head-on.

Have a Warm-Up Plan The first step through the gym doors is often the most challenging. Combat this by having a warm-up plan to ease yourself in gradually. Perhaps you’ll start on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes to get your body loosened up while surveying your surroundings. Or maybe you’ll do some light stretching in a quieter corner. Having this ritual allows you to decompress and transition into the exercise mindset at your own pace.

People Watch to Decompress During your warm-up, make an effort to people watch throughout the gym space. Observe how everyone is simply focused on their own workout, not scrutinizing those around them. Remind yourself that you don’t stand out as much as your anxiety convinces you. See the diversity of bodies, abilities and focused expressions. This can help normalize the gym environment and ease your mind.

Reassure Yourself

Recognize the Benefits of Exercise When anxieties about exercise arise, remind yourself of the incredible benefits you’ll gain. Exercise reduces stress, boosts mood, increases energy and concentration, promotes better sleep, and reduces risks of chronic illness. It’s an investmentin your mental and physical wellbeing. Don’t let fear rob you of these profound advantages. Your health is worth confronting this challenge.

You Don’t Stand Out One of the cruelest lies anxiety tells us is that everyone is watching and judging us at the gym. Unfortunately, our own harsh criticism makes us hyper-aware of ourselves. The reality is that most people are focused on their own workouts, not scrutinizing others. As long as you’re wearing gym-appropriate attire, you’ll blend right in. No one is analyzing your every move.


Reframe the Gym Rather than viewing the gym as a source of anxiety, reframe it as a place of empowerment and growth. It’s a space to show up for yourself, invest in your wellbeing, and emerge stronger than before. The gym is simply where people pursue health – a noble and courageous act you’re taking part in too. Normalize this environment as a positive space for selflove.

Practical Tips

Wear Gym-Appropriate Clothes. What we wear has a profound impact on how we feel. When gearing up for the gym, choose activewear designed for exercise – moisture-wicking fabrics, supportive shoes, etc. Not only will you be more comfortable, but dressing intentionally can boost your confidence. Avoid anything too revealing that may increase self-consciousness. The right outfit can empower you to focus on your workout.

Breathing Exercises If anxiety strikes mid-workout, pause and do some deep, controlled breathing. Inhale through your nose then, exhale slowly through pursed lips. This activates your body’s relaxation response to counteract the fight-or-flight mode anxiety triggers. Portable audio guides for breathing exercises are great to have on hand, too.

Movements Aren’t Complicated Reframe exercises as simply functional movements, not something overly complex. You’re just using your muscles to bend, lift, push, and pull in a controlled manner to gradually build strength. These are natural motions your body is designed to do. Don’t overthink it or get intimidated. Just focus on proper form in the present moment, one rep at a time. Simple as that!

Richard Uzelac Takeaways

I know how incredibly difficult it is to face a fear as intense as your fear of exercise. Believe me, I’ve been there. Every fiber of your being is screaming at you to run away and avoid the situation at all costs. It’s like your mind and body are in a constant battle against that primal instinct to flee.But listen, as tough as it seems right now, confronting this fear head-on is necessary for your personal growth. It’s the only way to break free from the chains of anxiety that are holding you back. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.  However, it is crucial to remember that facing this fear is a necessary step toward personal growth and liberation from the chains of anxiety. With each successful exposure, the fear gradually loses its grip, and the once-terrifying prospect of exercise becomes more manageable. While the journey may be arduous, the rewards of overcoming this major fear can be truly life-changing, leading to improved physical and mental wellbeing, increased self-confidence, and a newfound sense of freedom.