Our commute times are getting longer, we’re sleeping fewer hours, and we’re logging more time behind our desks than ever before, with the average American clocking a 47-hour workweek. So, it should come as no surprise that few adults—just 20 percent of the population—manage to make it to the gym the recommended five days a week.
However, it’s not just our persistent time crunch that’s keeping us from getting fit: of the biggest obstacles standing between us and a healthier body is the intimidation that often comes along with starting a new exercise routine. From concerns about getting injured to being afraid to look silly in front of a group of strangers, countless individuals are risking their health— and potentially their lives—because they’re too nervous to lace up their sneakers and get started. The bad news? Nobody’s going to push you to get fit if you can’t push yourself. The good news? There are plenty of ways to make exercise a less scary situation. Discover these 25 exercise fears you can put to rest and start entering the gym with confidence.
I WON’T KNOW HOW TO USE THE MACHINES
If you’re new to exercise or if you are just getting back in the swing of things after a hiatus from the gym, it can often be intimidating to try new machines. While you might be worried that you won’t figure out how to use new exercise equipment, many gyms will provide you instruction on how to use the machines from a gym employee.
I WON’T BE ABLE TO LEARN THE ROUTINE IN CLASS
Those people in your exercise class who look like they were born to do the routine do have something you don’t: more classes under their belt. Getting your bearings in a class takes time, so don’t worry if you don’t know all the steps or poses right away—everyone was a beginner at some point.
I WILL GET INJURED
Unfortunately, injuries do happen to even the most experienced exercisers, but there are plenty of ways you can limit your risk of getting hurt. Stretching before you exercise can help limber you up, and cooling down after your workout can help gradually lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of dizziness or a fall. One of the most important factors in avoiding injury is making sure you’re armed with the right information before you hit the gym; trainers and other gym staff are there to help, so if you’re not sure about how to use a machine or do a particular pose, just ask.
I WON’T EXERCISE AT THE RIGHT TIME
While some people will swear up and down that their 5 AM workouts or 11 PM wind sprints are the key to their workout success, in reality, there’s no right time to get in your exercise. While working out too close to bedtime may make falling asleep harder, there are no hard and fast rules about when you should or shouldn’t break a sweat. However, if you do choose to work out in the early AM, there is one benefit you may be able to enjoy: research published in the Journal of Physiology suggests that exercising on an empty stomach may improve your glucose tolerance.
I WON’T MAKE FRIENDS
Whether you’re the life of the party or more of a shrinking violet, making friends as an adult can be difficult. However, the “we’re all in this together” mentality that comes with group exercise can make it easier than ever to form strong bonds with your fellow gym-goers. Making friends at the gym may lead to better results in the long run, too; research conducted at the University of Aberdeen reveals that study participants who worked out with a friend exercised longer and more frequently than those who hit the gym solo.
I’LL BE TOO NERVOUS
Exercising in front of others can be nerve-wracking for even the most confident individuals, but all it takes is one successful class or workout to prove to yourself that you can do it. If you’re nervous to work out in front of strangers, try bringing some friends to the gym with you; even if you look a bit goofy or feel self-conscious, you’ll have built-in cheerleaders keeping you motivated.
I DON’T HAVE THE SKILLS TO JOIN A CLASS
Exercise can be a bit intimidating at first, especially if you’re concerned that you don’t have the skills necessary to excel in your exercise of choice. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prepare in advance if you’re feeling nervous, like trying out an online workout first or getting a private training session before you commit to a full class.
MY TRAINER WILL JUDGE ME
Hiring somebody to help you get fit can be challenging even for the most confident individuals, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Research published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine reveals that 73 percent of study subjects increased their exercise ability by working out with a personal trainer. Your trainer should be in the business of motivating, not judging, so if you feel like a trainer’s style doesn’t jibe with yours, don’t be afraid to let them know, or, if you feel like the relationship isn’t working at all, find someone new. And get healthier in an instant.
I WON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GET FIT
Getting fit doesn’t have to mean a marathon workout session every time you hit the gym. Researchers at Arizona State University have discovered that doing three short workouts delivered the same blood pressure-lowering effect as one longer one, but also managed to minimize blood pressure spikes throughout the day. So, if you don’t have time to hit the gym for a long workout, you can still get fitter and healthier in no time.
I’M GOING TO SWEAT TOO MUCH
Getting sweaty isn’t the most pleasant part of a workout for many people, but it remains a necessary evil for many of us. However, if fear of sweating is keeping you from reaching your fitness goals, there are plenty of steps you can take. Wear moisture-wicking clothing, tie your hair back with an elastic and a sweat band, and bring an ultra-absorbent towel with you to dry off during and after your workout. If you’re worried about hitting the office after a sweat session, you can also try workouts like swimming and weight lifting, which can get you fit, but won’t leave you as sweaty as more traditional cardio.
I’LL HAVE TO GET WEIGHED
Fear of the scale is very real for countless individuals, and worries about getting weighed can make signing up for personal training more difficult than it should be. Fortunately, if stepping on a scale puts you outside your comfort zone, you absolutely don’t need to do it. While weight can be a good way to gauge your progress, tools like tape measures, calipers, and endurance tests can also show you just how far you’ve come.
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EAT FOR MY WORKOUT
Eating the right foods for your workout can help keep you full, focused, and feeling great while you’re at the gym. However, with so many unhealthy, yet supposedly workout-friendly snacks on the market, it’s easy to find yourself confused about what you should be eating or not. Sticking to small meals that combine protein and complex carbohydrates and drinking plenty of water will keep you feeling good throughout your workout without triggering the crash that energy drinks or sugary protein bars can prompt.
I WON’T BE ABLE TO STICK TO MY PLAN
Sticking to a new exercise routine can seem like a daunting prospect at first, but it doesn’t take long for physical activity to become as much a part of your daily life as brushing your teeth or showering. To ensure you do stick to your plan, try penciling it into your day as you would any other activity, like a meeting or appointment. Researchers at the Society of Behavioral Medicine have even discovered that people who work out with a partner enjoy improved results from their exercise versus those who go it alone, so if you’re eager to stay motivated and get fit, it might be time to bring a friend with you.
I’LL NEVER LOOK LIKE THE OTHER PEOPLE AT THE GYM
One of the biggest obstacles to long-term weight loss is comparing yourself to others. While it’s often hard to stop yourself from doing so, just remember this when you feel like you’ll never look like the other people you see in the gym: everybody started somewhere, and somebody else’s success has nothing to do with yours.
I WON’T LOSE WEIGHT
While many people do hit the gym to lose weight, sometimes it doesn’t happen as fast or as easily as you’d like. However, even if you don’t shed major pounds with your workout routine, you’re likely building muscle tone, decreasing your risk of health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, and you may even go down a few sizes as your muscle-to-fat ratio shifts, even if you haven’t lost significant weight.
I’LL LOSE MOTIVATION
If you’re worried about losing motivation before you lose weight, there are plenty of ways to keep you going back to the gym time and time again. Social support, hiring a trainer, and documenting your progress on social media can all help keep you motivated even on those days when you feel just about ready to call it quits.
I CAN’T AFFORD A GYM MEMBERSHIP
While many luxury gyms are prohibitively expensive for many people, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise on the cheap. If you’re eager to get back into exercising, ask your friends if they would be willing to lend you guest passes to their gym. Even if that’s not a possibility, many schools and community centers offer inexpensive memberships for their fitness facilities, and you may even be able to get discounts if you’re a student or senior citizen.
I WON’T HAVE TIME TO SHOWER
There’s no doubt about it: heading back to work after a majorly sweaty workout can be a bit icky, especially if you don’t have time to shower. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t clean up even if you can’t rinse off. Bring some dry shampoo, deodorant, and wipes with you to the gym and make sure to change out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible to keep feeling clean and fresh, even if you can’t hit the shower.
I’LL GET BULKY
If you’re worried about getting bigger from working out, you’re probably fretting over nothing. Unless you’re lifting extremely heavy weights and eating enough to fuel muscle growth, it’s unlikely that you’ll turn into The Hulk overnight. What you will likely discover, however, is that you’re burn less-dense fat while toning your muscles, making you appear slimmer even if you don’t lose a huge amount of weight.
THE GYM EQUIPMENT WILL MAKE ME SICK
With countless sweaty people using gym equipment day in and day out, it’s only natural that germs will be part of the equation when you’re exercising. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of getting sick by cleaning machines both before and after you use them. Even better, research conducted at Appalachian State University suggests that moderate exercise may even reduce your risk of upper respiratory tract infections, so you may be making yourself less likely to get sick from other people’s germs every time you work out.
I NEED BETTER CLOTHES
The right clothes for your workout are the ones you’ll actually work out in. While it might be tempting to blow your paycheck on an entirely new workout wardrobe, you’re better off saving your hard-earned money; whether you show up to the gym in your comfiest sweatpants or designer exercise gear, your clothes are going to end up sweaty and icky by the end of your workout anyway. The one thing you should pay attention to is your footwear choices: getting the right type of support for your workout of choice can help reduce your risk of exercise-related injury.
I DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT BODY TYPE
There is no single “good” body type. While you may see people at the gym who have more muscle tone or less body fat than you do, they started somewhere too, and may have even had a similar body type to you at some point. Arming yourself with the right gear, like a properly-fitting sports bra and shoes with adequate support, can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself and your ability to work out. Also, don’t convince yourself that just because you’re not skinny doesn’t mean you’ll never be fit; plenty of professional athletes, from weight lifters to swimmers, are in terrific shape without being a size zero.
I’M GOING TO GET CALLED ON IN CLASS
Whether you’re at school or at the gym, getting called on by an instructor can make anybody break out into a nervous sweat. Fortunately, you don’t have to subject yourself to the spotlight if you’re not interested; just tell the instructor ahead of time that you don’t enjoy getting called on and they should respect your boundaries.
EVERYONE WILL BE LOOKING AT ME
When you first start exercising, it may feel like everybody is staring at you, but that’s just not the case. Most people at the gym are looking to better themselves, not tear other people down, so those insecurities you’re feeling likely start and end with you.
I WON’T FIND AN EXERCISE I ENJOY
The key to finding a workout you like and are eager to stick with is patience. While the first elliptical you step on or treadmill you try may not be the answer to all of your problems, chances that, with adequate time, you’ll find something you like doing enough to stick with it. If you’re not one for staring at the same four gym walls day in and day out, exercises like rock climbing, bicycling, running, or team sports might still tickle your fancy.