How to Be More Confident in the Gym: My 4 Tips
Let's overcome your anxiety around starting back at the gym, and learn how to have more 'Gym Confidence', so you want to keep going! These are the best 4 things to start doing based on my experience of training myself and others for decades...
Why Do We Lack Confidence in the Gym Though?
Like your first day at school, your first few times at the gym can be awkward and downright terrifying, you don't feel remotely confident, right?
And our tendency to want to avoid situations where we feel stupid, bottom-of-the-class, moving like our limbs have just met for the first time, can mean we give up on an exercise program before we see or feel any benefit.
And that’s a shame.
Because if you can just get over that initial hurdle of not really knowing what you’re doing, you will feel fitter, healthier and stronger within a few weeks of working out.
I want you to look on the outside like the awesome specimen you already are on the inside, boosting your health and well-being in the process. And if you're a guy over 40 like me, I want you to have a healthy mindset as you get older too...
So here are four simple steps to take to build bulletproof confidence in your local gym so you keep on going, keep on learning, and eventually get in great shape.
#1 Fail To Plan, Plan To… Wander Around The Gym
Do a bit of this;
Do a bit of that;
Jump on the treadmill for 10 minutes;
Ask yourself, “Have I been here long enough yet to go home?”
By walking into the gym with no idea what you’re going to do, just doing ‘stuff,’ using whatever machines and equipment aren’t being used, you will get little to no benefit from your workouts and will soon give up.
Compare how confident you would feel in the gym if you:
A. Walk in knowing you’re doing Shoulder Press (3 sets of 12 with 20kg) first, then moving onto Dumbbell Squats (2 sets of 20 with 30kg), then, etc., etc
B. Walk in and just standing there looking around for what to do, feeling like everyone is staring at you.
Choose option A. Take the time to put together a basic plan of at least the first 3–4 exercises you will do each workout, including:
Number of Sets
Number of Reps
What your ‘High Score’ from last time was
You will feel confident in the gym in knowing your start and end point of each workout — no more mooching around the place!
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#2 Build Gym Confidence by 'Rolling with the Punches'...
So you have your plan in place, either in an app or a trusty old-school notepad. You walk into the gym, feeling confident, ready to rock, and…
Oh, that woman is using the machine you need…
Oh dear, that guy has the dumbbells you want…
Your best-laid plans are in ruins after just 30 seconds. What to do, what to do…
This can hit your confidence. Should you just leave? Or wait, even if it takes 10 minutes for the equipment you want to be available?
It’s important to understand that your body and muscles have no idea what exercise you are doing; they know when they are tired and nicely messed up! So…
If you’d planned to do 10 minutes of intervals on a treadmill that’s being used, use the bike.
If you’d planned on doing a Seated Bench Press machine that’s occupied, grab dumbbells and do Bench Press… no benches/dumbbells? Do Push-Ups.
Get the idea? By understanding the different exercises that hit the same body part, you can avoid feeling stranded in the gym, lost because your plans feel ruined, instead taking confidence from the fact that you know your stuff!
#3 Learn Before You Do to Maximize Gym Confidence
It can be easy to stick with exercises that you know how to do or machines that are easy-looking and self-explanatory, to avoid doing a new exercise ‘wrong.’
We’ve all seen Gym Fail videos/memes, and I’m sure you have no desire to be the star of the latest one!
But the exercises that give you the most Bang For Your Buck in the gym often require learning and practice, e.g., Multi-joint exercises like Bench Press, Squat, and Deadlift.
Luckily for you, Youtube is full of bright, young, buff specimens who will explain (often in unnecessary detail, it’s fair to say…) how to do every exercise under the sun.
If you prefer your explanations short and sweet, then EXRX.net is a great free website that I use instead of Youtube.
By taking 5–10 minutes in advance of your workout to go over how to do each exercise you have planned, you can confidently know that if someone is staring at you in the gym, it’s because they think you’re as hot as you and I know you are ;-)
#4 Feel Confident in Asking Questions the Right Way
Despite all your plans and research, there will still be times you have questions in the gym:
How to do an exercise you thought you knew how to do?
What’s another option for hitting a certain body part?
What is that weird-looking exercise that someone else is doing?
Again we can lack confidence in the gym, reverting to feeling like the new kid in school because everyone else seems to know one another and knows what they’re doing except you.
The easy option is to avoid ‘interrupting’ anyone in case they judge you.
In my experience, though, the VAST majority of other gym users, yes even the big grunting Meat-Heads, will be helpful and supportive, as they can remember being ‘new’ themselves.
And especially older guys like me will be happy to bore you to death with long-winded answers to any question you have, in the hope you fall in love with working out like we have!
The important thing etiquette-wise, whoever you are approaching, is to wait until they have finished the set or exercise they are doing, rather than interrupting them while trying to concentrate.
Also, remember the gym staff are there to help you, so get your money’s worth and ask them questions too!
Feeling Confident Now About The Gym?
You can overcome your fears of stepping into a gym and looking like the Class Dunce in just a few steps:
Have a clear plan of what you’re going to do each time;
Be flexible on the exact exercise you do to work a specific body part, especially when the gym is busy;
Do some research online to understand the basic movements, the importance of tension and control;
Don’t be scared of other people working out or gym staff; most will be happy to help as long as you don’t intrude on their own workouts.