Group of students stretching during a group exercise class at the ARC

Tips for Feeling More Comfortable at the Gym

It's very common to feel nervous or uncomfortable about going to the gym. You may fear being judged based on your fitness level, body type and/or knowledge of the environment. It could be that you researched the class or gym and didn’t see any pictures of people that looked like you, so you don't feel welcomed. All of these feelings are valid and normal. If you decide you want to try it out, here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable being active in a new space:

  • Go with a friend: One of the best ways to overcome a fear about trying something new is to have someone you trust do it with you.     
  • Go during slower times: Crowds can be intimidating and make it harder to explore a new space. If you want to go to the ARC, try avoiding the following peak times when it is busier:
    • Monday-Thursday: 3pm-8pm
    • Friday: 12-6pm
    • Saturday & Sunday: 4-8pm
  • Know before you go: If you want to try out a new space, do some research beforehand. Most spaces will have free tours or allow you to walk around on your own, so you can look for places that you might be more comfortable moving your body, locate the bathrooms and water stations, learn how to get a locker, etc. The more you know beforehand, the more confident you will feel when it comes time to using the space.
  • Take advantage of free trial periods: Most recreational spaces will offer trial periods or free classes before you have to commit. This helps you determine if you like the vibe or instructors, if the staff treat you with respect, or if you enjoy the equipment. For example, Campus Recreation offers Try Before Your Buy during the first week of quarter, so you can try all classes for free.
  • Try a class: Joining a group exercise class can feel intimidating, but it’s also a great place to learn the basics. The instructor can be one of the biggest determinants of your enjoyment in a group class. Try not to be discouraged if you take a class and don’t mesh with the instructor. Ask around and see which instructors people recommend. You will know once you’ve found someone that motivates you and makes you feel welcomed!
  • Create a routine: You're taking away some of the uncertainty you may feel about going to a new space by creating a routine. Try planning out your routine before you go, so you have a game plan.
  • Do what you enjoy: Going into a new space is challenging, so make sure you are doing something you enjoy in the space. If you don’t enjoy using a treadmill, then don’t force yourself to use one. Find activities you enjoy in the space, so you are more likely to go.
  • Get a trainer: If you want to go to a gym, hiring a personal trainer is a great way to become more familiar and confident with a space. If you’re interested in getting a trainer through the ARC, consider applying for the Campus Recreation Fee Waiver to get a discount.
  • Make a powerful playlist: Is music your jam? Make a playlist that increases your confidence and listen to it when you go into a new space.
  • Be your biggest supporter: The words you say to yourself in new situations have an impact on how you experience the situation. Develop a few positive mantras that you can repeat to yourself when you go to a new space. For example, tell yourself repeatedly that you deserve to be there as much as anybody else.
Two students joyfully flipping tires at the ARC

Be Part of Creating a Welcoming Environment

There are things you can do to create a welcoming environment in recreational spaces, so everyone feels comfortable. Here are some tips that will help create a supportive space for all:

  • Reset the weight pins: After using a machine, move the pin back to the top so that the next person doesn’t feel like they aren’t lifting “enough”.
  • Re-rack your weights: After using weights or barbells, sanitize them and put them away so they're ready for the next person to use them.
  • Be helpful to others: If you're the greatest Zumba dancer of all time, and see someone behind you watching you and struggling to follow along, consider dropping all the fancy add-ons for a little while so they can follow you.
  • Don’t take photos or videos of other people: You shouldn’t do this anywhere, not just in recreational spaces. The ARC has a policy that prohibits people from recording or posting images of people without their consent.
  • Speak up: If you see other people engaging in behaviors that contribute to “gymtimidation”, consider gently pulling them aside and helping them understand they can change their behavior to create a kinder environment.
  • Clean your equipment: No one wants to use sweaty equipment. Use a wipe or towel to clean your equipment when you’re done using it.