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How to manage feeling like you don't belong (you do!)

Is your fear of feeling like you don’t belong at the gym keeping you from achieving your fitness goals? If you answered “yes” then you and I have a lot in common. 

I used to go to the gym all the time. I went with my boyfriend, I went with friends, and I was even happy to go and spend an hour by myself. I felt confident and at ease in the gym, and when I worked hard, the results showed. But did I mention that this was 10 years ago? 

Fast forward to 2 years ago. My wedding day was fast approaching, and I signed up for a gym membership at a flashy new gym. And then - I didn’t go once. This was a new gym in a new country (I used to live in Canada), and I felt completely intimidated. I was a chubby newbie in the world of people who were, in my mind, hard bodied experts just waiting to laugh at me. It sounds crazy now, but I genuinely believed I didn’t belong. 

Instead, I chose to do a crash diet (that I really regret) to try to look my best on the big day. I was miserable and hungry for the 2 months before the ceremony, and then when the pressure was off, I completely binged. With little exercise and all of that lost food and drink to catch up on, I ballooned up in size and felt even more sheepish and embarrassed about my weight. I definitely needed to hit the gym and get back on track. It was time to rekindle my love of the gym and get over the nagging feeling that I didn’t belong. Here are some tips for how you can do the same.

Get comfortable with the equipment in advance

If you are anything like me, you have a fear of looking silly or ignorant in public. I really hated the idea of turning up and not knowing how to use certain equipment or worse, using it incorrectly! Checking out Youtube videos was a big help – that way, I could see friendly vloggers showing me how to use the most common equipment and machines. 

Book a personal training session

Personal trainers are not just for celebrities! Arrange a one on one session with a member of the staff so that they can show you some of the equipment and give you the run down of how to use it. Different sessions will have different costs and purposes, and so you might want to book one that will help you design your own bespoke gym routine. The next time you go to the gym, you will have a lot more knowledge – and confidence. 

Work out during quieter times (at first)

The very idea of turning up to a crowded gym and having other users looking over my shoulder and judging what I was doing (even if that was all in my head) was stomach churning. I hated the thought of working out in a busy gym, so I always try to go at quieter times. A 24/7 gym is the best option if you are feeling nervous – you could even go in the middle of the night! 

Enlist a friend or partner to work out with you

While I promise that you really can do this on your own, sometimes it can be a big weight off of your shoulders (no pun intended!) when a friend or partner works out with you. It’s a lot more fun and less intimidating when you have someone to spot you, make jokes with you and give you that extra ‘oomph’ that you might need to get to the gym in the first place.