How to Build Confidence in the Gym


( ENSPIRE Health & Wellness) Tips and Tricks for Taking Up Space in the Gym and Building Your Self-Image

ENSPIRE Contributor: Katie Doherty 

Are you looking for ways to become more confident in the gym? Perhaps you are new to the gym and want to know how to look like you actually know what you are doing or you want to learn some ways to feel less intimidated. 

As a young woman and beginner at the gym, it can intimidate you to go to the gym, especially on your own. The machines are terrifying, there are people everywhere, you’re sweaty and overwhelmed, and everyone is lifting heavier than you are. 

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It’s hard to feel ‌you can take up space. This can go beyond the gym, but in the classroom, at work, or even in relationships. Learning how to be more confident and improve your self-image can go beyond just learning how to “do” the gym “correctly.” 

I was interested in finding out more answers from my trainer, Julia, to see what her journey has been like in learning how to be more comfortable at the gym. Julia has been going to the gym for about five years, right after she started college.

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Like many high schoolers, Julia was an athlete. Her time running for cross-country taught her a lot about exercise, but not in a positive way: “I did Cross Country in High School, and it really burned me out from any type of exercise because I was expected to perform in ways that were not possible for my body. It took some time, but after a while of not working out at all, I felt super out of shape, and I knew I needed to do something about it. I started going to the gym doing basic workouts with dumbbells and I ran occasionally, which was just the beginning for me!”

Her experience at cross-country helped her realize her passion for then becoming a personal trainer. She says, “I was interested in becoming a personal trainer because since my experience was so hard after being burnt out from exercise, I could have really used a helping hand to help me reach my goals in the sense of knowing what to do for strength training. I love that now I can help people reach their goals and make them feel better about themselves!”

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“My main goals as a trainer are to provide exactly what my clients need, to the best of my ability. I want my clients to feel happy with the workouts I am giving them, and I want them to reach their goals, but more importantly, I want them to all feel comfortable with me, and confident that I have their best interest at heart. It is so rewarding when you show someone how strong they are and what their potential is!”

However, the biggest challenge I felt like I had to learn was how to overcome the feeling that everyone was watching you. For Julia, she agrees that this is a common and valid fear to have. To overcome it, she says that it’s normal when people are working out to glance at each other, “but I just try to focus on what I am doing. I also know that most of the time people are not paying that close attention to what I am doing, so it is not something to let myself get worked up about. I just do my thing and focus on the reason that I am there, which is to get a great workout in!”

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The biggest thing that you can do to start feeling more comfortable in the gym as a beginner is to start small. For Julia, she says “I started small and explored as my comfort level increased. Dumbbells are a great place to start, and then I would tackle a new piece of equipment one at a time.” Not only can this be used in the gym, but in other spaces as well: “I think that this is a tactic that I use for any skill! I slowly learn and increase my comfort level as I learn.”

This is also true for any advice for beginners at the gym, especially women. Julia says “My biggest piece of advice for a beginner in the gym is to start small and work up. If your gym has trainers, take advantage of their knowledge–they will be happy to help you figure out how to use any machine or do anything.”

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Building your confidence doesn’t only have to be at the gym. It’s important to remember that wherever you are, you belong. You can take up space and you don’t have to apologize for it, whether you’re at the gym, in class, or at work. But it can extend beyond just physical spaces. Taking up space in a relationship – communicating, setting boundaries, and respecting yourself and your partner is essential to building something long-lasting.

Using these tips and tricks can help you feel more confident wherever you are. The gym can be such a positive force in your life and make you feel like a better version of yourself, but sometimes it can be an overwhelming and intimidating one as well. But learning how to be more confident in and out of the gym can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle. 

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Interested in checking out a gym? Check out beginner gyms in the Northeast like Planet Fitness, Blink Fitness, or 24 Hour Fitness. Take a tour of your local gym and find what’s best for you!

Related articles: Ilene Leshinsky is Helping Women Improve Their Body Image, Power in Body Positivity; Interview with Spiritual Advisor, Gro Mambo, Self-Confidence Building By Listing Your Achievements