With one in four women reporting that they feel too intimidated to go to the gym, it’s no wonder that we all need a little confidence boost.
If we’re nervous or unsure, we’re definitely not going to have an effective or efficient workout. Nerves can make you doubt yourself, put you off certain moves altogether or make you cut your gym session short.
And, while it certainly shouldn’t be up to us to steel ourselves against unwanted advances in the gym or hostile treatment, we can develop some strategies to make sure we’re as confident as possible next time we step on the gym floor.
Lauren Gordon, behavioural insights adviser for Bupa UK, has outlined her top gym confidence tips – and the good news is that they’re really simple.
‘Feeling uncomfortable at the gym can be normal, and even the most experienced gym-goers can feel insecure from time-to-time,’ Lauren tells Metro.co.uk. ‘You may feel anxious at the gym if you compare yourself to others, feel self-conscious or you’re unsure how to work the equipment.
‘Fortunately, with a few, simple changes, you can overcome your fear of the gym. Face your worries head-on, and don’t let gym anxiety interfere with your health and fitness goals.’
If you’ve signed up to a new gym, or simply haven’t been in a while, that first step inside can be daunting. But doing some research online before you arrive can help you familiarise yourself with the layout.
Think about the time of day you go too – to ease yourself in perhaps you’ll want to go when it’s less busy and you can familiarise yourself with the equipment.
Even better, plan your session ahead of time so that you know exactly what you want to do, and which equipment you need.
It’s a good idea to start small, even if you go to the gym for five minutes and then head home again for the first few times you go. You can still say you went to the gym!
This is a great way to build confidence and master a specific exercise, before adding more into your workout.
Make it fun
From yoga classes to swimming, there’s plenty of options for your workout at the gym. Pick something that suits you and that you enjoy — even look forward to – as you’re far more likely to carry it on and create a sustainable behaviour change.
Some people are a fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) because it’s intense but doesn’t take long. Others may find a gym class more appealing.
If you’re really not sure where to start, look to experts like personal trainers who are often walking around the gym floor. They are there to support people, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You don’t have to sign up to a programme – although this could also be a great way to get some ideas and have a structure in place.
What’s more, research shows that we are much more likely to stick to our behaviour change goals when we have the support of others.
Whether that’s going to the gym with a friend, asking your partner to keep you accountable, or attending a group class – there are lots of ways to make sure you’re not going it alone.
Understand what motivates you
By definition, motivation is the desire or willingness to do something. It sounds simple, but there’s a lot more to it.
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within; when you’re intrinsically motivated to do something, you’re happy to take part voluntarily, you enjoy it, and you don’t need any influence from your external surroundings.
When you’re extrinsically motivated, you’re driven to do things by external pressures or the incentive of external rewards. This might be a future reward like a financial gain or to fit into a dress size for example. Or it could be an instant reward like listening to empowering music or an inspiring podcast while you’re doing your workout.
We shouldn’t rely on one type of motivation as this will make our behaviour change unsustainable in the long-term. Intrinsic motivation will always come and go, and extrinsic rewards don’t teach us to enjoy the exercise for the long term.
Instead, use extrinsic motivation to inspire you to get to the gym because of your overall fitness goals, and build intrinsic motivation to help you to stick with it through finding a type of exercise you enjoy.
It can be tempting to beat ourselves up when we steer off-track orthings don’t go to plan, but it’s important to give yourself a break. What’smore, studies suggest that people who are self-compassionate are more likely tokeep going and achieve their goals in the long term.
Self-compassion is extending kindness towards yourself in the face of failure, making sure your inner voice is gentle and encouraging. If you’re less self-critical and negative, you’re more likely to pick yourself up and carry on after a slip-up.
If you’ve decided to get back into the gym after a while, or you’re planning your first visit, you’ve already taken a massive step in the right direction, too.
And if the gym really isn’t for you, that’s perfectly OK and isn’t something we should beat ourselves up over. There are plenty of other ways to work out than at the gym.
Embrace your new identity
One thing that can hold us back from lasting behaviour change is how we identify ourselves. It can be difficult to see yourself as a committed gym-goer when you’ve always insisted exercise wasn’t ‘your thing’. Instead, see yourself as someone who goes to the gym to train.
It’s important to embrace this change in your identity if you want your new behaviour to stick. You will feel more pleasure from your new behaviour if it lines up with what you believe about yourself.
Set yourself simple goals
When you have built up some confidence, think about how you mightset a goal from your new fitness regime. The best way to do this is to make abehavioural goal, that is, one that specifies the exact behaviour you will do.
For example, now that you’ve mastered using the treadmill, you might decide that you want to run 5km in a certain time as your goal in three months’ time.
To build-up to this, you’ll need to decide what your training programme and action plan would look like: how often will you run, what time of day, with who, where will you do it?
Make sure to track your progress too.
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