How to Overcome Your Workout Anxiety

by Kelly McBeth
How to Overcome Your Workout Anxiety

Trying to start a workout for the first time?

One thing that most guys don’t understand these days is that working out for the first time as an adult isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. It’s one thing to try something new, but when you’re 30 or older, it just seems awkward to be the new, inexperienced guy in any situation.

There will always be some kind of anxiety when you first enter a gym. You see people younger, fitter, and more athletic than you – and something tells you that you’re in the wrong place. I’ve been there – many times.

I’m a 45-year-old guy who only started working out three years ago. I was obese most of my life. I’m 5’11, and at one point, I weighed over 350lbs. Life was difficult. I was a hundred pounds lighter in my 20s, and even then I was overweight. I knew then that I should work out, but whenever I started, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was at the wrong place. As time went on, my weight problems just got worse and worse. I tried to get myself to accept that I would be overweight for the rest of my life, and I was prepared for that, I’d do anything to avoid the gym, although I knew that getting fit and living a healthier lifestyle was what I needed.

I was over 40, and getting worse every year. I knew it was time to finally try to get over it, and with a little help and courage, I finally got over the hump. It’s been three years since I first did my serious workout. I’ve lost 120lbs, gained muscle mass, and I now feel stronger than ever before – but most importantly, I got my confidence back. I’ll be the first to recognize that the whole process wasn’t easy, but here’s how I made it happen.


Home workouts

I knew I can’t ease my anxiety about going to the gym, so I settled with home workouts. I bought the cheapest equipment I can get my hands on. I spent about $40 on dumbbells and mats and watched workout videos to guide me. This helped improve my understanding of workouts, and I approached it with the gusto of a nerd, and I just took it all in. In the privacy of my home, I can at least try to work out without worrying about anyone seeing what I’m trying to do. I read more about working out – what diet to have, and what kind of workouts to prioritize. It’s challenging to do cardio at home, but I made do with what I can. I ran up and down my stairs every day for a few sets. I had dumbbell exercises. I even tried yoga. I knew I looked stupid doing it, but it’s still progress.


Pick a local gym


Here’s what I found out – every gym that I’ve been in, be it an expensive, exclusive gym, or the cheapest gym in town, the community is just about the same. You get the same mix of personalities. When I first signed up for a gym, I took the cheapest option available, because I wasn’t sure if I’d go through with it – but I’m glad I did.

My first time was with their sturdy exercise bikes. At this point, I was still over 300lbs, and I just had to use their equipment, because I’m not sure if I’d break the cheap ones on Amazon. I hit the bikes for over a month, and I was making great progress.

I knew that the next step was to build strength, and that’s where I felt the anxiety again. The bikes don’t usually get the same crowd as the weight room, so I picked a corner and just stayed there. I figured out that guys don’t usually look at each other in the weight room, and that brought me a bit of comfort.


Ask for help


I got acclimated with the gym, but there would come a point that you’d need help from others. I didn’t know how to adjust the squat rack, or what weight I should start with.

This is the part when I realized that I was completely wrong with my assumptions of gym guys. These guys were cool. All I had to say was, “Hey man, can you show me how to adjust these?” – and that was it. You don’t have to join cliques or be buddies with anyone at the gym, but everyone in the gym would be willing to help you out – at least in my case.


Follow a schedule


The most important part of my transformation was my follow-through. I know that committing myself to a schedule would work best for me, and that’s exactly what I did. I made a workout schedule and brought my ass to the gym. It became a part of my daily life. At first, I was working out once or twice a week. I increased my workouts to 3, then 5. Within a year, I was working out every day. These days, I’m working out at least twice every day.




Social anxiety is one of the biggest obstacles you’d have to overcome when trying to work out at a gym. My advice is – ease yourself into it. Don’t go head-on into something you know you’re not comfortable with. The challenges we face are different from everyone else’s. I’m at an age where I should be able to handle all these, but I figured, it’s better late than never. Take it as a challenge, dedicate yourself, and follow-through.

You’ll be fine.


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