Conquer the Gym: 10 Tips Every Fitness Beginner Should Know

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Starting a fitness journey can be tough. It can also be defeating, frustrating, frightening… and a whole list of other words that I probably shouldn’t write here on this blog.

What’s more, choosing to walk the healthy path of life can feel like a lonely process- especially when all your friends seem to have their life together. You know, the ones who can manage work, kids, and all their adult responsibilities while staying in impeccable shape.

But this post isn’t about them.

No, this post is dedicated to the women who aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t have it all together; the women who don’t find it beneath them to ask for a little help; the women who aspire to build a better, strong version of themselves without stepping on the progress of others. Women like you.

So here goes nothing… a letter to the fit novice that used to be us all.

Dear New Gym Member,

I see you over there near the front welcome desk. You’re dressed in semi-new workout attire- nothing too matchy-matchy that would immediately give you away as a gym novice. You carry your headphones in one hand and casually hold your printed workout (one you snagged off Pinterest perhaps), hoping no one will notice that you haven’t a clue as to what you are doing…

I see you eyeing the equipment from afar, trying to choose between cardio and weighted machines. Really, you want to give the StairMaster a try, but you’re nervous to make a fool of yourself, so you settle for your ole standby, the boring treadmill instead…

I see you wondering what to do next for your workout. You awkwardly stare at some of the more ‘seasoned’ gym visitors. You don’t want to make it obvious you’re looking, but you’re intrigued by what they’re doing with those free weights. So you watch and wait for them to leave the area before you pick up your own pair of dumbbells and perform the exact same movement. Heaven forbid they catch you copying their workout…

I see you over there, questioning whether you belong. And I also see you full of hope that this fitness thing will finally ‘click’ this go around. You’re trying to mask your fear, the fact that your intimidated by everyone else who seems to already have a handle on this gig (trust me, they don’t). And you’re doing your darndest not to compare yourself to everyone else in the room… How is it possible her stomach is so flat? Why can’t I have tone & sculpted arms like her? Will I ever be able to lift as much weight or run as fast as she does?… 

I’m familiar with the newness of starting a fitness journey. Truth be told, I’ve been on this journey for many, many years and somewhere along the way I even managed to pick up my Certification in Personal Training. I like to think of myself as in that transition phase- you know, somewhere between ‘new’ and that ‘not-so-new’ phase that is fitness. I don’t know if I’ll ever claim that ‘expert’ title because I’m like you, forever learning…

So yes, I see you, new gym member and I can relate because I used to be you, standing in the exact same spot you are in now. I’d love to share some wisdom with you as to what got me through those difficult first days. And I hope you’ll stick around for even longer and continue to be guided by this awesome community of health-minded women that resides here at

Because really, what’s more inspiring & empowering than strong women choosing to support & encourage other strong women?

To start your fitness journey, let me share my Top 10 Tips to Conquer Your Fear of the Gym.

10 Helpful Tips to Get You Started in the Gym:

1.Take Notice of the Gym Atmosphere – For many of us, the thought of stepping foot inside a new gym is well beyond our comfort zone. Still, that doesn’t mean visits to the gym ought to be uncomfortable.

Take notice of your surroundings- Is the price of membership affordable? Are the locker rooms clean and inviting? Are the staff members friendly? What about the class schedule- are there classes listed that spark your interest?

Gyms are not a one-size-fits-all kind of place. Don’t be afraid to shop around, visit a few and find the right ‘fit’ for you. After all, if you’re going to be spending a good chunk of you’re time there, you might as well make the experience as enjoyable as possible.

2. Avoid Peak Times – If the thought of trying to get a good workout in while a cluster of other individuals do the same is enough to make you sweat, consider hitting the gym during its less busy periods.

You’ll have more access to available gym equipment and may even feel less self conscious without an audience of people there to watch you exercise.

As a general rule, most gyms are busiest immediately before and after the office work day- think early mornings and early evening. Skip the crowd by choosing to workout mid-morning, late-afternoon, or after 7 pm.

3. Bring a Friend – Have you ever noticed how much more likely you are to make a fool of yourself when in the company of a good friend as compared to when you’re by yourself?

Invite a friend to workout at the gym with you. You’ll find it easier to get in ‘the zone’ and you’ll be too busy having fun with your bestie to even worry about what others are thinking.

4. Ask for Help – You may think that the gym staff is just there to check guests in, clean up messes in the locker room and keep an eye on the gym floor, but I promise you they are trained to do so much more.

In most every gym, employees are trained on how-to properly operate any and all equipment. So the next time you’re baffled on how a certain cable machine works, or you can’t figure out the proper settings on your cardio machine- grab a staff member, they’ll be happy to get you started.

5. Work with a Personal Trainer – In the beginning, it may seem like you’re spending a lot of your hard-earned money making this fitness thing happen. And after calculating the cost of personal training sessions, you may be tempted to skip ’em altogether.

But don’t be so quick to count out a personal trainer just yet.

Sure you can find plenty of free information on the Internet these days- workouts to get you started; exercise videos that demonstrate any number of movements; tips & tricks the pros use and more… However, these things won’t get you a hands-on training experience with a real fitness professional.

A professional that can correct your form, show you ways to prevent injury, and get you started on the right fitness plan that will get you closer to your desired goals.

Consider hiring a personal trainer for 5 sessions in the beginning to get you started on the right track and then going on your own.

Related: True Story: I’m a Personal Trainer that Hired a Personal Trainer- Here’s Why!

6. Join a Group Fitness Class – Looking for something a bit more social than your standard one-on-one workout? Considering joining a group class and get a great workout in with a group of men and women who share similar interests as you.

The great thing about fitness classes is that you get the opportunity to workout under the supervision of an experienced instructor without the hefty price tag of a personal trainer.

Related: Join the (free) Squat Challenge: Get Fit and Win Prizes

7. Write your Progress Down – As a gym newbie, I had a million and one things going through my mind. There was so much to remember: the correct way to breathe while exercising; the proper form for each movement; tempos; speeds and more. What frustrated me more than anything was when I started utilizing weighted exercises in my workouts.

That’s because I could never remember what weight I last used for each exercise. I wasted a lot of time relocating just the ‘right’ weight for me. And ultimately, my inability to remember all those numbers just prolonged my ‘newbie’ phase in the gym.

Do yourself a favor, whether you enjoy slinging dumbbells or cardio is more your style- write down your workouts each day to not only track your progress by to help jog your memory for the next workout. You’ll be amazed at the difference this simple task will make.

8. Start Slow – While I firmly believe that you should leave your ego at the front door regardless of your level of fitness. It’s particularly noticeable when new gym members decide to lift weights beyond their strength and ability.

Performing movements outside your fitness level isn’t just about bruised egos either. You are opening yourself up to injury and a whole host of other problems when you push too hard, too fast.

Don’t be ashamed to start small. It’s a fact: using light weight or even scaling to body weight in a resistance training program can be more effective in producing results if the exercise is completed with proper form.

9. Be Gentle with Yourself – The whole ‘no pain, no gain’ is a motto that I wish would retire from the fitness world.

The truth of the matter is that fitness is not a punishment. Choosing to be fit and healthy should be a celebration of all the things which our bodies are capable of. Becoming fit isn’t about beating ourselves up.

Exercise is the process by which we uncover our ‘best selves’;  a way to nurture our body and soul. So be mindful of your approach to tackling your fitness journey.

Being hard on yourself won’t make the process any easier. Relax. Take it one workout at a time.

Related: The Power of Positive Self-Talk: Why Your Thoughts Matter

10. Minimize Distractions – The easiest way to quiet your nerves and those negative thoughts flying around in your head?

Drown ’em out. Wear headphones and crank your favorite playlist, play a motivating podcast, or choose to do work on your reading list and listen to an audio book- anything to distract you from the hundreds of things going on around you as you workout.

You may just surprise yourself with how much more enjoyable working out can be once you get in ‘the zone’.

Want even more (free) help to conquer your fear of the gym and achieve stellar results on your fitness journey? Enter your email below to get instant access to my entire library of fitness resources 🙂

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Let me know in the comments below some of your greatest techniques to conquer your fear of the gym. Let’s help each other out this year:)










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I'm Britney,

Just a small-town gal with a passion for fitness + health- Using my little corner of the Internet to spread light and positive vibes. It is my mission to encourage all women to step into the best-version of themselves possible. After all- you deserve it, girl!

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