Many people want to work out and get fit, but the idea of the gym is so dreadful or intimidating that it stops them from achieving their goals.
So, what are you supposed to do if you want to get in shape but you hate the gym?
The first thing you should do is get to the root of the problem, and then you can try some tips and tricks to overcome your aversion.
Why Do People Hate the Gym?
Many of the reasons to hate the gym are obvious.
It’s exhausting. It’s crowded. Some people find it too expensive.
However, some people don’t understand why they have this aversion to attending the gym, and that causes them stress.
I reached out to a bunch of personal trainers and other fitness professionals who were able to shed some insight on why people dread the gym, based on their work with real clients.
Here are the top reasons:
1. Self-Conscious About Looks
The gym is full of experienced fitness fanatics.
It’s crawling with fit, seemingly perfect bodies and people with endless stamina.
As someone who’s out of shape or just a total beginner, it can be terrifying to step into a room of people who seem to have mastered the craft of working out.
Andrew Fox, personal trainer and CEO at Aim Workout, lists self-consciousness and feeling inferior as his top reason for people hating the gym.
TJ Mentus, ACE personal trainer at garagegymreviews.com points out the fact that most people want to avoid being embarrassed, so that certainly leads to further self-consciousness.
2. Difficult to Go and Work Out After Working All Day
The work day can be long and draining.
Naturally, all you want to do is drive home, dive into your pajamas, spend time with your family, and relax.
It often feels like there’s no time to fit in a workout, and sometimes you don’t want to.
That can certainly make gym visits seem like a daunting task.
(Learn more about working long hours and exercising here.)
3. No Supportive Community
For many of us, going to the gym means flying solo and tackling our workouts alone.
But maybe this is the problem.
Micah Logan, CEO of MELD Fitness and Wellness, believes people not having a community “that supports them and takes their mind off the work ahead” can stop people from feeling motivated to go to the gym.
We all know that going to the gym is hard work, and it can be difficult to get through a daunting task without the support of friends and family around you.
Going to the gym with friends or a workout buddy may help reduce anxiety surrounding the gym.
(Having a gym buddy is one of the all-time best ways to stay motivated to work out.)
4. You’re Unsure of How to Use the Equipment
When you go to the gym, you’re basically renting a building full of workout gear.
However, not knowing how to use any of that gear is like renting a car when you don’t know how to drive.
You need to learn how to use the machines, figure out what they do, and figure out what you like and what you don’t like.
It’s easy to default to simple machines like the treadmill when the other parts of the gym confuse and intimidate you, but that means you may not be getting the best workout possible.
Andrew Fox says a lot of people find the gym boring, and that could be because they’re not pushing themselves to learn new equipment and workouts.
5. You Don’t Have a Plan
Many fitness professionals cite a lack of a workout plan as a reason for disliking the gym.
If you don’t have a plan, then you’re not going to enjoy your time there.
Gyms offer an infinite number of ways to work out, so having all those options and no plan can be overwhelming.
Without solid goals and a workout road map, you won’t get the best possible gym results — and you’ll likely end up quitting sooner rather than later.
6. You Remember a Prior Bad Experience
TJ Mentus points out that some people hate the gym due to a prior bad experience there.
Maybe you did something embarrassing that you remember every time you approach the gym, or maybe you worked out with a bad trainer.
This can easily put anyone off, and it’s completely understandable, but it’s time to get over it!
Pro Tips to Find More Gym Motivation
Now that you know why you hate the gym, it’s time to learn how you can get around those uncomfortable feelings and stop skipping workouts… for good!
Here’s what pro trainers have to say about finding more enjoyment at the gym.
1. If You’re Self-Conscious
TJ Mentus implores you to remember that “most people are not thinking about you at all because they’re too busy thinking about themselves, and some of them are probably just as worried about being judged as you are.”
That’s followed up by the excellent point that if someone is judging you, so what?
These people are strangers, and you’ll never speak to most of them!
Plus, everyone in the gym started somewhere, and just because you’re a beginner, it doesn’t mean that you’re any less welcome at the gym than they are.
TJ recommends visiting smaller Mom and Pop gyms so there are fewer people around.
You could also visit a 24-hour fitness club that lets you work out during off-peak hours, giving you more privacy.
2. If You Find It Difficult to Go After Work
Finding time to exercise when you work a lot is brutal, I know.
But there are a lot of ways to make it work.
Start by blocking time on your calendar, just like you had a meeting.
Many people adore morning workouts, and taking a fitness class on your lunch break is desirable to some, too. Finding a time that works for you and excites you is the key to staying motivated each day.
Morning workouts are particularly beneficial as your cortisol levels are at their highest. This boosts your energy, so it can naturally help motivate you.
Find a good HIIT workout plan so you can get your exercise for the day done in about 15 minutes or so.
3. If You Lack a Supportive Community
If you lack a supportive community at the gym, then consider working out with a friend who shares your goals rather than going it alone.
Mom and Pop gyms are also excellent for finding a group to support you. It’s a closer-knit community, so you’re more likely to find people that will support you on your fitness journey.
Making friends at the gym isn’t that hard once you build up the courage to try!
Micah Logan says, “see if someone is willing to accompany you to support you on your journey. If you don’t have that as an option, try to strike up a conversation with someone you believe visually may be at your same fitness level.”
Finding someone to support you on your journey can be incredibly motivating.
And finally, if your gym has group classes, try those instead of working out alone — they’re usually included with your membership and they’re a lot more fun than walking on the treadmill by yourself!
4. If You’re Unsure of How to Use the Equipment
Many gyms will implore you to schedule a few sessions with a trainer or a fitness coach when you first join up for the gym.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, the best way to go about things is to learn from someone who does.
The instructor will teach you how to use the various pieces of equipment alleging that you’re interested in.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to buy a pack of personal training sessions if you don’t want — just see if someone from the gym can give you a basic walkthrough and tutorial of the main equipment areas when you join.
5. If You Don’t Have a Plan
Once you talk to a fitness trainer, they may be able to help you come up with a plan that works for you.
If you find exercise boring, they’ll help you find something that excites you and keeps your workout fresh.
If sticking to a plan motivates you, then your trainer or coach will be able to help you with that, too.
Going it alone? Come up with some solid and specific fitness goals for yourself (strength goals, endurance goals, etc.) and find a workout program that will help you get you there.
A good workout plan will tell you what exercises to do on what days and how to make progress over time. Stick to it rather than freestyling every time you go to the gym.
(Here are some good free workout plans you can start with.)
6. If You Remember a Prior Bad Experience
If you’ve had a bad experience at the gym, consider going to a different gym.
If it was the trainer that was the issue, look for a better trainer — a lot of times, the personality fit just isn’t there and it’s OK to try someone else.
One gym and one trainer don’t define the entire world of fitness, so look around until you find a place and people that make you feel comfortable and motivated to work out.
Fill your mind and body with new positive experiences and you’ll find the bad memories fading over time.
Top Alternatives to the Gym
Going to the gym isn’t the only way to get fit, and if it’s really not for you, that’s OK!
You can obtain the same results that you’d get from the gym in different environments.
The best workout is the one you stick with over time, so if you hate the gym, you can always try:
Home Gym and Home Workouts
Having a home gym gets rid of a lot of the woes that visiting a gym can bring.
Nobody is watching you, so you won’t be self-conscious.
Your family will be in the other room if you need some support.
You can fill your home gym with machines that you understand and enjoy, and you can blast your music or your favorite TV shows as loudly as you want while you work out to help keep you entertained.
Best of all, outside of buying some basic equipment, home workouts are free!
(Here are some different types of home workouts you can start with.)
Have you ever seen those cycling clubs, running clubs, or general fitness sessions in the park?
They might be better for you.
You’ll feel less constrained by the walls of an intimidating gym if you work out outside among a group of like-minded individuals.
If you want to go it alone, you can throw on some shoes and go for a run or a bike ride anytime you want — weather permitting!
This is a fantastic way to stay in shape that’s free, convenient, and way less intimidating than the gym.
Group classes may be better for you if you need support and motivation.
They have a qualified instructor that helps you stay on track during each session, and group classes provide plenty of variety with each class.
There are tons of different types of group classes you can attend, ranging from yoga and Pilates, to intense bootcamps like Orangetheory.
Best of all, you can even take a lot of these classes at the gym!
Learn more about taking yoga at a yoga studio vs the gym here.
Some gyms have swimming pools, but you can also join up at your local community pool and get a fantastic swimming workout all summer long, if that’s more your speed.
Swimming is relaxing, low impact, and incredibly fun.
If you have a swimming pool of your own, then you may be able to swim at home, too.
Swimming is especially good for fitness in summer, but it can be done at an indoor pool at any time of the year.
(Check out the amazing results you can get from swimming here.)
There are many ways to get fit, and not all of them involve going to the gym or working out around other people.
Find your path to fitness by experimenting and deciding what workouts are best for you and what style of exercise is the most comfortable.
Whether you learn to love the gym or you prefer to work out at home, there’s no wrong way to tackle getting into shape.
The only thing you need to remember is that you should have goals in place, and if you’re having a bad time, then you should try something else to ensure you’re enjoying your fitness journey.
For more, check out:
Hope this helps!