Can Introverts Overcome Mental Barriers When Going to the Gym?

Introversion and the stereotypical gym setting can sometimes be incompatible. If you want to work out while not dealing with strangers, you may find it challenging. So, what can you do if you find small talk and social interaction exhausting?

10 Tips for Introverts to achieve their fitness goals in comfort:

1. Choose the right gym for your goals

Different gyms exist for different needs. Big box gyms are the most popular because they give you access to a wide range of equipment and are usually open around the clock. These establishments also let you work out independently and extend optional support for an extra fee. Their hybrid variants offer group exercise classes for yogis, Pilates enthusiasts, and other fitness modalities.

Council gyms provide facilities for various calorie-burning recreational activities — like swimming, basketball, badminton, and the increasingly popular pickleball. Also called recreational centres, they’re less intimidating than big box gyms and can offer a little more anonymity and a more diverse demographic, usually to their accessible price point.

Group fitness studios emphasise socialisation for people who need a supportive community to keep them motivated and accountable. With many group exercise classes incorporating partner challenges and using the shared experience of exertion to foster connection, this type of training environment can be overwhelming for the introvert.

Wellness studios conduct group classes concentrating on breathing control, focus, alignment, and overall well-being. Predominantly a calm, quiet space for a workout, this can be a good place to start when it comes to group training for someone who might suffer from social anxiety.

Women-only gyms are for female gym-goers who feel more comfortable working out without any male presence. This might be for cultural or safety reasons, but it can also mean that there are workouts tailored to women’s needs such as low-impact options, or pregnancy and postpartum-specific training.

Powerlifting and weightlifting facilities are self-explanatory and with today’s prevalence of wireless headphones and smartphones, many of these facilities make for a fairly solitary workout environment. Athletic development gyms cater to people who want to play sports competitively, enhance particular attributes — like strength, conditioning, and speed — and need guidance from specialist coaches.

Lastly, personal and small group training is suited to fitness enthusiasts who want extra attention from trainers and personalised workout programs. They also work well for those who need accountability placed on them by having a prearranged appointment.

If you pick the right gym type, you can achieve your specific fitness objectives faster while minimising your interactions with others.

Can Introverts Overcome Mental Barriers When Going to the Gym

2. Do a walkthrough before your first workout

Tour the training environment before your first workout. Familiarise yourself with the facilities, know where to find the equipment for your program, and find desirable spots to warm up and cool down. Spending a few minutes in your new gym lets you assess its overall vibe at that time of day.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to get all your questions answered. Speak with the receptionist about anything you want to know non-workout-related. Find a trained staff member for advice on your fitness goals and who can show you how the machines work.

If you dislike seeking help and prefer to figure everything out on your own, talk to gym employees and get as much information as you can so you don’t have to ask again. Dealing with fewer unknowns when you start your workout can help calm your nerves, build confidence, and reduce social anxiety. It should be noted that being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean someone is anxious, but often, they just prefer their “me” time spent in solitude.

If you’ve booked in for a class or a specific time slot for a gym induction, allow plenty of time to find parking and know where you need to be. If walking into a new gym is already challenging for you, the last thing you want to be doing is arriving late.

3. Have a plan of what your workout will involve

Know what exercises you need to do in your workout program before setting foot in the gym. This way, you can go straight to your piece of equipment or area of the gym, finish your sets, and leave. The more decisive you are, the less opportunity others have to disturb you. Download a workout app, or have something written on a piece of paper, so you aren’t left wandering the gym floor looking lost and unsure.

4. Go to the gym only when necessary

Many health-conscious, introverted people only go to the gym when needed. Luckily, walking, running, cycling, hiking, and swimming are introvert-friendly cardio workouts and you can do them alone, at your leisure – often for free!

You can also set up a home gym if you have the space and budget. These basics are inexpensive and easy to store:

  • Exercise mat
  • Jump rope
  • Ab wheel
  • Step bench
  • Gliding discs
  • Resistance bands

Regarding weights, you can start with resistance bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells. Larger pieces of equipment can be costly and bulky, so you can use your gym membership to access them only when needed. If you have a little more money to spend, there are some phenomenal pieces of home gym equipment now on the market that offer a versatile, and effective workout.

Photo by Victor Freitas

Visit the gym during off-peak times

Consider signing up for a gym that operates night and day and publishes attendance figures to help you avoid large, noisy crowds. Some gyms (particularly those with group exercise timetables) are busiest early in the morning and in the early evening, but others can draw in the numbers during the middle of the day. Obviously, your own life schedule will determine when you can train, but if your day is flexible, consider the demographics that share your gym – Uni students, office workers, stay-at-home parents, etc. Finding an optimum time slot can help you break a sweat in a more relaxed training environment.

Wearing headphones to avoid being social at the gym

Listening to music can increase your workout performance when you control the playlist. For an introvert, it can also discourage others from striking up a conversation with you. Wearing over-ear headphones instead of earphones or earbuds can send a stronger message to other gym-goers that you prefer isolation to chitchat.

Mind yourself

Most introverts are deeply self-aware, but this quality can make them more prone to negative self-talk. Stop worrying about what others think of you – chances are they’re too busy thinking about their own workout programs to observe what you’re doing.

The regulars may notice new faces, but most gym rats, cardio junkies, and muscle heads concentrate on their own activities. Social butterflies are more interested in talking, but many of them enrol in group classes for that kind of connection, so it’s unlikely they’ll cause you any bother!

For the uninitiated gym introvert, there may be a fear of sympathetic gym-goers approaching you to help you with equipment or correct your form. However, you can stop attracting their attention by asking a trained employee to show you the ropes before you begin.

introverts overcome barriers going to the gym

Move After Every Set

Anyone who wants to chat with you at the gym will likely roll up while you’re resting between sets. If you’re training for weight loss, go swiftly from one exercise to another after every set to avoid this. Being a moving target to unwanted conversationalists makes you harder to ambush!

Shower at Home

Most introverted people find silence very comfortable, but for others, it feels awkward and causes them to initiate conversations in places like gym changing rooms. Arriving at the gym in your workout gear and heading home for a shower afterward can help you avoid idle chatter in those communal areas like the changerooms.

Find a Friend

Visiting the gym with a person you know may help lessen your anxiety. Alternatively, consider working out close to another introverted person in the establishment. In social settings, introverts who recognise each other tend to support one another, so this strategy is worth contemplating.

Crushing your mental barriers to achieve your fitness goals

Most gyms are friendlier to extroverts, so your concerns as an introverted person when it comes to working out in a social environment are valid. However, some of your fears may exist only in your head and you may actually find that the gym is a place where you can be around people without the pressure to have to be social. Hopefully, these tips will help you to successfully remedy your apprehensions about joining your local gym and attaining your fitness goals. Remember, there are so many different styles and formats when it comes to gyms these days – there’s bound to be a good fit for you too.

About the author:
Oscar Collins is the fitness editor at Modded, where he writes about fitness trends, nutrition, and similar topics.

Follow him on Twitter @TModded for frequent updates on his work.

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