What is Gym Anxiety?: How to Overpower Gymtimidation

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Welcome to the Gym Anxiety 101 physical education class - the guide for those of us who get winded just thinking about stepping into a gym.

We're about to take you through a routine of self-love and 'Gymtimidation' cures.

Getting over gym anxiety isn't as tough as you may think, it's going to be a fun and, dare we say, 'sweat-free' journey.

What is Gym Anxiety: The Anti Pre-Workout

"Gym Anxiety" refers to a feeling of unease, nervousness, or self-consciousness experienced by individuals when they go to a gym or fitness center.

This anxiety, also known as the "Anti Pre-Workout", can be caused by various factors, such as concerns about one's physical appearance, fear of judgment from others, a lack of familiarity with gym equipment and routines, or performance-related stress.

People with gym anxiety may feel intimidated by the environment, other gym-goers, or their own perceived lack of fitness knowledge or abilities.

Picture this: you strut into the gym, a newbie with high spirits, ready to hustle for that muscle and toned body.

But suddenly, you're met with a sea of intimidatingly fit bodies, machines that look like something out of a Transformers movie, and an inexplicable dread seeping into your sneakers.

Yikes. You, my friend, are experiencing Gym Anxiety.

It's like stage-fright, but instead of a crowd, you've got dumbbells and treadmills staring you down.

It's a real thing, folks, and it's as tough on the mind as a triathlon is on the body.

Stick around as we decode this gym monster and how to bench press or squat it out of your life.

What is Gymtimidation: When Dumbbells Start Looking Scarier Than Monday Mornings

"Gymtimidation" is a colloquial term that combines "gym" and "intimidation" and is used to describe the feelings of intimidation or unease that some individuals experience when going to a gym or fitness center.

This self-conscious feeling of insecurity can stop anyone from working out, be it a beginner or an experienced gym-goer.

The thought of being the center of attention when using gym equipment, or not knowing how to use it correctly, can be daunting and make you feel uncomfortable.

Also, your mind starts to think that going to the gym is a beauty pageant or popularity contest.

But it's important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and most gym regulars are focused solely on their own workout. To break this down for you... it's all in your head.

The gym is a place for self-improvement, and overcoming Gymtimidation can be the first step to achieving your fitness aspirations.

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What are the Anxiety Symptoms of Gymtimidation?: Spotting the Sneaky Signs of This Workout Worry

Gym anxiety has a sneaky way of making its presence known, often disguising itself as one or more of these common symptoms:

Sudden Invisibility Syndrome

If you find yourself wearing the most inconspicuous gym clothes in an attempt to blend in with the walls, you might be a victim of gym anxiety.

Machine Phobia

From treadmills to elliptical machines and the monstrous leg press, all gym equipment suddenly start looking like advanced alien technology.

Procrastination Overload

You suddenly find yourself in deep contemplation about life, universe, and laundry in the middle of a gym session. Anything to delay the workout, right?

"Spotlight Effect"

You feel like everyone's eyes are glued to you, tracking your every move. Spoiler alert: They're not. They're probably too busy wondering if everyone's watching them too.

Changing Room Panic

The mere thought of changing in front of others sends you into panic mode. As a result, you arrive and leave in your sweat-soaked gym clothes. Ew!


You start comparing yourself with others in the gym. Remember: the only person you should be competing against is the "you" who didn't want to workout today.

Cardio-Only Conundrum

You stick to cardio because the weights section feels like entering uncharted territory. Don't let those dumbbells scare you – they don't bite.

There you have it. The sneaky signs of gym anxiety. If you're nodding along to these, don't worry. With a bit of courage and a dash of self-confidence, you can start a workout routine despite social fears.

How to Cope with Gym Anxiety and Sweat out Gymtimidation

Now that we've had a good laugh recognizing the gym-induced jitters and treadmills-induced terror, it's time to tackle them.

In this section, we'll provide you with a workout plan for your mind, showing you how to lift those fears and sprint past your doubts.

So, tighten your laces and get ready, because you're about to bench press your anxiety, squat out your intimidation, and do a victory lap around the gym.

7 Ways to Cure Gymtimidation

1. Start Small

Don't feel the need to conquer the gym all at once. Starting small means choosing exercises and machines you're comfortable with, then gradually expanding your repertoire as your confidence grows.

2. Create a Plan

Walking into the gym without a plan can be intimidating. Having a clear and consistent workout routine despite your worry can help you stay focused, and avoid wandering aimlessly or feeling overwhelmed.

3. Trainer or Group Fitness

Consider hiring a personal trainer, or joining a group fitness class. Trainers can provide guidance and reassurance, while group fitness classes offer a supportive community vibe, making the gym feel less intimidating.

4. Go Off-Peak

If possible, visit the gym during off-peak hours when it's less crowded. This can help alleviate the feeling of being watched or judged.

5. Use Music

Music can be a great motivator and a distraction from the intimidating gym atmosphere. Plug in your headphones and let your favorite tunes help you power through your workout.

6. Practice Self-Affirmation

Remind yourself why you're there. You're at the gym for your health and wellbeing, not to compete with anyone else. Positive self-talk can be a big player in your new routine to cope with gym anxiety.

7. Try CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is known for its calming effects and can be a natural way to manage Gymtimidation. CBD gummies can help reduce pre-gym jitters by chilling you out, and also aid in post-workout recovery. As always, consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.

Studies on Gym Anxiety: What the Experts Say

Gym anxiety is not just a punchline for sitcoms, it's a real phenomenon that's been documented in academic research.

Studies have shown that it's a relatively common experience, especially among new gym-goers or those returning after a long hiatus.

The consensus among experts is clear: Gymtimidation is a mental barrier that can be overcome with time, practice, a consistent routine despite social anxiety, and a positive mindset.

Let's dive into what the research says... 

A comprehensive study reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focused on treatments for gym anxiety.

The study emphasized the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral strategies in managing gym-related fears.

The participant's who employed these strategies, which included visualization techniques, positive self-talk, and regular exposure to the gym environment, showed marked improvement in their comfort level in gym settings.

This research underscores the potential effectiveness of cognitive therapy-based treatments for gym anxiety, signifying a promising approach to tackle gym intimidation.

So, can exercise help with anxiety?

Yes. Numerous studies have demonstrated that exercise has a positive impact on mental health.

Exercise is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety, alleviating depression, increasing confidence, and improving creativity and focus.

Specifically, it is shown to release endorphins that help us feel good and elevate our mood.

What Famous Gym Experts Say About Going to the Gym

Joe Wicks, The Body Coach:

"Everyone in the gym was once in your shoes. They didn't know what a deadlift was, couldn't do a push-up, and certainly felt out of place. Just remember, you're there for you, not them. Keep doing your thing."

Jillian Michaels, Fitness Expert and Best-selling Author:

"Fear is just a hurdle, a mental wall. The moment you push past that barrier, you'll realize your true strength. The gym is not about anyone else but you and your journey."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, 7-Time Mr. Olympia:

"The resistance you fight in the gym and the resistance you fight in life can only build a strong character. So chin up, do your thing, and don't let the gym scare you."

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What Workout Types & Exercises are Best for Gym Anxiety?

Ah, the age-old question: "What exercises should I do to calm my nerves in the gym that won't make me look like a headless chicken on a treadmill?"

Don't worry, I've been there too. The secret is finding workouts that help you feel confident and in control.

Here are some anxiety-friendly workout types that will help you break a sweat without breaking your self-esteem:


This isn't just for people who can twist themselves into a pretzel. It's a great workout for beginners and can help bring a sense of calmness. Plus, everyone is too focused on not falling over to even notice anyone else.


Pilates is like yoga, but with a little more sweat and a little less zen. It’s all about the core - and instructors reduce the fear of the unknown by giving friendly and specific instructions.

Group Fitness Classes:

No need to think about what exercise to do next; just follow the leader. And if classes seem daunting solo, use the buddy system and hold eachother accountable to stay on schedule.


Stationary cycling classes are great. You can adjust your resistance to how you're feeling that day. Plus, the lights are usually dimmed, so the chances of pulling a silly face without anyone noticing are pretty high.


You might turn into a prune, but at least you don’t have to worry about sweating in awkward places.

Now, if you're wondering what specific exercises to try, here are a few that are beginner-friendly and won't send you running for the hills (unless running for the hills is your chosen exercise, in which case, run Forrest, run):

Walking Lunges:

They're like normal lunges, but you don't stay in one place. They make you look like you know what you're doing.

Wall Sits:

Find a wall, sit against it, and pretend you're invisible. It may sound weird but it's easy to try and it's an expert workout.


Find a step, step up, step down, repeat. If you can walk up stairs without tripping, you've got this one in the bag.

Jumping Jacks:

These will take you back to your childhood. They're a great workout and hard to mess up.

So there you have it. A master list of workouts that are as friendly as a Labrador and will have you walking into the gym like you own the place in no time.

Best Workouts for Each Mental Disorder

While you can use mindfulness techniques to help with Gymtimidation, sometimes your social anxiety disorder or other mental health illness can prevent you from going to the gym.

Check out the workouts that pair best with these common mental disorders:

Anxiety - Yoga:

The practice of yoga involves breathing exercises and postures that promote relaxation and balance. It can help to regulate your stress response system, reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and improving mood. This makes yoga an excellent choice for those dealing with anxiety.

Depression - Running:

Aerobic exercises like running can reduce symptoms of depression by releasing feel-good chemicals like endorphins, and by helping to normalize sleep patterns which can often be disrupted by depression. So, tie up those laces and chase the blues away!

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Tai Chi:

This is a gentle form of exercise that involves slow, flowing movements and deep breathing. It can help those with PTSD by promoting a sense of peace and well-being, and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve overall mood.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - Martial Arts:

Martial arts require a high level of focus, discipline, and structure - all things that can benefit those with ADHD. Plus, the physical activity can help to reduce impulsivity and improve concentration.

Insomnia - Light Weightlifting:

Lifting light weights can help to tire your body out, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Plus, the focus needed for weightlifting can distract from the ruminations and anxieties that often accompany insomnia. Just remember, the key here is light weights and low impact so you don't get too pumped before bed!

    Please remember, if you're condition is serious a personal trainer might not be enough and you may want to consider seeking help from a mental health professional.

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    Gym Anxiety Tips: Tiny Steps Towards Titan Strength

    If you want to overcome gym anxiety, think of yourself as a fitness snail: start small, keep a steady pace, and remember, your home (the gym) is on your back.

    No need to pull off Herculean feats on day one. Heck, a ten-minute workout each day beats pretending you're in a Rocky montage for an hour once a week.

    Next, it's time for some detective work.

    Find out what's tripping you up on your road to fitness glory. Is it time? Motivation? A lack of dumbbells?

    Once you've got your culprit, it's problem-solving time. You could outsmart your alarm clock by waking up 15 minutes earlier.

    If motivation's your nemesis, there are countless workout apps that'll cheer you on.

    A shortage of equipment? You've got a body, haven't you? Time to introduce your arms and legs to the world of bodyweight exercises. You'll be doing push-ups on your kitchen floor before you know it. Exercise can happen anywhere, and it doesn’t have to mean running on a treadmill at the gym.

    In fact, doing something active outdoors can be even more beneficial. Outdoor activities like hiking or gardening can improve your mood while also being a form of exercise.

    How Sunday Scaries Affects Gymtimidation

    Sunday Scaries, that all-too-familiar feeling of dread as the weekend draws to an end, can escalate Gymtimidation.

    This can be particularly pronounced if you've taken a day or two off training over the weekend.

    The key to overcoming this is to shift your mindset. Instead of viewing Monday as a daunting hurdle, see it as an opportunity to overcome Gymtimidation and start fresh.

    Developing a workout plan that you enjoy is the first step in this process. The more you look forward to your workout, the less intimidated you'll feel.

    Additionally, if your Sunday Scaries is caused by a hangover, getting to the gym on a Sunday and sweating out your Scaries can be the best remedy.

    By doing this you'll also feel a sense of accomplishment and a productivity boost which beats rotting on the couch all day in despair.

    Showing up to the gym is half the battle, but just wear your headphones and listen to your #1 pump up song to get you going.

    The Grand Finale: Because Rome Wasn't Built in a Gym Day

    Alright, Gymtimidators, it's time to wrap this up.

    We've spilled the beans on the best beginner-friendly workouts that won't have you running for the hills (unless that's your chosen exercise).

    We've paired mental disorders with their exercise soulmates, and even given you the lowdown on how to combat the pesky Sunday Scaries.

    Remember, going to the gym isn't about transforming into Arnold Schwarz-workout-er overnight.

    It's about taking small, consistent steps towards a healthier you and remembering that no one really cares about your experience level, it's all in your head.

    So, lace up those trainers, bust out those jumping jacks, and remember - Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was your six-pack.

    Now go forth, conquer that gym like it owes you money, and remember, the only bad workout is the one that didn't happen.

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