Going Back Into the Gym After a Long Break. Stop Feeling Awkward

How to get that motivation going without caring who is looking 

It’s been 2+ years since I’ve stepped into a gym. Going to the gym for both classes and solo workouts, was an important part of the day for me, but since the gyms closed for the first time when the COVID hit I didn’t go back mostly for safety reasons. That didn’t mean I didn’t workout, just that I had to adjust to home workouts, something I’ve written about recently

Photo by Scott Webb

Two weeks before Christmas I’ve decided that it’s time to return to the gym environment. For one I was missing going into a gym and I wanted to use more weights in my workouts as well and I don’t want to fill my house with them. A new non-stop gym open 5 minutes from my house, so I took that as a sign and I’ve signed up. 

Not sure about you, but whenever I take a longer break from the gym, this being the longest, when I go back I feel very self-aware and watched by others. It was the same now, but I was determined to ignore that, and after 3 weeks I barely notice anyone around me there. Here is how I do it:

  1. Headphones — might seem an obvious one, but keeping your headphones during the workout helps tune out the music from the gym, sounds or conversations made by others or the machines. Wireless headphones are a good investment for this purpose. What are you listing to is also important, for me, it’s a combination of my favorite music for cardio and youtube workouts for the rest of the session. I’ve discovered that bringing some of the home workouts to the gym is actually a good idea, I’m just putting my phone on a holder and proceed like no one is around.
  2. Focus — a lot of the exercises at different machines might feel weird, and you might think that you look funny. First, if you are not sure if you are using a machine correctly check with a trainer, but then if you still feel strange it’s just your mind playing tricks on you. Everyone is concerned with their own workout and the way they look, so try to focus on why are you doing that exercise. Visualize the muscles that you engage, see them turning red, feel how they are getting stronger. See your desired result as you are repeating the exercise.
  3. Timing — I prefer to avoid rush hours at the gym so that I don’t need to wait around for a spot on a machine or bump into others, but that’s not always possible. Whenever I go and there are more people than I feel comfortable with, I do a quick scan to see where is the least hussle and bussle is. I usually retreat to that area with a mat and get going. After that I go for the least popular machines, I believe those are different from gym to gym. I am not saying that you need to change your actual routine based on the people in the gym, not at all, but if you like to have your space, you can adapt, and start where others usually don’t. 

These are my ways to get rid of that criticism and awkwardness from my mind. Of course, the more you practice them and go into the gym the easier it will be to just enjoy your workout and ignore others. You should never feel ashamed for trying to move and exercise no matter how you think you look, I assure you it’s not as bad as you think. And you shouldn’t judge others either. We are all there to be better and we all have different goals and bodies. 

I need to say that you must compare only with how you’ve done last time, never compare with other bodies, strengths, or workouts. Admiring someone and trying to get inspired or even ask for advice is perfectly fine, just don’t think of how he or she is doing better or worse than you, that’s always a trap. 

Now go smash and enjoy your next workout! 

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