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Lancaster students: Here’s how to tackle gym anxiety at uni

Going to the sports centre gym for the first time can be a scary experience

Lancaster University is lucky enough to have its own Sports Centre on campus. But if you’re anything like me, going to the gym probably comes with a whole host of questions, like “What do I even do at the gym?”, “What if I embarrass myself?”, “What should I wear?”. Everyone who goes to the gym has been there, but for some it can come with more anxiety than we would like. So, here is your guide to tackling gym anxiety at Lancaster University Sports Centre, from someone who is frequently terrified to go but knows a bit more about what to do now. Obviously, it should be said that these aren’t expert tips, just a few pieces of advice that might make you feel more relaxed.

What do I wear?

The most important thing to remember here is wear something that makes you feel comfortable. There is no requirement to wear anything that makes you feel self-conscious. It’s so much better to feel comfortable and confident than wear something you hate, spend 10 minutes looking at your reflection in the mirror before going home and never attempting the gym again. Leggings are good, or jogging bottoms and any kind of t-shirt or top that you can work out in.


Listening to music can be very important in enhancing your gym experience, and it’s important to pick some songs that you like and that will actually motivate you. Make a playlist, and think about some songs that will make you feel confident. I recommend the song “Karma” by Taylor Swift, but anything upbeat that you like will do.

Go with a friend

Gym anxiety is so much easier to tackle with an experienced friend who can show you where to go and what to do. Ask them if they can show you a few of their favourite exercises, and this will give you the confidence to go alone. If none of your friends are gym-goers, go together anyway. It’s much better looking clueless with someone who is just as confused about the machines as you are.

Navigating the gym

Okay, you’ve made it to the gym. You’ve put your things in a locker, headphones are on, but where do you go next? If you’re looking for cardio, exercise machines, or free weights, head up the stairs and go into the first room on your right. For other free weights or squat racks, go opposite the cardio room and turn left.

Take a breath

When you walk into the gym for the first time, it can often feel like you need to head straight to a machine and start working out. Relax – you’ve paid for your membership and you can take as much time as you need. When you get there, just take a breath. Look around at the machines, see which one you might like to use. Lots of the machines have instructions on them, or a button saying “Start” so they’re a lot simpler than you might think. Of course, there’s no shame in looking at a video quickly to help you out or if you’re really stuck, just ask someone. Many people are happy to help, they’ve been in your shoes before.

Make a routine

If you’ve gotten over your first trip to the sports centre and you’re still anxious, you’re not alone! Many of us still get intimidated after going a few times, but if you’re trying something new every time you go, it can cause unnecessary, avoidable anxiety. Think of the exercises you like and put together a routine that you can stick to. There are lots of different apps that can help with this, such as Couch to 5K or the Gymshark Training app. Again, don’t injure yourself and only do what you’re comfortable with.

What if I feel self-conscious?

This is a question that plagues most people on their first time to the gym. If this is stopping you from going to the gym, here is the best thing you can tell yourself: no one is looking at you. It takes some getting used to but if you can remember this, it will massively reduce your anxiety.  Every single person in the gym has been in your shoes at some point, which can be hard to remember when you’re so nervous, but you’ll find that everyone is so focused on themselves that you have nothing to worry about.